When do we stop bullying our women?
|July 23, 2012||Posted by Shehla Rashid under Kashmir, Shehla Rashid in Print, Women|
We suppress them, we torture them, we abuse them; yet we expect them to be obedient, modest and quiet. Being a woman in Kashmir means that you have to face to harassment on a daily basis, yet be quiet about it. You are an epitome of patience, modesty and subservience; complaining about your plight is obscene; speaking out against discrimination and violence amounts to shamelessness. The onus of upholding the presumed modesty of the society is on you while men can freely go around slaughtering it. And even though morality is your responsibility, immorality is your doing. The male of the species is innocent, superior, wiser and has a right to abuse, to harass and to beat you up. But you are expected to be a lady and “ignore” all this, in other words, live with it.
Walk through the streets and you must learn to live with unsolicited attention and unwarranted “touch” of the all-powerful male. Travel by a local bus and you’ll face groping and frotteurism. Drive through the lanes of Srinagar and you’ll be booed even by boys who are much, much younger than you. It makes one wonder what upbringing and grooming these young boys receive- at home, at school and elsewhere. How can young boys’ behavior towards women be so sick? Is it just by chance or a result of chauvinistic indoctrination? What ugly underlying mindsets does this seemingly small but widespread symptom reflect? It tells a lot about how women are treated inside their homes- the same mentality is reflected by the behavior of kids outside the home. I, however, make it a point to stop, go back and ask them to clarify what their comment or their booing meant. There are two reasons for this- I really want to know what’s going on in their minds and, of course, I want to scare the heaven out of them so that they do not repeat such behavior with anyone. But then, I’m probably the only one and I’m very non-stereotype. MOST women take such insult lying down, which is not very surprising considering the different values that we impart to boys and to girls. Even I was brought up with lessons to “ignore”, “keep quiet” and “move on”. I don’t. But that’s a different story.
News reports of rape and abduction of girls do not make it to even the 8th page (Ref: GK, July 13, Pg. 9), let alone the front page. If an army man or a cop harasses a girl, people protest in the strongest terms possible, which is good! However, can we not spare even half of that outrage for women who are harassed, raped, molested, abused and tortured by our own men? If a military wallah passes a comment at a local girl, it is termed oppression, which it is! But what about the oppression that we subject our women to, on a daily basis? Why no outrage, no bandh, no condemnations, no fatwas against crimes committed by our own men against women? If we ever achieve Azadi (freedom) it’ll be won for only half of the society- women will continue to be slaves.
Our selective morality seems to be outraged only by men in uniforms. For the rest of the men, women are apparently “apna maal” (personal property). Harassment of women is so common that many women have actually learnt to live with it. It is probably as widespread in Kashmir as are rapes in South Africa. Is that the kind of nation that we want to be? Nation-building must start well before the conflict is over. And no country can be successful unless it accords due respect to its women.