One in three women in India faces violence in their lifetime. This statistic immediately conjures up thoughts of women being raped by strangers or burnt by their in-laws. While this is true, violence against women also occurs in so-called ‘normal’ and everyday situations. This violence can be physical, emotional, financial and given the prevalent patriarchy in our society, where men hold dominance in all walks of life, most of this violence comes from men. And so, the responsibility of doing something about it also falls upon men! And no you don’t need to lead a protest march about it. Here are six everyday things all men can do to plug the culture of violence around us.
Patni: “Aapne pichle saal salgireh pe mujhe lohay ka bed diya tha, Iss baar aapka kya iraada hai?”
Pati: “Iss saal uss mein current chorne ka iraada hai.”
Did you find this joke funny? Such jokes are perfect examples of how violence against women gets normalised and perpetuated. It often manifests in casual conversations on men-only Whatsapp groups. And if questioned, we brush this away with adages such as “boys will be boys” or “this is just locker room talk” or “it’s just a joke”. For what may be a joke for someone may be a reality for others. By laughing about it, we are only normalising such behaviour. Next time, please have a pause and think before forwarding that‘oh-so-funny’ joke on beating up the Mrs to your all boys gang.
So your best friend likes a girl but the girl is not interested in him, maybe she doesn’t even know him or has a boyfriend. But your best friend is ‘your’ best friend and you can go to any length to help him ‘get’ this girl he loves! You two begin to stalk the girl – at school/college, outside her home, on the phone, on the bus and everywhere she goes. That’s what good friends do, don’t they?
Following women, calling or texting them incessantly or harassing them to date you when they have said no (or shown no interest) is stalking. Have you thought what effects these actions can have on the girl? Leaving her scared, worried and stressed. an emotional assault and violence of sorts? And although you are ‘just supporting’ your friend, you too are a perpetrator of this violence.
Consider this: Your neighbour and his wife fight a lot and you often hear the woman crying after loud noises. But you don’t think much about it. After all, it is their ‘private matter’, but is it? Violence is never a private matter. If it’s breaking the law of the country, how can it be! Violence is wrong – irrespective of the relationship between the perpetrator and the victim (husband/wife) or where it is happening (inside the confines of their home).
Next time, knock on the door and ask your neighbour if everything is okay. Also, tell your uncle/father/brother it is not ok if they hit their wife. An intervention in time prevents further violence. The perpetrators know their actions aren’t going unnoticed. The victim too feels supported and will gather more courage to fight violent behaviours.
If you have lived in India and have never seen a woman being harassed on a street or a bus, well then you must have been on the Himalayas! Men ‘accidentally’ brush their arms against breasts, pass lewd remarks, whistle, sing ‘double meaning’ songs or simply stare! And what do you in such a situation? Look away? For who wants to be get caught in a mess?
Harassers are emboldened by this very indifference in public spaces. And no, you don’t need to be superman to offer help. All you need is to register your presence, Don’t look away, call out the harasser, gather people who can help and if you can’t help her directly – call the police. A little affirmative action or proactive attention from we the people can help cut down on harassing behaviours to a huge extent.
Picture this. You are a working couple. Your wife and you reach home after a hard day’s work at the office. You have unexpected guests at home. The moment she enters the home, she is expected to entertain them, cook a special dinner for them or even sit till late night and chat with them.
Meanwhile, what do you do? Chances are that you will sit with the family, have a drink, relax, watch tv, discuss politics and ‘unwind!’ Don’t you think she needs to ‘unwind’ too?
We agree you can’t avoid the guests, but you should not avoid her too! Share the load. Get in the kitchen, help her with the cooking, cleaning and whatever you can do, without worrying what your parents/guests will think. This will not only help deal with one difficult day but also build an equal partnership, protecting your wife or partner against emotional and physical drain out.
You want to have sex with your wife or partner but she is not in the mood. You can sense that she is tired, irritated or just too happy watching television and has not given you any signs that she wants to have sex. What do you do? Just carry on? Forcing sex upon your partner is also violence and yes that’s true for your wife too. Nobody owes anyone sex in any circumstance and consent must always be the precondition. And hey also tell that friend boasting about kissing his reluctant girlfriend that it was not cool! Yes, a few friends – high on testosterone – may laugh at first but will get the point eventually if you make a habit of it.