In 2012, the horrific Nirbhaya rape case shook India. A week ago, as the news broke of a 27-year-old woman being brutally raped and burnt in Hyderabad, the nation erupted in protests again. While these two cases caught the attention of the media, this kind of violence has always tormented women in India. And today, they no longer want to be called ‘India’s Daughter’.
It is important to have conversations about the root causes that have defined male dominance, misogyny, and toxic masculinity in India. But, it is essential to start highlighting the everyday instances, where both men and women engage in toxic behaviour towards other women. While it’s a small step, any step that raises awareness and works towards eradicating violence against women in India, adds to a much larger movement.
In a world where there is an acute tendency to become numb to the connotations surrounding the word ‘sexism’, we use the phrase ‘boys will be boys’, more often than we should and in inexcusable situations.
In Sur’s International Journal of Human Rights, Secretary of the All India Progressive Women’s Association, Kavita Krishnan, in her study titled – Rape Culture and Sexism in Globalizing India writes about how one of the convicted rapists of the Nirbhaya gang-rape case justified his actions “on the grounds that the victim had overstepped the lines of prescribed gender roles and feminine morality”, with his lawyer voicing the same mentality and “boasting that he would burn his daughter alive, if she were to behave in a dishonourable way”.
These restrictive mindsets can lead, and have led to violence against women, and have often been passed off as an expression of Indian culture and tradition. If we were to take a few steps back, go back to the grassroots level, and take a look at the sexism and misogyny that women face almost on a daily basis – be it with comments like, ‘women shouldn’t drive’, ‘girls shouldn’t drink’, ‘women don’t swear’, or ‘good girls shouldn’t wear short clothes’ – it’s evident that changing this mentality at a fundamental base can go a long way.
In most cases, women have had to work twice as hard as men, whether it’s in an Indian context or from a global perspective. In an interview with BBC Radio 4, former Stanford University faculty member Professor Joan Roughgarden talks about the fact that “women are assumed to be incompetent unless proven otherwise, and men are assumed to be competent unless proven otherwise.” What’s unfortunate is that this statement applies to women echoing the same disposition onto other women, be it in the workplace or, as mentioned in Krishnan’s study, in a society where women have engaged in victim-blaming and gone as far as to even defend ‘honour killings’.
Bias, is as simple as, unconsciously favouring a male applicant’s profile over than of a female’s, putting men in positions of power over women, diminishing a woman’s competence due to her being a parent, associating her looks with her skills, calling out her gender as a fault in any scenario, and the list goes on. And yes, women do, and have, engaged in this as well.
Why do women also have a tendency to have low expectations of other women, and how can we ensure that in a country where almost 50 percent of the population is made up of women, we lift each other up in the hopes that we can unite against the misogyny that comes from the other half of the population?
MAKERS India has created a survey for you to engage with us by describing your experiences with sexism, misogyny, and unconscious bias. We encourage you to fill in your experiences, be it from the giving or receiving end. By putting the spotlight on you, we hope that we can take one more step with you towards spreading awareness and reducing the sexism that has plagued countless women in our country.