What really gets my goat these days is the bull in china shop approach to women’s rights, which has a male dominated state and society trying to fix everything (sexual assault) – for women. I am a woman and I agree that there is vast gender inequality in India. I believe that women need to be empowered. I don’t see our methods as useful. I have started calling the gender ghetto.
There are two lobbies in conflict determining women’s rights that result in actions somewhere in between – usually what is acceptable to both. The “feminist” lobby – which seeks to create sensitivity and ease of justice for women – particularly for rapes. The “patriarchy” which would prefer to control women. Most of the women of India fall into neither of these two influential groups.
The feminist lobby (as per my observation in INDIA) looks to show humanity the right path – regardless of whether change results or is immediately useful for women. In less polite words, it is an upper middle class hijack of the female gender that appreciates itself and interprets “victories” against patriarchy as empowerment of women (which isn’t necessarily true).
Patriarchy is on more comfortable ground. They have control and it is about managing so that no women actually get into bastions of power. The best way is to create luxurious ghettos for women, sold to feminists as special attention to women’s rights.
As a result, there is an abundance of measures taken specially for women that do very little to change the ground situation. There isn’t a single place where women can claim to feel safer after all the agitation, in spite of a steady stream of laws, schemes, special facilities, forces… Unfortunately, this doesn’t cause the women’s rights activists to pause and wonder if more of the same would be useful either. On the other hand, the special provisions cannot be made for all women – too resource intensive. So you create nice ghettos of women’s rights where the loudest voices are – and keep peddling the idea that “something is being done”. Unfortunately, Indian feminists ARE gullible enough to fall for it as long as their egos are stroked well.
Human rights as a special grant for women
Safety is a fundamental right. It isn’t something that is a favor granted to women. Women only banks, women’s credit cards, women police forces (more on that later)… You create a new breed of men who “know how to treat women”. You have morally upright people criticizing social media abuse of women “Is this how you speak with women?”, as though abusing men is fine… in the ghetto. I’d call it bubble, except it is really a psychological ghetto. Not merely isolation, but marginalization peddled as women’s rights, confining women to “safe” spaces with “better” rights that “appreciate” them.
So, your pub going woman getting molested is an outrage, because that space is supposed to be safe for women – indeed, less “inhibited” women are part of the appeal – besides, don’t the passes say “couples entry”? On the other hand, the woman getting molested in a seedy country liquor bar should have known better than to be there. Because, the pub is an official gender ghetto. Women are supposed to be in that space. On the other hand, the seedy bar is the “real world”, where no concessions will be made to women, and they must know “men will be men” while walking in.
Put your hand on your heart and tell me this is not so. That this is not how your perception works too, even though you’d like to respect “all” women?
The problem is the same. Drunk louts harassing women or worse.
Any woman who has asked a husband, male partner or male friend to escort her to a dance bar (if you’re around Mumbai) or red light area will attest to reason for refusal – or at least serious caution – being “it isn’t safe for women”. In spite of the dancers and prostitutes being girls themselves. Think about why one kind of woman wouldn’t be safe in a place where women are the star attraction otherwise.
In essence, this is a class phenomenon, mostly limited to the upper middle class. Very rich people can do what they like to women and get away with it through money power or connections. Lower middle classes hover on fringes, knowing that this protection is very unreliable if the perpetrator is from an upper class. Lower classes get routinely harmed and no one gives a damn beyond stray newspaper reports or the occasional case that has enough TRP value to elevate the victim to a more deserving category of human.
The ghetto can also be layered and existing in the same place as the “real world”. In other words, your pub goer getting raped will be news. A pub employee getting raped may be news depending on job (no sweepers, please), but if the woman security guard in the mall the pub is in gets raped by patrons of the pub? Forget it. Brief mention somewhere if at all. News item, not women’s rights issue. You don’t want unnecessary restrictions on the patrons of the pub over a nobody. It is the same reason that in spite of alcohol being a factor in many crimes and routinely in rapes, you will never find the elites bringing this up. You do not want to create an aura of shame around alcohol if you drink yourself – as a vast majority of public figures do.
Identifying a risk factor in rape is not as important as retaining elite freedoms. Not even as a minor caution point like – “Avoid being alone with one or more men you can smell alcohol on, as alcohol is known to reduce inhibitions. Particularly if there has been the slightest unwelcome flirting or sexually crude behavior or short temper.” This gender ghetto is selective about risks it protects from. Only some are to be prevented. Others can be condemned in hindsight, as preventing will be inconvenient.
It is also an age phenomenon, where this insistence on safety is largely relevant to young women, but kids get harmed routinely with little protest, as do older women. So it is basically a phenomenon of nationwide statistics of enormous inequality against women used to give select women a carte blanche – which is also an illusion. It is given only as long as it doesn’t inconvenience any of those with power. Rape convictions are overwhelmingly more from lower classes. No one has a problem with the nameless louts being taken out of the equation.
Feminism in India is not into hard wars. It prefers moral elegance and the high road. Patriarchy is not going to give up controlling women and treating them as primarily existing to serve the male will. Their interests do not converge on issues like domestic violence and marital rape. So we have some talk about it, but no serious challenge. The gender ghetto is that golden area where feminism and patriarchy agree and create a special safe zone where those who belong can expect safety to be their right.
Patriarchy prefers handouts to sharing power.
Patriarchy sees power as a male domain. It may be allowed to others – within limits. Misogyny actively seeks to exclude women from power. For the misogynist mind, it is better to give women a gilded harem than let them sit among the men as equals. Creating these gender ghettos works very well for them. Political parties having women wings with duties to support but very little control on party policies. Women only banks – even if they are not economically viable. Women’s credit cards – why give them male ones when we can tailor features and cashbacks to define their identity with shopping, groceries and so on?
And of course, women to provide security for women, women only police stations… pitting women police against men who are highly likely to be threats to women, rather than create an overall gender sensitive police force. Risks to women were never the problem. The problem was complaints about it. This looks like a grand gesture. See! We gave women power to bring men to justice! Now vote for us please. Yet, do women only forces find it easier to deal with criminals? Why would bringing criminals to book be a gender issue? What are male cops supposed to do if they get a complaint of crimes against women? The same thing as the women cops. Yet, rather than increase the representation of women among the police force at large, it is more misogyny compatible to give them their corner to occupy.
Laws that “protect” women.
While women are overwhelmingly more harmed by men than vice versa, creating laws that institutionalize a bias against men does not help anyone. It is the legal ghetto. That sanctuary for women where they only have to name the justice they need. Of course, there is the “real world” where cops refuse to file cases – or worse to make them go away rather than exercise their rights. This successfully fudges the idea of justice for women, turning it into something that is specially granted for them in a very dramatic and unreserved manner, whereas the reality is different. Nor is creating a special issue out of the right of women to seek justice as generous as it sounds. It is the fundamental right of anyone harmed by another to seek justice.
In our grandstanding that wants to make sure we leave no space for any crime against women to slip through (regardless of applicability in real world), we make laws so unreal, that it is easy to show how a man accused of rape cannot be innocent short of an act of God – effectively turning a rape accusation into something women do that men have no defense against – when it is not true.
Consider a woman filing a complaint that she was raped a week ago by someone when they were alone in the office. Give me any possible way the man could prove his innocence short of proving he wasn’t in the place at all. The man is presumed guilty – unless he can prove his innocence – yet, how does one prove an absence? It is a logical fallacy we have enshrined through reckless law making that only aims to deal out grand punishments without a view on the larger picture.
There is a strong motive to do this. To enshrine dramatic punishments as an exhibition of “doing something” to “fight rape”. What is essentially a social problem – the inability of men to court women or take no for an answer – gets dumped on the legal system where it can reside happily, out of sight of a misogynist society, which is not required to face how it treats women. Naturally, for this, the law has to sound like it really knows what it is doing. Even if what it is doing is creating the provision to amputate a decade out of a man’s life and reputation on the basis of an accusation he has no real way to disprove. A provision – which like India’s thousand grey areas will usually be ignored and conviction rates will remain low at the discretion of judges – who must face their varying levels of conscience on sentencing a man for ten years on the basis of the crime described. Some misogynists will let all kinds of rapists go, others will let only a select few go, but the law if implemented to the letter will let no one go unless there is evidence of innocence. This is the legal system basically reduced to the level of a service for women to do anyone in. Non gender ghetto women won’t be able to pull it off, because cops will simply laugh them out of the police station.
But surely it helps women? Even if it is an unfair service that caters to a few women, at least those women get empowered, right?
In my view, it doesn’t. Judges who are often notoriously misogynistic will protect rapists for “small mistakes” when 10 year sentences seem to be disproportionate for an act that leaves no trace. Number of rapes on record will go high, but conviction rates will drop so dramatically that filing an FIR for rape will be rendered a joke. This will additionally provide fodder for misogynists to trivialize the act of filing a rape complaint itself, and it will be very difficult to debunk, because they will use the impossibility of proving innocence as their argument, even though lack of convictions will prove that “impossibility” false in practical application. All in all, a whole avalanche of controversial rapes will crop up, giving great boost to the feminist industry, but will lead to increased perceptions of danger limiting women, as well as increasing hostility from men once they start looking at cases. It will do a grave wrong to women whose PROVABLE rapes will now be further competing with scarce legal resources for justice.
It seems we identify an ideal that should be, and start acting like it is fact and simply ignore what doesn’t fit. We want uncompromising punishments and we also want every single wrong to be punished and we would rather a few innocents get punished than a few victims fail to nail their abusers.
Yet, is all this hand holding resulting in more assured women? More confident, more safe, more purposeful? Or merely more reckless? What is it that we are achieving, and how long is this supposed to continue and at whose cost? Why is it that we are choosing a hyperbole laden decision making process rather than something more scientific, measured and balanced?
Who will it hurt if women stop getting special favors and instead get their rights?