Misogyny As Hate Crime: Is India Ready To Have This Conversation?
In India, we are going through such tumultuous times that anybody who picks up the newspaper, perhaps to just skim read, knows what a hate crime is. However, not many of us would have given it a thought whether misogyny can sit along with the many things we know for sure is considered a hate crime. Recently, the mayor of London has given a clarion call that misogyny is looked at as a hate crime. Can we have a similar conversation in India? Alas, in India, politics and misogyny still go hand in hand.
Sadiq Khan, the mayor of London who is fighting for re-election to the City Hall, called himself a “proud feminist” and said, “I am proud to support calls to recognise misogyny as a hate crime and for all hate crimes based on protected characteristics to be treated equally.”
Recently, the mayor of London has given a clarion call that misogyny is looked as a hate crime. Can we have a similar conversation in India? Alas, in India, politics and misogyny still go hand in hand.
Even if Khan succeeds, it is hardly going to change our lives so many miles away. But still, it is such a refreshing thing to hear from a political leader, because come election season in India and almost on an everyday basis our political leaders only say derogatory things while talking about women. To the extent that in the lead up to the 2019 Lok Sabha elections one of them didn’t even stop at commenting on the underwear of a female political rival.
We are a country where misogyny is normalized. An everyday example of this is how freely jokes about the wife being dumb, temperamental and the spoilsport get circulated on all kinds of social platforms and if you point them out you are expected to be lacking a sense of humour. The conversations around sexual abuse, especially rape are such that it always the women who “asked for it”. Even though now there has been a drastic change in the way men and women socialize, still in the arranged marriage set up there is a premium on the virginity of the bride. A behaviour which reduces the existence of women as nothing but commodities.
We have had and continue to have laws which explicitly discriminate based on sex. Adultery Law under Section 497A has only scraped two years ago as the law deprives women of dignity and treats them as a man’s property. We still do not acknowledge marital rape as a crime as the law doesn’t consider sexual intercourse or sexual acts by a man with his own wife unless the wife is under 15 years as rape. The Hindu Minority and Guardianship Act, 1956 still upholds father as the natural guardians of a Hindu, minor and after him comes the mother.
Misogyny is a tradition which continues to get glorified even through films, the latest Kabir Singh is a case in point. Bollywood films have glorified the man child as a protagonist, who is childish, immature and an attention seeker whether it is Ayan in Ae Dil Hai Mushkil or Badri in Badrinath Ki Dulhaniya.
Misogyny is social conditioning, to call it out we will have to first challenge a lot of social norms. Leave behind behavioural traits which we have unconsciously picked up because of our upbringing. To make it into hate crime in India will take a lot of time, but we can make a start with a self-check first.
Misogyny is social conditioning, to call it out we will have to first challenge a lot of social norms. Leave behind behavioural traits which we have unconsciously picked up because of our upbringing.
Misogyny cannot be called out unless women start believing that they are often at the receiving end of an unfair deal just because of their gender. And men can help women achieve their rightful place only when they acknowledge that male privilege exists even in the most liberal homes. Stop mansplaining and call out toxic masculinity. Moreover, give due importance to consent not just in sexual matters but in everyday life. Maybe there will be a day when one of us will give such a call from a public forum.
The views expressed are the author’s own.