From the Viewsroom

Patriarchal mindsets must go

Preeti Mehra | Updated on July 26, 2018

Shun stereotyping of women and men’s roles to ensure equality

Every now and then a high-profile case of domestic violence, sexual assault or rape grabs the headlines. But for every such incident there are thousands which go unreported or ignored by the mainstream media. Even so, national crime bureau statistics show a significant 35 per cent rise in such crimes, with very few perpetrators bought to book and justice, more often than not, denied or delayed.

Despite amendments to the law and the setting up of fast track courts, sexual violence continues unabated, be it in Kathua, Surat, Chennai or Delhi. What clouds the picture are myths that continue to be deeply entrenched. Some of these, bordering on the bizarre, articulated by women’s organisations include: men are not able to control their anger or sexual urges; consumption of alcohol is behind such abuse; and that women could walk out if they wanted to disengage from such treatment.

Added to this is a societal acceptance of violence against women, especially if it happens in the domestic sphere. Sexual harassment of women too is very often treated as a given and provided a legitimacy by media messages and storylines in popular cinema. In fact, the “boys will be boys” theme recurs all too frequently. But that is only half the story perpetuated by a patriarchal society. Research has shown that the crux of the problem lies in the unequal distribution of both power and resources between men and women. When women have equal opportunity in education and jobs and the freedom to pursue their careers and interests, power equations between the genders get redefined. What can further improve the situation is sexual autonomy for women, leading to greater respect and independence of both genders.

To achieve this, however, many things have to change. And the most important among them is completely doing away with the stereotyping of roles for both men and women, and ascribing identity-specific duties and norms to each of them. Unless that is done, crimes against women will go unchecked.

Published on July 26, 2018

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