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Does History Support Fathers As Protectors Of Children And Mothers As Moral Teachers?

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Mukesh Khanna, who inspires kids even today as Shaktimaan, openly commented that: “Man has different physical structure from female structure, so women should be housewives and take care of the children.” Though Mukesh Khanna said many things in favour of women too, but this one statement alone is sufficient to take away the choices a woman can make in her life.

Personally, I think a woman should choose for herself whether she wants to be a housewife or a working woman, because this happens to men too. Even after society’s pressure to earn, a lot of men never earn in their lives, irrespective of the being upper, lower or middle class. It’s just that they are never noticed.

To begin on this topic, men and women have their separate destinies, so doing things that society expects will not bring them desired outcomes. The concept of a housewife is based on two premises: one that men are physically different from women, and the other that men are incapable of bringing up children as a father. Before discussing the effectiveness of instilling values as a housewife, it is necessary to discuss that the premise of the basis of being a housewife is not only faulty, but at times, destructive too.

The first premise says that the structure of men and women is different, so work should be distributed accordingly in real life. As per the traditional division of labour on the basis of gender, a man’s role is to provide and protect, based on the male’s body structure. So, if I may ask, what happens if a man fails in fulfilling these tasks by design of fate? What should happen then?

Representational image.

Consider this case as happened a few months ago and made headlines in Dainik Bhaskar. Twins were kidnapped from their home and murdered for extortion. The mother was a housewife, so the argument blaming the woman could not be made at any point, but nobody discussed the role of the father as a protector here. All were sympathetic to the father, as they should be. But if you build your life on the basis of so-called traditions and superior values, why was this father punished for failing to perform his so-called duty as a protector, as he is suffering the loss of his children?

On Hotstar, a show called Perry Jackson, based on the abduction and subsequent killing of a child in the old era, is available. Here, the detective, while questioning the mother, who is a housewife, and follows the traditional values of society and asks, “Where were you while the child was being abducted as you were unable to protect the child?” The detective does not go to this line of questioning with the father as to why he failed to protect his child, but more on his whereabouts. Again, this confuses the exact role of a man and a woman in a household.

The history of India speaks volume about the distribution of work among men and women. The men, in every era since the development of intelligence, have failed miserably in the role allotted to them based on their physique. These men were not able to protect India from the invasion of Greeks, Hunas, Muslim invaders, British invaders and many more. So, I ask the very dangerous question here: What does this failure mean to the work allotted to man and woman based on the difference of the structure between a man and woman?

The other premise that a man provides for the family has been misleading too. Kingdoms in medieval and ancient societies recruited most men available in the armies, who weren’t usually paid in cash, and the women in the families used to fend for themselves. The cash not being a token of exchange made availability of things when required most has led women to find avenues to provide food for themselves. But this whole scenario, as usual, goes unnoticed or ignored. As feudalism in Indian society grew, the number of taxes grew and men failed to provide for society or their families. Again, what does this mean for the ability of a man to provide?

For me, this whole premise is a failure in the long run of human race, but still lingers on as a phenomenally successful concept. The whole structure of the ancient, medieval or late 18th century society was based on the differentiation of work based on body structure, so why did India suffer so much, and more specifically, women? The advantage of this premise that was projected has not yielded any success for India, based on the historical results that are more concrete than scientific data, so why do people still try to hold on to it?

Discussing the second premise that men are incapable of bringing up their children alone is an upright insult to men who actually love their children. It is difficult to say what made our ancestors feel that men are not sensitive enough to bring up their own children, but if a father wants to be a good father, there are numerous examples. I am not going to give examples to prove this point because this in itself is obnoxious to prove someone’s fatherhood as it is to prove one’s motherhood. Based on real life experience, I definitely cannot say whether a child necessarily requires a father or a mother or both, but whoever is capable of making an emotional connections with the child has known to affect the moral values of the child.

Ladakh Indian Army

Coming to the primary subject of this article of housewives are more effective in instilling good values in children, the argument needs to be debated more objectively and more importantly, on the basis of the results that society has produced. Again, for most of the centuries, a large percentage of women were supposedly housewives who’d only look after the children, husband and husband’s parents. These were ideal women who were thought to bring up morally correct children.

So, what happened to India that brought failure in men to a point where they could not unite even in the face of a foreign rule or to defend against the foreign rule? The Rajputs are the biggest example of this upbringing. Even before the real danger of foreign invasion of Muslims could be felt, the Rajputs divided themselves into several branches and were constantly fighting, continuously exhausting their resources.

And so, when the real invasion of Muslims came up, there have been several instances where a Rajput ruler asked another Rajput ruler, and made a decision based on the enmity between them. This decision might be more complex than the reason I have mentioned here. Still, there was a moral lapse which rulers came to regret later (this regret has been documented too).

When Rajputs became allies to Mughals, the Rajput leaders went against their own brethren at times. The killing or betraying of brothers belonging to royal family or common family in the name of power and money has been ae moral lesson for mothers (or housewives) throughout the history of any country, isn’t it?

Indians are obsessed with the Ramayana, the Mahabharata and many other books. In these books, the supposedly evil character has a mother who was a housewife and supportive of their husbands. The biggest example is of the Kauravas, and more importantly, Duryodhana. His mother was also an ardent follower of her husband. So, what happened to the morals of Duryodhana?

Let’s take the example of Ravana, who had the knowledge of the Vedas and was a devotee of Lord Shiva. So, what made him to choose evil over good? Don’t Indians believe that the Vedas are a source of supreme knowledge? The reason Ravana chose to be evil is because he felt injustice at the hands of Devtas, though his mother continuously motivated him to wage war against the Devtas, but still, the Vedas were suppose to be the ultimate eye opening knowledge. The truth is, we cannot be sure while saying that his mother was the reason he chose to be evil, rather than simply defeating the Devtas. He did not have to bully women and cause them harm for his cause to exact power from Devtas.

The scientific exploration on this subject has been inconclusive. Science cannot say for sure that children of a working woman do not have morals, while children of housewives do. The evidence has been mixed and does not relate the decay of morals of children simply to the status of the women as working or non-working. This idea that housewives encourage better moral values and strength in children more than working women is just an abstract idea based on dreams rather than reality.

From my real life example of my next-door neighbour, the mother is a housewife and father works as a senior manager in LIC. However, their boy causes much trouble in the society. The elders in the society, both men and women, came together to discuss this issue with the father so that he does not end up in jail. So who is responsible here, the housewife, who are supposedly better as women?

RAVANA AND VIKARNA
Ravana and Vikarna | Ravana had the knowledge of the Vedas and was a devotee of Lord Shiva. Then what made him to choose evil over good? 

There is no doubt that nature loves both evil and good without discrimination. It loves women to be both evil or good. If either of the choice is taken away from women, society deteriorates as has happened with India and is still happening in many societies. To put it in another way, there are many societies that force women to live in a certain way based on their physique. We all know, without doubt, that these societies are not only suffocating others but are also dangerous to live in.

Along with this, the rate of female killing (femicide, which goes unnoticed) is very high. There is no developed country that forces the women, in the name of abstract ideas, to be housewives. This makes it certain that to be developed, a woman has to have the right to be good or evil or anything she chooses to be.

Another thing, the difference in the biological difference in the structure of a man and woman does not mean anything while assigning the role of a housewife to women. A woman should choose to be a housewife of her own accord. Why? Let’s be real, we cannot even understand what our own exactly bodies are, let alone decide what their bodies are capable of.

As societies are gathering knowledge, it has become even more difficult to even express human potential. So, how did a man like Mukesh Khanna decide the potential of man and woman based on the difference of the structure of their bodies? Nature demands equality from humans, irrespective of any kind of differences or destruction ensues. Men and women live by instinct and willpower, which supersede physical differences.

America is more developed when it comes to military capacities and victories, and more powerful in the strength of ammunitions and yet, men could not entirely defeat their enemy in Afghanistan. The reason is the battle of will power. America was not defending, and staying away too long from own people affects will power. This applies to both men and women. You can use all the reasons to prove women as the  weaker sex, but it still doesn’t change the potential that a woman has been provided by nature and has in store.

Science is also unsure of the strength that women carry and keeps changing its narrative. Actually, if you take a deep dive into the realm of science related to female biology, science is unsure how female body and estrogen actually work. Science is yet to unravel the womb. Simply, to science, female body is a mystery even today.

To end this, I implore all feminists, this platform, and the people who wish for a better society and constantly discuss with anti-feminists the potential a woman has, to no use the term ‘misogynist’, ‘patriarchy’ or a regressive thought to counter the points given by anti-feminists. These terms are generic and only trigger anti-feminists. These terms, moreover, have stopped making an impact.

To bring a change in the thoughts of people like Mukesh Khanna, you have to start countering them on the basis of arguments that they make. Terms and labels only obfuscate the real issue as common and unimportant. Please argue with them more on the basis of the results of nature as well as the history of a country. Man needs no reason to hate women, but they still can be argued with, based more on concrete results.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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