Saturday, 7 March 2015

Nirbhaya: Let's teach our sons not to cross their own Lakshman Rekhas

Much has been written and said about Leslee Udwin's documentary, aptly titled "India's Daughter". I applaud the BBC for broadcasting it notwithstanding the Indian government's farcical and frankly embarrassing attempts to thwart its dissemination. 

In my opinion, India is now a classic example of the proverbial ostrich burying its head in the sand. When a foreigner decided to hold up a mirror to Indian society to re-examine itself, India simply spat in her face, spewing out derisory arguments of undue foreign intervention and Bharat Mahaan's defamation Mr Rajnath Singh, it really is very simple - the film is not an embarrassment  to your country, your country's male mentality is. Please also fire your sarkaari lawyers. Since when has an Indian court order been binding on Britain's BBC - or have you mistaken the BBC for Doordarshan?

I watched the documentary and it is harrowing. One of the defence lawyers, ML Sharma, states:
"Indian culture is the best culture . In our culture there is no place for a woman.
 He blames Nirbhaya's parents squarely when he says:
"Why did they send her with anyone that late at night? He wasn't her boyfriend. Is it not parents' responsibility to keep an eye on where she goes and with whom?
There are countless judges, politicians and public figures in India who have made ludicrous statements such as:
"Rapes happen. Boys will be boys" - Mulayam Singh Yadav, Lok Sabha member and chairman of the Samajwadi Party 
 "Girls must not cross the Lakshman Rekha" - Kailash Vijaywargiya,
Madhya Pradesh minister 
"Girls should wear decent clothes to avoid rape" - Dinesh Reddy, Director General of Andhra Pradesh police
Shocking, disturbing and disgusting.

The point is this. This malaise is not contained within the geographical borders of India, it is a cultural pandemic. If you are an East African Asian male, then you'd be mistaken to think that this is nothing to do with you just because you don't live in India. It is. Wake up and smell the coffee. The deep seated issue is our lack of respect for our women. In one way or the other we think they are our subordinates. We think we control them - often in this day and age, through emotional passive aggression.

The diaspora is littered with men whose thoughts are in some way aligned with those quoted above. I personally know an alarmingly large number of men who honestly believe that the woman's place is exclusively in the kitchen. I have heard arguments such as "I want my sister to pursue a career which will not demand too much of her time and that will help her manage her husband and children." Have you heard this one? - "She had a great career before marriage. Now she doesn't need it. I've asked her to stay at home and manage the kids. She can do some small business from home for time pass, but there's no reason for her to do a 9-5 job outside. I earn enough." I once knew someone living in London, originally from Nairobi. He accused me of being too "soft" with my wife because I hadn't insisted she adopt my surname after marriage. I no longer know him.

Remember the chauvinistic guy who plays Sridevi's husband in English Vinglish and says: "My wife was only born to make ladoos". Ask yourself whether that's the kind of husband you want to be.

Guys, the key word here is choice. Let our women enjoy the freedom to choose what they want to do. They might well elect to stay at home with the kids. They might well want an easy career that allows for a domesticated lifestyle. They might well want to take on your name after marriage. Or they might not. Let them choose without any emotional or (even worse, physical) blackmail. Because in allowing them to choose, you show them respect. Be a real man and set an example for our sons so that they grow up with an innate respect for their mothers, sisters and partners. Let's teach our sons that women are not there simply to be objectified, that they mean more than just a "score" and that they are just as human as we are. Real manhood does not necessitate misogyny. Let's teach our sons not to cross their own Lakshman Rekhas.

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