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Male involvement crucial for gender justice

Jan 25, 2018

Men in Indian societies exercise both social and economic power over women and it is this unequal gender order that needs to be addressed.

Dehradun: Gender equity is the process of allocating resources, programmes and decision-making fairly to both males and females. But sadly in India, women continue to be marginalized in various areas such as lack of access to health, education and decision-making as well as bearing the reproductive burden and household chores.

The ongoing debate for greater male participation in gender empowerment programmes got a fresh impetus at a recent seminar here which stressed the need to make men and boys an integral part of gender initiatives. Involving males is a must in order to usher in a gender-just society, especially as they are part of the society which is embroiled in the patriarchal mindsets and accept that gender inequality is in itself a norm set up by society, says Rekha Pundir of the Rural Litigation and Entitlement Kendra (RLEK), a Dehradun-based NGO, which organized the seminar.

Participants agreed that there is an emergent need to work along with men and boys to bring about gender equality and inspire them to abandon detrimental stereotypes, foster respect and promote and protect human rights, especially on women. Dr Hemlata Dhaundiyal of the Uttarakhand Human Rights Commission referred to the Beijing Declaration of 1995 which called for equal participation of both men and women in women empowerment programmes. “It is important that men should come to the fore and accept as well as empower women so that they can work in partnership,” she observed.

It was pointed out that political participation is also hindered at the village, state and national levels despite the inclusive approach adopted through reservation. Lack of transparency and accountability in the system coupled with inadequate resource allocation for implementation leads to further discrimination of women. Lower caste and tribal women are among those who experience the highest levels of physical violence.

Men in Indian societies exercise both social and economic power over women and it is this unequal gender order that needs to be addressed. Dr Geeta Balodi, Chairperson of Kanya Jeevan Dayini Society, a local women’s rights ngo, discussed her work and experience on stopping female foeticide. She further laid stress on the fact that to empower women it was important to sensitise them to the issues. Another hurdle was that though men are sensitive, they are not allowed to show their emotions as society stops them from doing so.

As far back as 1994, the Programme of Action of the U.N International Conference on Population and Development in Cairo had noted : “Men play a key role in bringing about gender equality since, in most societies, men exercise preponderant power in nearly every sphere of life, ranging from personal decisions regarding the size of families to the policy and programme decisions taken at all levels of government.”

More than two decades later, the ground realities remain starkly the same. “Change will not come from just speaking about it but by changing the mentality of people,” opines Krishna Khatri, former member of the State Women’s Commission. Women, if educated and sensitized, can improve the health and all-round development of their children. She reiterated the point that it is important for men to have knowledge of reproductive problems so that in time of need they can help women.

The seminar, which was sponsored by the National Commission for Women (NCW), was attended by several students from local colleges. In a first, some of the boys complained that women misused laws made to protect them to seek revenge on men. Dismissing these as isolated cases, Ramindri Mandrawal of the State Women Commission stated that the commission handles cases without prejudice.

Answering queries from male students on why there were no laws to protect men from sexual harassment or from false cases filed against them, she said: “Laws are made with the needs of society in mind. Now that such cases are coming up, laws will be made for men as well.

She added that men and women are the two wheels of a cart and that they should work together in different areas of life.

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