A recent UN report suggests that one in four Asian men admit to have committed what can be termed as rape, although they do not call it that. The findings are based on a survey of 10,000 men in Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea and Sri Lanka. This fact, in most likelihood, points a finger at men, their mind frames and their attitude/perception towards/of women in this part of the world.
From very early on, men in our society are given the upper hand. They are told that they are more superior than their female counterparts. Little boys are given guns and bats to play with in open fields, while girls play house inside the vicinity of their homes.
Often when boys use these same bats to break a girls’ house, his parents will say “boys will be boys,” thus expecting the girl to understand that this is completely natural and that she needs to live with it. Not once is he stopped or even told that what he did was wrong.
So, the first lesson many boys pick up from their own parents is that destruction and force are weapons that can be used to coerce women and tame them. By the time this child reaches an age of maturity, he is taught that he can force women to do as he pleases, and that there is no wrong in it; he may beat her, abuse her and rape her without realising the implications of his act or the effects it has on her.
For many women, refusal to do anything that a man has asked her to do, or turning down an offer for courtship or marriage may result in her losing her life, an instance that has occurred over and over again.
Even when a man performs as heinous a crime as murder, his own mother will often call him brave and innocent. Thus a deeply embedded seed is grown in men over the years, which gives rise to this misogynist tendency, one that is nurtured and nourished by the family.
Add to that the relationship that exists between his parents, as he sees it and understands it. Very few husbands in South-Asia share responsibility of managing the household; and this is what the boy picks up.
He sees his father order his mother around like the leader of a flock of sheep, beat her if the food is not cooked properly, or not served in time and it is this that he learns to do also. Educated women, working women, lower, middle and upper class women go through similar experiences and suffer the brunt of things without raising their voices.
When a man has multiple relationships or sexual partners he is termed as “the man,” the one who has conquered all and is applauded for his accomplishments. But if a woman does the same, she is called a slut and condemned for similar actions. It is with these set beliefs that men grow up in society and decide that what is right for them is wrong for women.
The man becomes unable to adjust if he sees women wavering from his definition of womanhood. While upheaval rises at every case of rape or abuse all around the world, the underlying point goes amiss; that the problem starts in the raising of the boy-child, and attitudes can be reinforced so much that a man does not realise rape is a crime.
Men and women together make up society and it is not possible to exclude men entirely, even the ones who fail to understand that violence against women is a crime. Rather, a change in upbringing trends and attitudes is necessary, so that men do not feel powerful simply because of their strength.
In a blog titled “Why one should not wear hijab,” Muhammad Bakht Jamshed says: “Unless we change our male centric mentality and help develop better social norms we will not progress as a coherent and equal society.” If men all around the world feel the same way and realise that they are part of the movement against violence too, because their lives are affected by it as well, change is not far behind.
Let us start by teaching our children different lessons; let’s tell our boys that breaking things is a bad practice and tell our girls that accepting the fact that someone broke their things is not ok. Let’s all learn to be sensitive of each other’s emotions, and when violence occurs, let’s call a spade a spade.