This year’s first news story that went viral was the scarring footage of the mass molestation in Bangalore which once again brought forward, the one issue that has been ever constant in the Indian media’s reportage – women’s safety.
Despite a heavy deploy of cops on the road, CCTV cameras, assurances of safety and what now can be contested vehemently, the thought that “India isn’t that unsafe for women,” we were shown no matter how hard we try, unless there is an effort to save our boys, we can never save our the girl child.
I’ll explain my point with an example close to home. I live in a family that can’t start functioning before and unless we’ve read the morning paper or watched the news, and my little nephew Rohan, all of 9 whole years, has also caught on the habit of waking up and going to turn pages of a book or a newspaper in the morning. A few days ago something very strange happened. Rohan had been sitting with his father and watching the news while his mother was busy gossiping with me. When the commercials came on, the little boy walked up to us and insisted on sitting in my lap, a request I happily obliged to. Then, he turned to his mother with a very serious face and asked her, “Mummy, what is a rape?”
I smiled and looked at my sister, expecting her to frame the ghastly situation gently and with enough finesse to make the child understand and yet not horrify him. Surprisingly, I saw a staunch feminist and a woman who frequently spoke up about women’s rights in public, hide her face and tell her son, “Baba, that’s for big people, you won’t understand. Why don’t you get your new Lego set to show to Masi? Go, get it.”
And that’s when I realised a very very important thing. Save the girl child would never be possible if ‘save the boy child’ wasn’t our mission.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that children who are not sensitised at an early age grow up with tendencies of violence towards women. My only emphasis is that if you begin by teaching the child from a young age how to respect all people, you get better results. After all, isn’t that objective that’s applied to teaching kids how to bike, swim, and dance at an earlier age? Then why is the same concept not put forward in teaching them basic moral values?
What we saw in the controversial documentary “India’s Daughter” based on the 2012 Nirbhaya Rape Case was how the convicted rapist awaiting his death stood firm on the belief that “rape is more a woman’s fault than the man’s” is sadly not just a reflection of just that man’s thoughts but the thoughts of millions of men and women around the globe.
If perhaps these men, from an early age were under a system which taught them to respect all people. If they grew up in a family setting where they were taught to value their mother and sisters as equal individuals and a society which tried its best to give equal standing to each individual alike, maybe their thoughts and perceptions would’ve changed.
This brings up another important point that you might have had while reading that paragraph, you’d think, “Oh but changing the society would take centuries. That isn’t as easy as it is to just say it”. Even after hundreds of women took to Twitter to express their outrage after the recent Bangalore incident, an equal if not more number of men stepped in, with #NotAllMen trending on Twitter in India and proclaimed that these generalisations were unfair. And I agree.
But that is why it is extremely important to catch them young, sensitise them and tell them what’s wrong and what’s right. No little boy will have tendencies from birth towards violence, but as parents of little boy’s you hold a power that parents of little girls don’t. As a girl, my parents could only warn me about the dangers, perhaps at most not let me step out of the house at night. But as parents to a boy, they played an integral role in educating their child, to a point where not only was the little boy taught what was right and what was wrong but he went on to teach his peer’s too.
You cannot write off a movement by women for their own safety simply by pointing out that “not all men are like this.” All that you prove by that statement is that there is somewhat an “achievement” associated with the statement “but I respect women”.
It is basic manners, not something that should be pointed out or used as a counter argument. And that is what needs to be changed. It is basic manners, not something that should be pointed out or used as a counter argument.
It is today, of the utmost importance that little boys are taught to be enraged at the mistreatment of others. To teach every child, the importance of consent and personal space. To make them understand that watching a man stalk a woman persistently on-screen may result in him getting her at the end of the 3 hours, but they must see it as a crime and a gross invasion of someone’s personal space. Help them realise that a woman is not someone who gives you the permission to attack just because she dresses a certain way.
The onus also lies on the fathers and the elder brothers of today, for they set an example for the little boys on how to treat women. For they can teach them the nuances of love and respect, the correct way.
It’s time to save our boys because that might be the only chance to save our girls.