“The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference. The opposite of art is not ugliness, it’s indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it’s indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, it’s indifference.” – Elie Wiesel.
We often forget that the discrimination women are subjected to, also affects children.
A man teasing a woman walking on the street, a mother telling her daughter to be back home before sunset, an aunt concerned about the length of her niece’s skirt: these are trivial occurrences that we see everywhere. We may understand them but what about the children witnessing these practices or subjected to them? How will these children understand these practices? Are we willing to explain to them the prejudices that are behind these practices? Do we even try to explain to them in the first place? This video poses these questions, telling us that we need to act before it is too late.
“Ma, why did you adjust your dupatta when that man was looking at you?”
“Ma, why didn’t grandma want you to work after marriage?”
“Why do we have to avoid dark lanes?”
“Appa, why do you get worried when Ma travels alone?”
“Why are there different rules for girls and boys?”
There is no denying that women have to deal with several problems in public every day. Eve-teasing, groping, assault, molestation, abuse – these are only a few of the threats that women can be subjected to in public spaces. This is true for all countries, though the frequency varies depending on the region in question.
This societal reality for women has led to two major dangerous repercussions. The first is obviously that many women are reluctant to frequent public spaces – be it markets, public transport, malls, etc. This effect is more visible in semi-urban and rural areas.
The second repercussion is something that is discussed less frequently: the normalisation of the situation. It has become normal that public transports like buses and metros will involve groping and inappropriate and deliberate physical contact.
Advising women to not leave their homes after sunset has become normal. Mandating that girl students leave campus by 5 or 6 pm has become normal. Ensuring that a female relative is always accompanied by a male companion when she travels long distances has become normal. It has become normal to assume that catcalling in public is the established reality and it cannot be changed.
This new normal that we have forced on ourselves is neither normal nor acceptable. The fact that our society is unsafe for women is a reality. But that does not make it normal.
And if we take the state of things as the status quo, is that what we will tell our children?
Are we prepared to tell our children that they will inherit from us not only a world where gender violence and gender discrimination are a reality but also a world where these evils are normal? An unchangeable reality?
What child would want to live in such a world? A world where women are (supposedly) destined for a life of insecurity, condemned to restrictions every day just because they were born as women?
Nobody wants a prison of a life, where discrimination is viewed as normal, where there seems to be no respite, no rescue, no alternative.
This is not normal. If we make peace with a flawed state of things, we make it the status quo. This makes it impossible for the state of things to change, for conditions to improve, for our society to become safer for women.
Let us pledge to make a difference this International Women’s Day. Let us act before it is too late. Let us treat the discrimination in society as it should be treated: as an anomaly that should be countered, as an oddity that should be fought, as a quirk that should be eliminated, as the abnormal thing that it is. The next time we see someone being harassed or restricted or being discriminated against, let us stand up for them. Let us show our children that it is important to stand up for what is right and that they have the power to make the world a more inclusive and just place. Let us pledge to lead by example and make the society safe for us and our future generations.