If not NOW, When?

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Raise YOUr voice

It’s time to wrap up all the confetti, streamers, buntings and banners for next year. Mar 08, 2018 and we will, dutifully, bring them back. It has indeed become an annual ritual with some of us. As humans we touched nadir when on FB we livestreamed the atrocity meted out to a minor by five animals and it attracted thousands of “likes” clicked on the live streaming. Really!!! Each day there are some new horrors that come to light. Yes, the media goes berserk, grabbing eyeballs and “selling” their conscience.

How much further can we, as humans, sink?

It is high-time we all rose to the atrocities perpetrated against women. Each one of us is part of the system. When I speak to students, I ask them some very hard hitting questions.

If you’ve watched bollywood movies which promote misogynistic ideas (even inadvertently), YOU’ve told the directors/ producers that you accept such ideas/ viewpoints. It’s a pure case of demand and supply. YOU demand and they supply. YOU asked for songs/ item numbers which portray women in a demeaning way/ objectify them. YOU’ve told them YOU want it. The onus lies ‘fairly and squarely’ on your conscience, buddy. Movies that promote the idea that ‘harassing a women for love’ is fine. Which promotes that ‘NO means MAYBE’; No it is NOT!!! Do a ‘Ranjhana’ and the girl will give in. The perpetrator needs psychiatric help – he can’t control his emotions. He can’t take a NO. He can’t handle daily rejections. You don’t need item numbers for movies to be HIT! We know that, right? A Dangal, English Vinglish, BMB, ZNMD, PK et al .. movies without item numbers and yet are box office successes.

Now is the Time to DO!!!!

These five basic steps could be the beginning. Just spread the word. Each one of us are responsible to make ‘Our Society’ the way we want it; the way we would like to have it. The way we would like to leave it for our children.

1.  Know YOUr Basic Rights. This is THE first step. Know that if you’re a women, you cannot be taken to the PS (police station) between last light and first light (sunset to sunrise). Know that the PS must have a lady constable. Know about zero FIR, which the SC has passed in a ruling recently. It says that the rape survivor can register in any PS (not necessarily the nearest PS), it can be done online, or registered post, even after weeks or months after the incident. The PS is mandated to record the statement.

2. Denounce Victim Blaming. Shaming her for the clothes she wore, the time or the place of the act or even her profession. Really? Each time we pass the blame to her, remember these are convenient narratives in support of patriarchal society and the mindset. It is NOT OK to strike/ perpetrate violence against women.

3. Have a Talk with YOUR family. Let YOUR family members know that a boy and the girl, both have same privileges. The rules acceptable for the boys are also applicable to the girls. Raise both of them with confidence. Let not the boy think that he can get away with anything. As parents we need to ‘teach our sons better’. #RESPECT. When the children see their father respecting mother, they take lessons for life.

4. Demand Actual Solutions. Candlelight vigils, sharing on whatsapp, blog on fb may raise awareness (and some just forward it for forwarding sake). It is more important we demand actual solutions. We need to denounce parliamentarians/ men in position of influence/ power to make such ridiculous statements like ‘chowmein is the cause of sexual atrocities’, jeans donning women ask for it, mobile phones or such absurd ideas. What we need to demand is rectify the sorry state of affairs; we need safer public transport, well-lit community spaces, faster processing of cases, higher conviction rates, sensitive handling of cases, national criminal register, and the list is endless. Let US begin. NOW .

5. Stop Forwarding Rape Jokes. It is NOT funny. STOP sharing, forwarding, sharing any/ every insensitive content. PLEASE . STOP . NOW . Reprimand those who do. It is these small things that YOU can do. People asked me in a number of sessions/ seminars, how do we know if it is risque? Hello? Really? OK .. put it through the grandmother test. If YOU can share it with YOUR grand mom, you can share it with your female colleagues. IF NOT, it is sexual harassment.

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NO, means NO!!!

I believe, that if you’re not raising YOUr voice, YOU are complicit and according YOUr consent. Is this the legacy YOU would like to leave behind for YOUr children?

IF NOT NOW WHEN?

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WOmen SAFety (WOSAF): Proactive Measures

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How can we address Women Safety issues and prevent such incidents?

I go back to the incident on Jan 29, 2017 in Hinjewadi, IT Park, Pune, where, in an IT firm, a women associate was working late on Sunday evening. She was found murdered in the conference room. A security guard was arrested for the crime. This has set us all thinking and a number of you queried, could this incident be avoided?

A short answer would be YES!!!

But the long answer is: we need to work very hard to get to that state where such incidents can be totally eliminated. The security cams capture the event BUT after the act. All the procedures & processes are in place and YET such incidents happen at regular intervals. What is the matter? Can something be done? Is there NO hope? What’s wrong?

On Mar 08th, International Women’s Day, while I was addressing a group of around 250+ women of an MNC, a number of them queried such and similar issues. I share lessons from the Uniform. The fact I’m alive is due to the Buddy I had and I’m ever thankful to him. Every women must have a BUDDY. In the civvy street, there could be buddies for different occasions; in office, for running, for partying, for trekking. Basically, they should be a pair; the perpetrators are dissuaded and if at all anything happens, the partner can seek help. You go to the washroom, buddy is the drink watcher. You go for movies together. You are together in the office. You need a BUDDY.

This is true for Children too; and we can address the Child Sexual Abuse issue with this. In parks, in playgrounds, in buses, in societies, in schools – every child has a Buddy! This in itself will be one major step in curbing such like incidents.

What else can be done?

Recognize the role of Gender in Violence. While boys and men do experience abuse it is important to remember that the majority of victims of abuse are female and the majority of perpetrators of violence are boys and men. More importantly, Gender Violence is centrally about men. They need to be part of all such conversations. Men need to show courage to stand up and raise their voice, be part of discussions and be sensitive to the issue.

Use social media to spread the word. Express your concern. Raise your voice. More noise we make the energy will get down to everyone and each of us will be gripped by the problem. Just calling it Women’s issue is the major part of the problem. It is centrally about men. So we need more men to be part of these conversations. Spread the word.

Report any abuse/ use/ exploitation of photographs of women/ girls on social media platform. Be media literate and critical of any such issue that comes to your notice. Each drop makes a difference.

Interrupt sexist/homophobic and transphobic language. Words are powerful, especially when spoken by people who have power over others. We have politicians who have come out with such reprehensible remarks. We need to condemn them. Don’t accept such statements. Seek public apology. Gendered name-calling is used and sends a message, that, girls and women are less than fully human. When girls and women are seen as inferior, thus, it becomes easier to treat them with less respect and ignore their rights. Changing the way you speak can change the way you think. Don’t circulate demeaning messages. Don’t share. Have the courage to stand up and say so.

Interrupt abuse. If you see a man get physical with a girl, say something to stop him from continuing to be abusive. If you are at a party and one of your peers or friends is intoxicated and being led away by a guy[s] stop him from being alone with her and help her get home. Help avoid such situations where they are vulnerable to exploitation.

Stop street harassment. Don’t engage in any forms of sexual harassment, such as catcalling, and unwanted touching. And don’t let your friends and peers engage in those behaviours either! It’s not just enough that you don’t engage in those behaviours, be empowered to speak up against friends and peers who do! Don’t look the other way!

Stop Victim Blaming. Don’t blame women/ girls for how they choose to dress or judge their behaviour. Violence can’t be prevented through limiting the freedoms of girls. This only allows the violence to continue because perpetrators become invisible, and those who witness remain silent. It is their choice and as long as they exercise the choice by full import of its repercussions, take adequate precautions, and choose. Men cannot take this as an excuse to pass the blame. 

Stop Rape Culture. One way to stop rape culture is by not allowing people to perpetuate rape culture through minimizing/normalizing rape through jokes. When a friend or peer tells a joke about being violent against women/girls in some way, say you don’t find it funny and let them know that it is not okay. It’s NOT OK!! Period.

Educate yourself on the roots of violence. Violence against women/girls stems in a patriarchal society, where men have overbearing control. Create safe spaces to discuss gender violence. Create an after office club/group where you can openly discuss your views and experiences and support your peers. Educate people around you. Sensitize your workforce. Confront yourself/your ideas. Reflect on your beliefs and why you have those beliefs and your actions, and opinions. Be honest and admit your faults and commit to changing the way you think and act.

Stop stereotyping men’s and women’s roles-Social roles and expectations may affect a man’s decisions about relationships. Men are taught that expressing feelings is not masculine. Examining your social role and learning ways to express feelings directly and non-violently can help to create deeper and more meaningful interpersonal relationships. You don’t have to prove yourself.

Be Supportive. When women tell you about violence they have experienced in their lives believe them. It is extremely rare for girls to make up a story about rape or abuse. You may be the first and only person she tells. Believe her and support her decisions, without being judgmental. Parents need to be approachable. The scar of such incidents can last life-long. You need to understand and reduce the pain. Don’t victimize her. She didn’t ask for it.

Talk to others about ending violence and be a mentor. Volunteer your time to preventing violence by speaking to others. This brings awareness to the issue, which will motivate others to act. Understand consent. Boys and young men need to be respectful when entering into a sexual relationship and should not feel entitled to girls and women’s bodies. Just because you are a ‘nice guy’ does not mean you should have any expectations. Like Thordis Elva mentions, I trusted Tom (Stranger). They had come to know each other when Tom came to Iceland on a Student exchange program. Like a knight in shining armour, he took her home, when she was intoxicated. Laid her on her bed and raped her.

Remember gender violence is not an individual issue. We all have a role in ending violence against girls and women and it is important that we all take responsibility in ending the violence. As a society, we need to mature and respect every human being.

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This is a crusade and we need to be part of this scourge of Gender Violence.

We can make a DIFFERENCE . Raise your VOICE . Make your voice COUNT .

Another Brick in the Wall – Part 2

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The rise in incidents of sexual assault brings to the fore the responsibility of the Society.

The unfortunate incident at the IT office in Pune on a Sunday throws up a pertinent question – How safe are Women in our society? Are we doing enough to make this planet a better place for them to live . love . laugh . It’s very easy to blame the organization and wash our hands off! Well that would be the Ostrich Approach. Find a scapegoat and Blame it on Rio! There are systemic fault lines that need addressing. In my last post, I mentioned that the other stakeholders in this conundrum, with whom the onus rests too! I’ll address each one of them.

Men. The question I keep posing to the YOUth invariably is: think 5/10 years down the line and imagine YOUr daughter walking down the street; do you think she’ll feel safe. If the answer is NO, then what are you doing about it? Each one of us are responsible. Remember, your silence is a form of consent and complicity. We need more men to have the Courage and Strength to stand up and be heard. YOUr voice counts. YOU make a difference.

Men have largely erased from much of the conversation that is centrally about men. The moment they hear, ‘Women’s Safety’, they take it as a ‘Women’s Issue’ and switch off from the conversation. If YOU think hard, YOU’ll realize that gender violence is largely about men perpetrating brutality on the fairer sex. And men conveniently have eased out of the situation. Buddy, remember, in each of such incidents, besides the perpetrator, present alongside the survivor was a man; be it the boyfriend, husband, brother. The men have let them down. They are the ones who couldn’t stand up to be counted.

And then there is this other issue. Dan Ariely, Prof of Psychology and Economics at MIT and George Loewenstein, Prof at Carnegie Mellon University came up with their findings. Their research examined the effect of sexual arousal, on judgments and decisions made by male college students. Students were asked to: (a) indicate how appealing they find a wide range of sexual stimuli and activities, (b) report their willingness to engage in morally questionable behavior in order to obtain sexual gratification, and (c) describe their willingness to engage in unsafe sex when sexually aroused. The results show that sexual arousal had a strong impact on all three areas of judgment and decision making, demonstrating the importance of situational forces on preferences, as well as subjects’ inability to predict these influences on their own behavior. Thus at the ‘heat of the moment’ the man is unpredictable; in fact so unpredictable, that even he has no idea what it can lead to and up to what extent he would compromise his principles/ scruples.(http://web.mit.edu/ariely/www/MIT/Papers/Heat_of_Moment.pdf).

A news channel had come out with a wonderful ad: Three goons board a bus and the eve teasers hand ‘accidently’ falls on the shoulders of a woman (Soha Ali) sitting in the bus. An old man hauls him up for his misdemeanour and the goon says, “it was only a hand, and it slipped. I say sorry”. And the old man quips, how come your hands don’t slip on your sister’s shoulders or a burning hot oven and ends it giving a slap on the face of the goon. And retorts, “Sorry, it was just my hand and it slipped”.  We need to stand up for such eve teasers and raise our voices. Each drop counts. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kk6Bi23Q7-E)

There are certain DON’Ts that every man must understand. (a) Please don’t expect sex in return for buying gifts. (b) And don’t pressurize to have sex; don’t emotional blackmail either. (c) Have the courage to accept a ‘NO’. (d) It’s NOT OK to use force. Under no circumstance can you justify the use of force, EVER. (e) A peck/ kiss doesn’t mean that intercourse will follow. Please. Let HER have the choice. (f) And avoid excessive alcohol/ drugs. They impair your judgment. Besides they let you lose control and deviant behaviour is seen as normal.

Men need to change the macho image. Get used to the fact that women have broken the glass ceiling and they can assert their rights. In patriarchal society, expressing emotions is seen as unmanly. Sensitive males are gentle towards women. You’ll be in connect with your feminine side. Cut off the meek, lame excuses like she provoked it, or she asked for it, or even the ridiculous – I was drunk.

With the nuclear families replacing the joint family system, both the parents are working parents. The onus to teach the children fairly and squarely lies on him too. The foundation of the issues are sown in the family. When the children see their father respecting their mother, they learn respect. Nothing short would do. When they see their father talking/ consulting the mother, they learn to value the opinion of the other half. Inclusiveness. Equality and fairness. Just. When they see their father helping the mother in the household chores, they learn sharing and caring. Responsibility. Duty. Parents need to teach their children better. With such role models in their own homes, they grow up well nourished and with a positive image of the other gender.

Respect . Love . Sharing . Caring . 

If the “boys” are delinquents, it’s our failure. We failed to teach them better. We need to think of the role models they see in the daily lives. The kind of movies that are churned out. The kind of lyrics and the kind of songs. Show me a society where the women are ill-treated/ not respected; and I’ll show you a society which is at the edge of the precipice.