Women’s safety under the female leader

At the annual Women in the World Summit in New York in 2015, acclaimed journalist Barkha Dutt, speaking about Hillary Clinton’s bid for presidency, said that the debate about having a woman leader is not a conversation that we have in India anymore. “We had a woman leader decades ago”, she said (referring to former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi). She quoted Nobel laureate Amartya Sen and claiming that statistically the incidence of rape is much higher in the U.S. and UK.

While having a woman leader during the 1960s may be considered progressive for those times, the Indian parliament is yet to pass the Women’s Reservation bill, which reserves 33% of the seats for female Members of Parliament. The bill has been a matter of debate for 18 long years. Currently, women MPs occupy a mere 66 of the 543 seats in the Lok Sabha, or the lower house. The national average for legislative assemblies of all the states is a dismal 9%. India currently has four states with women chief ministers, but does their leadership necessarily amount to safer conditions for women?

 

Anandiben Patel

Even though the reported incidents of rape almost doubled in Gujarat from 2013 to 2014, Gujarat is considered one of the safest states for women according to a survey conducted by Tata Strategic Management Group.

A rape victim from Botad district who got pregnant asked for permission for an abortion from the Gujarat High Court, which was denied to her. She even met Anandiben in person, but ended up with a baby boy whom the High Court had urged her to “bravely give birth to”, and her rapist, who is still a free citizen. This court also denied permission to a 14-year-old girl raped by her doctor, who had to move the Supreme Court to abort the baby.

Patel has spoken about wanting to make women’s empowerment a priority for her state. Yet when it comes to such incidents she, much like her predecessor Modi, prefers keeping an undignified silence over the matter.

 

Vasundhara Raje

Rajasthan has the second highest number of women MLAs (14%). This state also records the second highest number of rape incidents. While the state has a history of greater incidence of violence against women, their first woman CM seems to have done little for betterment of this situation. Rapes of minors and women in Rajasthan have been as consistent as Raje’s silence over these cases.

 

Mamata Banerjee

Mamata Banerjee has several infamous statements about rape to her credit, the most peculiar one being that rapes are caused because of girls and boys interacting freely with each other. When a 70-year-old nun was gang raped in March 2015, Mamata handed the case over to the CBI, asking for quick action. However, approach to this crime seems ageist as it was she who, in 2013, dismissed that Late Suzzette Jordan (sometimes referred to as the Park Street rape victim), as a story that was “cooked up to malign the government”.

Jayalalitha

Tamil Nadu was the first state to have a female-staffed police station, first all-female police commando unit, and now the first women’s special-forces police battalion. Jayalalitha has personally vouched for the state as being safe for women. Dowry deaths and sexual assault on women have seen a steady decline during her regime, especially since 2010.

Jayalalitha was the first Tamil actress to appear in a skirt on screen in her former years as an actress. Even so, the state has had an ongoing problem of moral policing. Several colleges in the state have been known to enforce outdated dress codes and moralistic rules especially on female students in Chennai’s engineering college.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Women leaders are as conducive, or as detrimental to female citizens as their male counterparts. Mamata Banerjee is inconsistent in response to sexual assault in her state, and Vasundhara Raje seems to have done little for the state which already had abysmal conditions for women’s rights. Even though Anandiben Patel and Jayalalitha have made certain strides in empowering women, they seem to suffer from the fatal flaw that most of our leaders seem to have: moral policing.

 

 

 

 

 

Men’s Rights in a Country like India

Men's Day4
Image Courtesy: MRA

Mahesh Shinde is an engineer from Pune, India, who works for a manufacturing company. He’s also the President of the Men’s Rights Association (M.R.A), a registered NGO working solely to protect the honour and dignity of men. This is just one of the many organisations worldwide that have taken up this particular cause. On International Men’s Day, (November 19), Let’s take a look into what Men’s Rights actually mean to these organisations. Here’s an interview with Mr. Shinde about the organisation, its goals and philosophy.

  • Tell me a little about Men’s Rights Association. How did you get involved with the NGO? How often does the group meet?

Men’s Rights Association (MRA) is an organization whose sole purpose is to fight for the elusive Men’s Rights. MRA is very revolutionary in its concepts.It has been listed in the Top 100 social organizations of Maharashtra.

We believe that men should not be made to suffer so that women can enjoy. Society should not be divided on the basis of gender. Men often tend to carry a lot of baggage due to societal pressure. They are thrust into the role of ‘provider and protector’.

Nowadays, there’s a trend to denounce men for all the problems of humanity. Indian media continuously portrays all men as the perpetrators of crime, and women as the perpetual victim. Such biased propaganda will have serious repercussions, some of which has already been seen.

In India, the suicide rate of men is much higher than that of women. (According to a report by the World Health Organization, 258,075 people committed suicide in India in 2012, with 99,977 women and 158,098 men taking their own lives). But society is apathetic to the suicides of men, whereas women’s suicides have received a lot of attention

Just because a few (less than 1%) men have power doesn’t means that we are a male-dominated society. What happens to the remaining 99%? And it is an open truth that most of these so-called Alpha males are hen-pecked, and end up dominating other men. It is stupid to call this as male dominance.

Below is some of the important work done by MRA

  • Provide free legal help and counseling to men in distress.
  • Create awareness about anti-male laws and attitude
  • Remove negativity against the male gender, and spread positive thoughts
  • Work towards reducing suicides of male.
  • Sensitize law making bodies about men’s issues.
  • Reduce violence against men.

MRA works in all spheres of life.

 

  • What do you think are the main reasons that the high rate of suicides among men goes ignored?

The suicides are ignored because society treats Men as disposable. Since society doesn’t consider Men as human beings, their suicides aren’t a serious matter for society.

 

  • What are your major demands?

We are fighting for gender equality. Our main demands are:

  • That both genders should be treated equally
  • There should be no prejudice against men
  • Treat men as humans

 

  • What kind of activities/events do you organize?

Our activities are divided into two major parts. One is helping men in distress. The other is to spread awareness, through various actions like writing campaign letters to higher authorities, RTI (Right to Information) application, police station visits to generate awareness of the law process, various awareness campaign and protests, celebrating Father’s Day, Men’s Day, etc. For the past one year we have been doing collective projects with other NGOs as well.

 

  • India has been ranked as the worst country amongst the G20 nations to be a woman. How do men’s rights figure into the scenario?

This is a canard which is used to subjugate men, and impose more inhuman conditions on men. This is a totally baseless and extremely flawed ranking. We dare those who publish such nonsense to come and have an open debate with us. We will tear their arguments to shreds.

 

  • Do you receive flak any flak regarding MRA?

Since our society is so biased against men, we are the subject of several jokes. If anyone fights for women’s rights, they are glorified, while those fighting for men’s rights are ridiculed.

 

  • Do you believe in equal treatment of both the genders?

Absolutely… And this is NOT happening, which is our main grouse.

 

  • What are your feelings about reservation for women in the parliament and other spheres?

They talk about equal rights, and then ask for reservation. This is robbery. Those asking for reservation for women, imply that women are incompetent.

 

  • What according to you are the major issues faced by men in India?

There are several. Men are trained to work hard, and what do they get in return? A man’s entire life goes in doing things for others. He has to work to provide for his wife, children, sisters. Society expects men to work for others.

 

  • Sexual abuse laws in India are often framed with terminology like ‘outraging the modesty of a woman’. Does the MRA deal with male victims of abuse? How can these laws be framed to be more inclusive regarding men?

Of course we do. In fact, in the last two years, we have seen an increase in such male victims of abuse. One of our demand is to make these laws gender neutral. Currently, male victims aren’t even considered by law.

 

  •  One of your demands is to eliminate false rape, dowry and other cases. Have you received many complaints about this? What are viable solutions to this problem? How does one differentiate between the legitimate cases and the fake ones?

Yes, we continuously receive complaints about false dowry, rape, etc. The viable solution to this problem is to modify these laws, to prevent misuse. In their present form, these laws are downright idiotic. No rational person can justify these wicked laws. If anyone reads the complaint itself, it is very clear, that it is false. And yet, complaints are being lodged because of biased laws, and the anti-male legal system.

 

  •  What might be the reasons that women lodge false rape and dowry complaints?

A primary reason is extortion. The complaints are filed to extract money from men. Otherwise, it may be to harass the husband/concerned man, harass his parents, siblings and other dear ones, humiliate him and destroy his mental peace; to push him towards suicide, or harm himself.

 

  • Can you provide some examples of the kind of complaints you receive?

With regards to dowry harassment, wives harassing their husbands for not listening to her absurd demands is quite a common complaint. The husband’s life becomes a living nightmare. The wife has a whole array of laws which she can misuse against the husband. The woman simply has to go to any police station/court and lodge complaint against her husband, and she has the upper hand. Even in cases where no complaints are lodged, mere threatening is good enough to harrass the husband. Many men take the extreme step of committing suicide because of the daily torture they face from their unscrupulous wives.
With regards to sexual harassment at workplaces, some women employees harass their male colleagues. Some women at senior posts want the men working under them to be their play-things. If the man resists, he faces further harrassment. Even with colleagues, men have faced harassment. In another case, a junior female employee filed harassment complaint against her boss, because she was asked to be more professional by him.

 

  • Do you think the new Modi government will bring about any changes for men’s rights?

No, we do not think so. However, we would like to have a dialogue with the government. We have petitioned previous governments, which didn’t pay heed to our demands. When we show factual data to the officials, all they do is accept that our demands are legitimate, but they do not have the courage and the political will power to act on it.