Ensuring Freedom Without Fear For Women: Does Formal Education Ensure Gender Sensitivity?

Posted on September 9, 2013 in Society

By Nupur Walia:

Every other day when we read about the news relating to rapes, sexual assault and the never-ending violence against women, do we ever give it a thought as to why even the educated men from well to-do-families, studying in prestigious colleges, allegedly drug and gang rape defenseless women?

freedom without fear

Only the accused could ever know the answer to that. But one thing is clear, education is no guarantee that a man will respect women. A man may be educated at an IIT or in Harvard, but unless his family has brought him up to respect women, to cherish their roles in his life, to appreciate them as much for their intelligence as for their physical beauty and see them as independent, autonomous human beings, it is unlikely that he will do otherwise.

Education is not a magic wand that changes one’s attitude towards women. Parents and extended family, community and the media are responsible for the way a man grows up to look at women. So, if they haven’t been taught that at home, education hardly helps. The grooming of young men to have a feeling of entitlement by Indian parents breeds a sense of masculinity and male privilege. Son preference simultaneously erodes the possibility of respect for women, as girls are seen as unwanted or burdensome. Such inequalities produce the very hatred against women in the public arena that we are witnessing throughout the country. Kids also imbibe a lot of what they see. A boy notices how his father treats his mother. He learns from interpersonal behavior in his extended family. The media (the newspapers, magazines and TV soaps) objectifies women. So, that makes an impact on him too.

The increasing violence towards women also has its links to consumerism and the desire to make a quick buck. It’s an outcome of what the media keeps urging us, buy more and acquire more, because you are worth it. Consumerism of the past 15-20 years has resulted in a bratty generation that is so used to getting whatever they want that they cannot deal with being refused anything. Probably, we saw the example of this when Jessica Lal was shot dead for refusing to serve Manu Sharma, the son of a politician, a drink at a party. Today, our generation finds it difficult to cope simply because we haven’t been taught how.

There is a big imbalance in society today because of rapid globalization over the last 10 years. So, if there are families where women still wear pallus on their heads and don’t venture out, there are also families where women are independent, work hard, party hard and are comfortable with flaunting their sexuality. So, when a man who belongs to the former family goes out and encounters women who belong to the latter, he finds it difficult to deal with the situation and is confused. Can the sight of a young smartly-dressed educated female professional generate a sense of displacement in men? As women enter the work place and the public arena, their boldness and confidence seem to trigger a sense of insecurity in a society where men are used to being in charge.

That results in assaults against women, substance abuse and other crimes. In a way, parents are responsible because in the pursuit to attain modernity, they forgot to teach their children any better. And that’s also because they are struggling to cope themselves. We are confused as a society because we want to go along with change and retain our value system too. India is actually split in two. To confront the hatred that is now manifesting itself in the most egregious ways is to rethink about how we can handle women’s equality in ways that are not perceived as threatening. That demands greater responsibility on the part of parents as well as the society not to raise sons in a way in which they are indoctrinated with a sense of superiority and privilege.