“Real respect not tokenism”- 2 October 2013.

The Andhra Pradesh Tourism badge is attractive: “I respect women”. In response to the propaganda, so countless people will wear those attractive red badges on their shirts and move around. For a few days, the badges will be noticed. Later on, their newness will wear out and nobody will even notice those. A supposedly good move will get sidelined.

However, the trouble is not with the badges; it is with the attitude the society in general has towards women. The difficulty is that the society traditionally has not really respected women per se, leave alone the holy texts and some good-natured, well-meaning people in whose grooming was ingrained a special place for women. But factually, such people are almost negligible in numbers in our very large society in which respect for women is not a sacrosanct and universal value. That is the real trouble.
When some people in such a society try to take a propagandist approach by making “I respect women” badges etc, they only highlight the general absence of respect the society has for women. This is not to disrespect the campaign; this is only to highlight the harsh reality that in our society, we need badges to demonstrate our respect for women even if in real life we may not have any such sentiment.
What is critical, thus, is to wear the respect in the heart and head rather than wearing badges on the shirts.
But visit homes, and you will realise that in very few of them women are truly respected. In most homes, women are the need, so to say, but not the objects of total respect.
This sounds very harsh. But can we brush aside this reality? Obviously not. For, rape cases are being reported from all corners of the country day in and day out. Domestic violence, too, is on the rise all over the country. Millions of girls still never get born, and many millions do not complete their schooling, let alone getting the university level education.
Most unfortunately, in this general display of overall disrespect for women, even women take part — in various ways, as mothers, as daughters, as mothers-in-law, as daughters-in-law…
Again, visit homes and you will find the daughter-in-law very unhappy with her relations with her mother-in-law, or even the reverse is true.
These are some of the vignettes of our society’s disrespect for women — by all men and women.
A little while earlier, I stated that women are the need but not the objects of respect in families. That is, of course, a bold statement with which many may not agree. But in reality, a lot of people among us treat women as a need — for so many reasons. All of us have come across conversations in families with elders insisting upon young boys, “Come on get married. You are getting posted out of town. Who will cook for you, then?”
But women do not like to be described or treated as needs. They need respect, and they don’t get exactly that. That is the trouble.
So, wearing badges won’t take us any distance. Wearing a deep respect for women in our hearts and head is what we need.

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