Sudhanva Shetty Shetty
Writer, coffee-addict, likes folk music & long walks in the rain. Firmly believes that there's nothing more important in a democracy than a well-informed electorate.
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• 33,764 Indians were reported as victims of rape in India in 2014. However, according to the UN, only 11-20% of rape and sexual assault cases are ever reported.
• 59.5% of married Indian men have experienced some form of domestic abuse.
• 60-70% of Indian women are victims of domestic violence.
• Though women and men have equal property rights, only 1 in 10 Indian women actually own land.
• Since 2011, over 10,000 false cases have been registered every year under Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code due to skewed gender laws.
• 200,000 people are trafficked every year in India; 90% of this trade is interstate.
• Acid attacks in India have a gendered aspect to them, and have increased in the previous 10 years.
• Sex-selective abortions account for 100,000 missing girls every year in India.
• Nearly 1 in 4 girls in India has already been married off.
India is a country of infinite potential but also several problems. And gender violence is one of the most potent threats to our society. We must not avoid debating on this topic just because it is an uncomfortable one. After all, the first step in solving a problem is recognizing there is one. Above all, we should not deviate from the matter at hand to engage in counter-productive arguments. Like the one on feminism vs. the men’s rights movement.
The national debate on how we can secure the dignity of every Indian man and woman has been hijacked by militant feminists and men’s rights activists. This is mostly visible on social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter. What we post and how we comment on social media platforms does matter, because it shapes the views of millions. The internet is a powerful tool to spread information and create awareness, but it can also be a tool to corrupt opinions and propagate agendas.
We need to ignore the baseless, loud rhetoric of the men-are-better-than-women and women-are-better-than-men lobbies. Their arguments are polluting the national debate on gender equality. We need to work as a team on this, all 3 genders. We need to stop labeling ourselves and shift our focus to find solutions to combat gender violence and engage in constructive, fact-based, development-driven debates with the intention of educating the public of the issues that matter.
We need to understand that gender violence affects all of us, regardless of our gender. The fact that most men and women don’t report being victims of sexual violence stems out of the same problem: stereotypes. A man who suffers from domestic violence or is raped does not lose his “manhood”, a woman who incites catcalls and lewd abuses because she wears “Western clothes” is not at fault, and a girl who is beaten up for staying out late with a boy of a different caste is not being “anti-culture” or “immodest”. Gender stereotypes are wrecking our civility and harming any progress we aspire to make towards gender equality.
What the feminists and men’s rights activists among us must urgently realize is this: if they think arguing about labels is more important that working together to find solutions to end gender inequality, then they are a part of the problem. We must strive for a gender-equal India with progressive laws and a tolerant society. There is no magical formula for this; it involves hard work and dedication. And it can happen only when all of us – men, women and transgenders – respect each other and ensure the safety of each other’s rights.
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