Girls in our society have to pay a big price even for something as trivial as befriending boys at school. Two minor cousins from Gorakhpur, Uttar Pradesh learned it the hard way. According to a report in The Hindustan Times, their relatives allegedly burned them with tongs repeatedly and forced them to eat human excreta because the family members were upset with their association with two boys who studied with them in the same school. Imagine suffering such inhuman treatment at the hands of your near ones, for something as insignificant as befriending your classmates who are boys. Or so we think. Most conservative people in our society still disapprove of free mixing of the two genders. Often on the grounds of potential threat to the family’s honour.
- Family members allegedly burnt two minor cousins with tongs and forced them to eat human excreta for befriending boys.
- Befriending boys is still a taboo in conservative parts of our society who look at such associations as scandalous.
- It is 2019, and there is no escape for girls and women from unnecessary moral policing.
- Moral policing targets those who are weak and already oppressed, who have little or no say in whatever rules and regulations are dumped on them.
Imagine suffering inhuman treatment at hands of your near ones, for something as insignificant as befriending boys.
This is India, and even in 2019, women and girls have no way out of the continuous and rigorous moral policing which they are subjected to day in day out. With the dignity of the entire society tied their uterus, people believe in “protecting” women, and thus familial or communal honour from any damage by burdening women with endless rules and regulations. From the length of their dresses to the route they take to school and colleges, to who they talk to, everything is subjective to scrutiny. Not just by their family but even by their immediate society or community.
Our patriarchal culture still sees women as a prized possession. The society leaves no stones unturned to protect this treasure, from being besmirched by “others”. It consistently reminds girls that they are to follow the dictates implemented on them almost religiously. The thing about moral policing is that it targets those who are weak and already oppressed, who have little or no say in whatever rules and regulations are dumped on them. Which is why it is the more oppressed gender which mostly ends up getting the short end of the stick.
I am not saying that young boys do not endure moral policing but the rules and the consequences of failing to abide by them are stricter for girls.
Not talking or befriending boys is one such dictate, young girls need to abide. It is still a taboo for most Indian families, even in urban settlements, as they see such friendships as scandalous. A potential threat to their much-cherished honour. The disapproving gaze at boy-girl friendships stems from an insecurity that it may evolve into a love affair, and thus bring shame to the family. The punishments come sometimes in the form of house arrest, sometimes in the form of being kept hungry or being forced to give up studies altogether. Sometimes it ends in forced marriages and even violence as heinous and repulsive as in this case.
In a society, which doesn’t believe that women deserve an equal position in the society, how does one put ideas of liberty in people’s head?
These two gutsy little girls from Gorakhpur dared to run away and seek help from the authorities. But not many are so lucky. Even the fate of these two is uncertain, as being cross with one’s own family members never ends well, especially for young girls. In a society, which doesn’t believe that women deserve an equal position in the society, how does one put ideas of liberty in people’s head? How do we tell people that there is nothing wrong with befriending boys? That resorting to violence is not an acceptable choice when your children go against your wishes? That we need to stop interrupting girls with shackles of honour?
It is very difficult to get rid of this stigma that surrounds around free mixing of young boys and girls in our society. Moral policing of girls is just a symptom of an underlying problem that is our obsession with honour. This obsession turns people into savages, who can go to any length to ensure that girls don’t forget their boundaries. Unless that obsession goes away, most people will continue seeing the friendship between two people of different sexes as scandalous. And girls will have to keep enduring violence.
Yamini Pustake Bhalerao is a writer with the SheThePeople team, in the Opinions section. The views expressed are the author’s own.
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