“Going beyond tokenism”- 16 October 2013

That mere tokenism makes no difference; actual respect for women does, was the theme of last edition of ‘Persona’. However, not much serious thought is given to the issue of actual respect for women in the Indian society even though ancient texts are found to have made very honourable mention of women, not just as goddesses, but also as human beings who deserved all the attention.

In modern Indian society, there is no well-meditated blue-print of respect for women. Of course, women themselves have put in great efforts to define the issue to the best of their abilities and to the best of their understanding of what they feel they deserve. Yet, to be frank, except vague statements that talk of treating the girl child with respect, except for vociferous campaigns against female foeticide, and except for efforts by many great social reformers (men and women) decades ago, contemporary Indian society has done precious little to evolve a comprehensive thought on how to respect women in the truest sense.
There is no need to debunk everything in this regard. Yet, much work needs to be done and much social reform must take place so that our women start getting what they deserve.
Women do not deserve just good education and ability to fend for themselves economically, but also a place of unquestionable respect in the scheme of things in the larger society as well as the family. To any such statement, most people will respond by saying that they do have utmost regard for women in every way. But if that is so, then why do we come across countless instances of disrespect to women at home or at workplaces or in public places? Why are women not treated as equals in most cases? Why are men generally reluctant to work under women bosses? And why is it that if there is a car ahead of you being driven rather awkwardly, men respond without thinking, ‘It must be a woman driving it’? Why? And what if that driver happens to be a man?
This is the reason I would insist that our society still believes in tokenism rather than offering actual respect to women which they richly deserve.
May there be no confusion that even in more advanced societies than ours, similar tokenism is available. Its extent may be less, or even more, in those societies. But our concern should be our own society. Hence this stress upon working to evolve a comprehensive blueprint to offer women their place of due respect they deserve.
What is this blueprint business, some may ask. In my view, this blueprint must define most accurately what constitutes respect for women. And that blueprint must be turned into well defined laws written and unwritten both that would guarantee respectful treatment for all women. Yes, we do have many laws that protect women’s interests. But many of those laws are said to be loaded heavily in favour of women and unfairly loaded against men. Women are facing the brunt of such laws as well. Wany en and unwritten both  October 2013.hen the law assumes such dimensions it cannot be fair to all. And under such a legal system, women, or men, cannot enjoy the true respect they deserve. Both suffer. Therefore most importantly mental attitudes and mindsets of all need to change and we have to understand the true meaning of the word ‘equality’ and ‘respect’. That seems to be a tall order in a culturally traditional society which is fragmented in so many aspects.



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