On the eve of international women’s day, I want to take a pause and reflect on the recent events in India that show that we still have long way to go when it comes to gender equality and freedom of speech.
Anti-national branding and vilification of Gurmeher Kaur
A lot has been said and published about how Gurmeher Kaur has got rape threats, mocked and vilified on social media by everyone from high profile politicians to celebrities because she chose to stand up for what she believed in. The original issue of ABVP attacks has been conveniently swept on the side and the focus has turned into digging everything she posted on social media. We can argue that her beliefs about the amorphous concept of war and trying to offer peace to Pakistan may not be the right approach but then it should have been a discussion about ideology. But what happened is completely shocking. She was branded anti-national and Pakistan sympathizer. The social media started a witch hunt with the guilty verdict already in mind.
What is more disturbing is that the millennials in India, the generation that is media savvy and has global exposure does not believe that a woman has the right to speak. It is despicable that the bigots would go to an extent of threatening someone with rape and not be civil in voicing their disagreement.
Ban on Lipstick Under My Burkha and Gender Equality
It is funny that the Central Board for Film Certification in India has banned the movie on the grounds that it is ‘lady oriented’ and contains ‘sexual scenes’ and is ‘audio pornography’. I have to admit that all three elements have never come together in a single movie. The last two are common in most Bollywood movies where women are objectified and treated as such in men oriented films. Just because someone dares to tell the story of main characters wanting to fulfill their desires from women’s point of view, we believe it hurts the sentiments of people and discredits the culture.
Not just a case of double standards but this also highlights our inability to separate the message from the gender and religion.
I am not even talking about domestic abuse stories that have been reported in the rural parts of the country where recently a woman had her head shaved off for delivering girl child or other countless incidents of abuse that never see the light of the day. The women’s liberation is still restricted to urban pockets in India. In rural parts, women still struggle to make the ends meet, earn a living and gain respect from the society at large.
What is concerning here is that the social media has busted the bubble of women empowerment in the cities and only cemented the fact that the society’s outlook towards women has not changed. So as we celebrate the achievements of select few in the corporate ladders and first ever all women operated flight by Air India across the globe, it is time to reflect what we as parents are teaching our sons? Can we teach them to abandon bigotry and accept another point of view or we stay as mute spectators and let the society shape the minds of new generation with archaic beliefs and values?