Hi All :-)
Nina here- I'm a PhD student who is looking at the practice of female foeticide in India and the broader social context in which it takes place.
My husband and I travelled from Australia to Mumbai last Sunday to visit his family (he is Indian- I am not), and for me to make some research contacts for my studies. It is my fifth visit to wonderful India and I must say it has been an interesting stay thus far.
Although I am accustomed to being stared at in India (for my white skin?) this time it has been different- I have been touched by strangers (men) a number of times, and not older men. These have been men (boys) in their early 20s. Most surprising to me is that I'm no spring chicken- I'm 32 years old, have wrinkles like most whities at my age, and do not have the figure of Pamela Anderson (thank god).
What is it then? What has happened in the last 24 months to make these young men think it is acceptable to brush up against and grope a woman (who is accompanied by her husband at the time)?
Now this is not a rant against men- in fact, I really do feel sorry for men who are so imprisoned in their gender that they are unable to see the worth and opportunity for learning and companionship that exists in the fairer sex. By treating women this way men are further oppressing themselves too. Is treating women in this kind of way the only way for some to feel like a 'man'?
I have been traversing these lines of thought recently and am really looking forward to meeting up with a mens organisation in Mumbai, MAVAW, whose activities are based around empowering men in order to prevent violence against women.
Which I think raises an important point- in order to change the deeply ingrained son preference culture which underpins the skewed sex ratio and practices of female foeticide surely men must be further incorporated into the solution. For 12 months I have been studying policies aimed at redressing the ratio and 99.9% of programmes/policies are aimed at women only.
Perhaps the policies have been woefully ineffective thus far because of the simple fact that women do not exist in some sort of social vacuum i.e. gender roles only have significance because of their counterpoints (behavioural norms for men vs women).
I am interested to see what you all think...
Should policies incorporate men's empowerment too?
Would this help women shake off the patriarchal shackles and value their daughters if they had support of the more powerful sex?
When talking to my husbands (male) friends about the tendency for men to objectify and oppress women I'm told, 'This is India- it's the way it is'.
There's a line in Slumdog Millionaire which I keep thinking about in relation to all this...
'Just because that's the way things are, doesn't mean that's the way things should be'
PS Welcome back Roop!
Labels: empowerment, patriarchy