Gender Issues and Society


Mantasha Binti Rashid

Rape-VictimWhenever I have talked about prevalent gender issues in and among my fellow beings of my society, I have found startling responses to all such issues. All of that baffle me. Today when newspapers and TV channels are discussing Tehelka issue and molestation of a law graduate by a senior judge, I feel compelled to discuss some of the most common responses to similar issues prevalent in my society and the fallacy behind them:

1: Most common response is denial.
Most of the people around, especially well placed and well read, say publicly that our society is better when it comes to crimes against women, as seen against other places. They tend to deny any such negative feels or acts and take comfort in the age old ethos of respect and decency and are seen saying boastfully that our valley is “resh-waer” (place of saints) and such acts against women do not occur by and large. It stems out from a kind of ethnocentricism we all seem to suffer from, to some extent. This ethnocentricism is reflected when we expect the world to talk about Kashmir conflict whereas we ourselves are either ignorant or indifferent to problems elsewhere in the world.
Denial is the biggest hurdle one faces in the way of solving a problem. We all face problems in our life and there is no problem which has no solution. But imagine a situation in which the problem is never accepted or acknowledged. How can a solution ever be found?

2. Shelter in Religion.
Religion, no doubt is a very essential component of a person’s life. It should rather be the basic guiding path for a person but sadly that isn’t the case in current times. No matter how religious we claim to be, something somewhere is amiss – as an example we pray five times but are corrupt in our daily dealings. And in a society which has no formal religion at institutional or public level how can we blame all issues women face to irreligosity of women only? Women and men both belong to same society and it isn’t that only women are not religious in their code of conduct, dress and behavior! And how about those who are? Is the patriarchal society or the criminal elements in society better to them? This a huge debate but the fact remains that till a society is not governed by a particular religion, it needs to be at least governed by ethical and basic human laws .If a woman starts dressing head to toe, leaving not even her finger tips visible, will it suddenly solve the problem? For all women to dress like that many more things need to undergo a change as it is a holistic affair and one component or part of women in society can’t strictly turn religious when others are going in the opposite direction.

3. Mixing of sexes.
There is a strange solution to curb eve teasing which has been suggested by various institutions. Separate the girls and boys schools and coaching centers. Separate the educational institutions but tomorrow will we be able to separate the work places? Even if all educated women don’t work or we prevent them from working, will we be able to separate the public transport for men and women? I am not advocating mixing of sexes but want to bring home a point that teaching and inculcating sensitivity in boys/men is a better and long lasting solution than curbing women’s freedom. Else by segregation our men folk might behave like Saudi sheikhs, which my friend who worked in gulf for a long time, says have become predators since they have hardly seen women. As a result a lady living or working in a few gulf countries fears to go alone to a local ATM and even fears hiring a taxi driven by natives and prefers to take taxi-walas of Indian or Pakistani origin (subcontinent largely).

4. Gender issues are smaller or non issues
I have heard scholarly people say in public discussions that the “only” problem Kashmir faces is occupation/conflict/political instability and if godforbid any one dares discuss any other issue, he/she is labeled immature and even anti-Kashmiri. I remember discussing environmental issues on internet which Kashmir is facing, rather creating, a few years back. And I was told to shut up as they are “small” issues and in a society which has seen gun culture, bloodshed and so much pain that how can I discuss Nigeen Lake! At another public gathering my teachers from the university looked down up on my petty observation. In women’s college all rules from timings to proper uniform to restricted entry in and out of college apply in a strange contrast to boys colleges where boys decide what to wear, when to go and when to leave. This might appear a very commonplace and small observation but the fact remains that it reflects on how our society believes in taming women and letting men go their way which eventually leads to serious violation of women’s rights!
People who consider these things non issues and the only issue near to them is Kashmir conflict need to think that if tomorrow some viable solution to Kashmir issue is found out, will these other small issues disappear and be solved simultaneously. Will eve teasing or dowry deaths stop? Will gesturing or roadside lewd comments disappear?

5. It must be the woman.
“Her husband divorced her and now she was molested. It must be her fault.” Don’t many of us make such irresponsible statements and sadly even when we don’t know the female remotely! Kashmir being a rumor hub, the stories, remarks, imaginations know no boundary, when it comes to maligning the victim. We draw a sadistic pleasure by proving the victim wrong. And due to this reason majorly women don’t speak out when they suffer at the hands of some family member, friend, husband, colleague or superiors at work or even strangers.
The label of being seen as a lose charactered female is not only stigmatizing but traumatizing and the threat of being labeled so prevents even educated and emancipated women speak against those who harm them physically, emotionally and mentally. And all such forms of harms are very much prevalent in a predominantly Muslim society of Kashmir and solutions like segregating sexes, covering women head-toe (anyway women are covered in the valley, wonder which level of cover is required not to provoke) and not letting women work cannot be the solution to the problem prevalent in today’s society.
Instead sensitization of young boys and girls at homes and schools is necessary to groom the right attitudes in them. So is the implementation of a myriad of laws already in place to safeguard women’s rights are effective. To begin with, let us as a society accept the prevalence of the violation of rights of women for no fault of theirs!

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