Thursday, June 20, 2024

Violence against women


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Not a day passes by without a report or two on rape, incest or some other form of violence against women and the girl child. The argument that Meghalaya is a matrilineal society and therefore women are in a better position to fight for their rights does not hold water. Meghalaya is a matrilineal society with a strong patriarchal worldview. This is evident from the fact that women have no political clout and their voice in the social sphere is subsumed by the dominant male view. Some attribute the gender violence here to matriliny and the male insecurity because their children “ostensibly do not belong to their clan but to that of their wife’s.” This is an argument that flies in the face of current gender discourses across the universe where violence against women is on the rise for several reasons. Meghalaya is not an island and the psyche of women and men here cannot be too different from that of their peers elsewhere.

Matriliny does not make our DNA any different from that of the human species. Men’s behaviour in society and with women is conditioned by their upbringing. The large majority of men are not prone to inflicting violence on women even if the patriarchal values on which they were brought up teaches them believe in certain gender stereotypes. Even in enlightened societies the belief that women are intellectually and physically inferior to men still holds currency. Crimes like rape are mistakenly believed to be about sex when they are actually linked to the need for assertion of male domination. There is still very little understanding in our societies about the root causes of rape and violence against women. It is important that this sensitization happens in homes and schools. If an adolescent male is taught to respect the female members of his family and his female peers in school and college and to be sensitive to their biological make-up, perhaps we would not have so much violence perpetrated on women. It is unfortunate that such counseling hardly takes place despite the rising tide of crimes against women.

Recently the Rotary Club of Shillong, a social club with members from different walks of life and with the right clout organized a seminar on violence against women and children. The seminar elicited immediate responses from the State Chief Minister who said that a special court for trying cases related to violence against women would be set up. This indeed is some achievement when appeals from women activists over the years for setting up a fast track court for women related cases fell on deaf ears. For women activists of Meghalaya who have been plodding for years this news comes as a great relief. The CM’s promise is a laudable step in the right direction!

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