A woman is like a tea bag – you can’t tell how strong she is until you put her in hot water. ~~~ Eleanor Roosevelt, American politician-diplomat
Recently a video featuring Bollywood actor Madhuri Dixit threw light on a very vital issue, which also challenged an age-old belief that the society has when it comes while they discuss about boys. The video asked the parents to teach boys (right from their childhood) ‘boys don’t hurt’ instead of teaching them ‘boys don’t cry’.
The video not only touched a very delicate and serious issue of gender equality but it also gave a new perspective to it and upheld several minute issues which are generally ignored by the society at large and individuals in particular.
The all important data
Latest National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) figures points out that crime against women has been on the rise in entire country. The cases of crimes against women reported in the country jumped from a little over 2.44 lakh in 2012 to more than 3.34 lakh in 2014. As per the NCRB, a total of 2, 44,270, 3, 09,546 and 3, 34,188 cases (of crimes against women) were reported in the country during 2012, 2013 and 2014, respectively, showing a rising trend.
If we move state-wise, we will find that in regards of safety for women, the NCRB labelled Nagaland as the safest state for women. The state recorded only 67 incidences of crime against women, which includes 30 cases of rape. With an estimated female population of over 11 lakhs (in 2014), the rate of crime per lakh of population comes to 6 (six). In fact, it is the only State in country to have rate of crime against women in single digit. Interestingly, Nagaland’s percentage contribution to all India crime is negligible and is recorded as zero in the NCRB data.
The NCRB data further revealed that in Assam nearly 20,000 cases (out of which 399 cases were to disrobe females) were reported in 2014, thus making it the state with highest rate of crime of against women among the NE states.
After Assam, maximum number of crimes against women was recorded in Tripura (1615). Both the states in the North East have a mixed population and face infiltration problem from across Bangladesh.
Meghalaya is ranked third with 388 cases followed by Arunachal Pradesh (351) Manipur (337) and Mizoram (258). Crimes against women mainly include rape, abduction and outrage of modesty.
Moving towards north we will find that with 1,813 rapes reported in 2014 (the number was 1,441 in 2013), national capital Delhi has been officially termed as the ‘rape capital of the country’.
In Mumbai while the number of reported rapes was comparatively lower, there was a sharp spike between 2013 and 2014, from 391 to 607 cases. Nearly all of India’s custodial rape — 189 of 197 cases — was reported in Uttar Pradesh, which along with Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh recorded the highest numbers of alleged gang rapes.
It may be further mentioned here that Kerala reported 391 cases of rape and 1,380 complaints of molestation of women till April earlier this year, despite the intense awareness campaigns and strict monitoring against gender exploitation in the state.
The purpose behind providing the above data is simple- I just wanted the readers to know the amount of atrocities that is meted out against women across the nation.
Have we ever asked ourselves as what give rise to such crimes against women, in spite of there being campaigns and policies to safeguard the rights of women? What are the reasons for which we have not been able to reach the point of equilibrium in gender-based issues? The answer, I feel, is that patriarchal statement- Boys don’t cry!
If we believe the statement to be an absolute truth, then does it mean that girls only cry? Is there a proper answer to this question- I don’t know- even though I know that right from her childhood a girl is taught things differently. Anything that involves hard physical labour and physical activity are meant for boys only and anything less physical for girls. May be this is the reason why dolls become a girl’s best friend when she is young.
She is repeatedly told and forced to remember that dolls are meant only for her and outdoor sports like football and cricket for her brother. This perception grows in stature and as time rolls down it takes the shape of grave ‘gender’ issues and gives birth to several ‘gender-based violence’.
“Sex is the biological identification between a male and a female. Whereas gender is the social role(s) associated with each individual- irrespective of their respective sexes,” said Shobha R Gosa from Hyderabad, who facilitated in a five-day residential workshop on gender mainstreaming held in Guwahati recently.
Organised by Rajiv Gandhi National Institute for Youth Development (RGNIYD), Regional Centre (Chandigarh) in association with North East Youth Foundation (NEYF), the workshop was attended by over 45 participants from across the North East Region.
“Female cooking and male going out for earning livelihood is a gender based issue. Whereas the biological difference between a man and a woman is a sex related issue,” added Shobha.
Mainstreaming the genders
Gender issues are more complicated and delicate then it seems and it is not just confined to women related issues. It is true that we need to address all the issues related to women as crime against them has been on the rise, but of late the curve of crime against men has also witnessed a sharp increase.
Study shows that around 40 pc of males in India are subjected to domestic violence of different sorts. From rape to becoming the victims of dowry-related issues, these 40 pc of Indian males are being inflicted with both physical and mental injuries in various ways. But, is this issue talked about in the media or in the society? No is the answer!
“My blissful married life continued just for a month or so as the girl whom I had known for the past five years changed within a month’s time. My job is such that I need to keep travelling to every nook and corner of the state and after marriage she started having problems with my travels. She not only mentally harassed me and my family, but she also tarnished our social image by accusing us that we have tortured her for dowry. I am an activist and I mostly work against the dowry system and in such a situation why will I seek dowry? I became a victim of such a crime which the society hardly gives any importance to as it is a belief in that men are only the tormentors and not the victims,” said a Tezpur-based journalist-activist seeking anonymity.
“Cases of violence against men are seldom raised as we are not considered within that paradigm,” he added.
This is just a solitary case among several such cases, which the society has often ignored.
A survey carried out for the purpose of this article showed that 6 out of every 10 boys (below 20 years) have faced sexual harassment at some point of their life and in all the cases the perpetrators have been someone from the family.
“Sexual abuse of young boys is a serious issue and this issue has been seriously overlooked. When we talk about sexual abuse, we generally talk about young girls but the boys are also equally victimised. Since these boys are taught things like boys don’t cry and boys don’t complain they seldom talk to their parents about being molested and as a result they continue to get victimised,” said AR Dasgupta, a Patna-based clinical psychologist.
“In many cases it has been witnessed that majority of such boys, when they attain adulthood, become shy and timid- thus becoming an easy prey of violence. Violence against men is not generally carried out by women, but men are also equally responsible,” Dasgupta further added.
Gender of the third kind
So I have talked about man and discussed about woman. So am I done with speaking about the gender issues or do I have to speak more? Here, if we take a left turn and leave behind the men and the women and move forward, we will encounter the ‘third gender’- something that was inducted in our gender dictionary quite recently.
As per the census’s gender analysis reports rural India has 74,286 transgender. Uttar Pradesh tops the list among 35 Indian states and Union Territories with 12,916 members, Bihar comes in second with 9,987 transgender and rural Bengal ranks third with 9,868 members of the third gender.
“We have our rights just like any other citizen of India and being assigned a column in the survey is a step forward in mainstreaming,” Ranjita Sinha, transgender activist and a member of Bengal’s Transgender Development Board, said after the survey reports were made public.
It was April 15, 2014 that the Supreme Court of India created the ‘third gender’ status for ‘hijras’ or transgender. Earlier, ‘they’ were forced to write male or female against their gender. The SC asked the Centre to treat transgender as socially and economically backward. The apex court said that transgender will be allowed admission in educational institutions and given employment on the basis that they belonged to the third gender category.
But has things changed even after the apex court’s order?
“When the society is yet to accept women and give them an equal status, how can it accept us? For a major portion of the society we are a source of entertainment. The law has compelled, so we are accepted but this acceptance is just the above layer in a bottle of cream,” Pinki (name changed), a 23-year-old transgender during a candid chit-chat in the streets of Guwahati.
Pinki is in fact brutally true. How mature is the society to welcome the transgender is a big question. They are mostly looked upon as object of sexual desires and if we take a deep stroll of the city we will come across several persons who pay several in thousands for having a night of sexual favour from them. In fact, their condition is far more pitiable than the women as their gender is a gender which only the law identifies, and not the society.
Here, I feel the biggest problem that arises with the transgender is about their identity as it is not yet clear as what pronoun should be used to address them. While some argue that a trans-woman (who was earlier a man) is actually a woman so ‘she’ is the right pronoun for her and for a trans-man (who was earlier a woman) is actually a man so ‘he’ is the correct pronoun. But then again, if we use ‘he’ or ‘she’ for them, then they would automatically fall under the existent two genders and the creation of the third gender would be of no use. Even though the term ‘Ze’ has been coined, which is a gender neutral pronoun and refers to someone who does not fit into gender binary, it is yet to be used in India. Forget use, I am sure very few people have heard the word!
At a time when human endeavours have reached to the far-flung areas of the deep universe, we have failed to address issues that are closer to us. It is time we stand united and speak for our rights and mainstream all pertinent issues- especially gender issues. We must also keep things straight and see that gender issues are not merely confined only to women issues.