It is time for women to cut the male bashing

Not enough can be said about the rape case in Delhi last December; today, over two months later, the country is still reeling in the aftershock.

No one can stop writing about it. No one can stop talking about it. And no one seems to know what to do about it. It seems that the issue has penetrated our lives so much, that we are lost in some kind of a crazed bloodlust to find justice in some way. In any way that's possible.

In retrospect, in spite of the rape case having struck at the very heart of Indian society, thoughts by parliamentarians, activists, politicians, spiritual heads and religious bodies seem disturbing. On one side, there has been a wave of regressive conservatism, and on the other, an aggressive call for gang-justice and punishments.

In Bangalore, at the many protests held at Town Hall, and at Freedom Park, it was common to see school-going youngsters hold up posters calling for castration, lynching, burning and even death. In the throes of despair, we seem to be in a desperate search, within ourselves for a solution of some kind, to make ourselves feel better. But here's the thing: we won't.

The truth is, that while the system has fractured, there seems to be a pressing need for us to question our own beliefs about what is right and what is wrong. And more importantly, what do we perceive as gender and violence?

In the sweeping tide of feminist arguments made by women, activists and the people at large, we seem to have completely ignored the invisible army of men supporting the cause. Husbands, fathers, sons, brothers, friends and boyfriends who came out to shake society's image of the women in their lives, to fight for their rights. Yet, these men hardly get a moment's notice.

In a significant move last month, a group of young men from Bangalore made in January was when they organised a rally to don skirts to show that women are not alone in this battle. Recently, at the One Billion Rising event held at Cubbon Park, a large group of men and young boys attended and participated in raising awareness about women’s rights. Needless to say, this hardly seemed to matter to the mainstream press.

The Equal Community Foundation (ECF), which empowers and trains men to help reduce violence against women, is of the view that 'Not every man is a part of the problem, but every man can be a part of the solution'. There is much truth in this statement. Yet, there seems to be a large-scale negativity associated with men among women.

And this, I believe, could do worse to fracture the democratic system and widen the gender divide.

Rape, by and large, must be seen as human rights issue more than just a women’s issue. This will help us bridge barriers that we have created between genders first, and helping grow stronger against the fight against sexual violence. In India, it is said, there is no doubt that crimes against women have seen a steady ride over the years, but we must also practice caution as routine ‘anger against all men’ in general might also result in men’s issues being pushed under the rug.

People, regardless of gender and sexuality, are worthy of the same love and respect across cultures. Since the Delhi rape case, there have been several cases involving young children, transsexuals and backward castes that have been highlighted in the media. Yet, sub-consciously, we tend to pick and choose. The question is, why aren’t we as bothered when young boys are raped? Why aren’t we as bothered when we hear stories of rapes in prison or torture?

The public isn’t entirely at fault, of course, for it is those issues that people connect with on a personal level that often come under closer scrutiny. But there is a danger in sidelining men as citizens in the fight against sexual violence.

There is a danger in us viewing men merely as violators, and not attempting to understand the deeper, social context of male behaviour in a complex, patriarchal society such as ours. If we wish to co-create a society that is fair, we must learn to let go of the male stereotype that is violent, aggressive, and hostile.

In a few months, hopefully, the verdict for the Delhi rape will be out. Whether or not it will favour public opinion is yet to be seen. It is essential that we practice restraint before we cry foul at the system and raise our voices against men. For if each of us makes an effort to take a step back, we will gain a better perspective, and perhaps, pave a better road ahead.

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