As UN observes 16 Days Of Activism, starting November 25, with this year’s over-arching theme being rise in violence against women during the pandemic, I was reflecting about the role of an important stakeholder in this violence – the men. It is true that men inflict violence but can they also play the role of ending the violence against women?
In order to play a positive role in ending gender-based violence against women, the men fraternity needs to unlearn all the toxic patriarchy that they have picked up from their socialization process and relearn the way to respect their fellow human beings – women.
Percy Bysshe Shelley, one of the major English Romantic and radical poet, rightly said, “Can man be free if woman be a slave?“
Men learn very strongly from their family and surroundings that it is their physical power that determines his masculinity. This is the dangerous thing that men need to unlearn.
The new thing that men need to learn is emotional sensitivity and that the right kind of sensitization towards other genders is the actual masculinity.
The sudden increase in rates of domestic abuse of women nationally and internationally during the pandemic opened the pandora box of gender dynamics in our family and society. This made UN Women, the UN entity dedicated to gender equality, to term the violence against women during the COVID-19 pandemic as being the ‘shadow pandemic’ that impacted women a lot.
The pandemic has brought in sudden unplanned stress associated with health concerns. Accompanied by lockdown, the pandemic has brought in financial worries which has placed additional strains on relationships thereby resulting in the occurrence of domestic violence. For example, in the survey carried out by Women’s Aid in April 2020, 30.4% of those experiencing domestic violence said that their abuser blamed them for the economic impact of COVID-19 on the household.
“Violence against women both violates and impairs or nullifies the enjoyment by women of their human rights and fundamental freedoms…In all societies, to a greater or lesser degree, women and girls are subjected to physical, sexual and psychological abuse that cuts across lines of income, class and culture.” —Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, paragraph 112.
The men fraternity, who are the main perpetrators of violence to women, need to reflect whether they want to be remembered as demons in the history written by women down the line. At least I want a better place in their story about men. I feel that it is high time for men to play an important role in preventing gender-based violence on women. Part of it can be done through simple individual steps like refraining from using swear words or slang words in the name of one’s mother or sister and actively intervening when hearing another man narrating sexist jokes or passing degrading remarks against women.
It is obvious and important to focus on men’s roles in preventing violence against women. Engagement with men to end the violence is informed by the understanding that violence against women hurts women and that men can have an important influence on reducing violence by changing their own attitudes and behaviour and by intervening to prevent other men’s violence. Men need to be invited to be partners in solving the problem.
It is seen through many experiments that small, interactive-all male groups facilitated by men are particularly effective wherein men share their experience of positive anti-violence values and actions with other men. This sharing and interaction needs to be strengthened, and men must work in collaboration with women in these efforts. The governance of the country, be it political executive or administration like the police, should call men to come together to end this cowardly act of violence to glorify their manhood.
Multi-pronged campaigns lead by men to stop violence by men on women need to be started at war footing with the help mass media tools and platforms to create a buzz that it is no more masculine to be violent. Instead, a counter-narrative needs to be created that masculinity means rational, sensitivity, graceful and humane.
When I see cars on the road of Delhi showcasing their caste or race by prominent articulation as “I am proud Jat” or “I am proud Rajput” or “I am proud Brahmin”, it not only shows the caste mentality but also shows the violent patriarchy and toxic masculinity. Those cars are mostly driven by men. Very few auto drivers carry stickers on their auto with a message for men to respect all women. Respecting women or loving women is mostly seen as a weakness for men. Men are taught to keep them in control.
Men need to unlearn that woman as their mother, sister, wife and daughter need their protection and control. If men around them are humane, then the world will totally be a safer place for women.
It is ironical and funny (I don’t know what term to use) that it is men who create an unsafe environment for women and then they themselves try to protect women as their brother, husband and father. What a great dynamic to keep women in control! What a shame on us as men… what a shame.
Men need to work on their image building. They need to organize themselves and start talking among themselves that it is not cool to be violent. Violence will only instigate violence. Men need to learn from their own mythological stories penned down by them that men who were violent towards women like Mahisashur, Ravana etc., perished at the end even though they were highly knowledgeable and physically strong.