Whenever a woman wants to wear fewer clothes or dress as she wants to, she is told “kapde thik se pehno warna men will haunt you”. Men are always portrayed as these uncontrollable animals who are beyond being taught the nuances of living in a civilised society. But how long will this narrative be pedalled to hold women responsible for their clothing and susceptibility to crime? How long will society save men from taking accountability for the crimes they commit?
Women are tired of having to alter their lifestyles and choices to accommodate the patriarchal society’s inability to raise boys right. Don’t wear fewer clothes. Cover yourself completely. Don’t go out alone. Don’t be outside during the nighttime. Walk in a group or travel with a male member of the family. But men are never told to not objectify women, stalk, eve-tease or harass them. They can slide their way out of the accountability for gender-based crimes by riding on the back of the age-old narrative that men will be men. As in men have sexual urges and it is only normal for them to fulfil their urges through non-consensual sex.
Victim-blaming women for male behaviour
It is from this mindset that the concept of victim blaming arises. When women are harassed or raped, fingers are raised on their clothes, maturity, and even character. Women are expected to go take every little or big decision in their lives keeping in mind the notion that men cannot change, ever. A woman is “asking for it” when she challenges the policing of her life at hands of society. We know what is better for you. We are telling you to live this way for your own safety.
If only men were brought up instilled with the idea to respect women and not harass them, there would be no need to control women’s lives. But alas, this isn’t what society wants. It seems that our society uses the stereotyping of male behaviour as predatory by instinct just so that it can force women to follow its dictates. Society is scared of letting women reclaim their lives from its clutches. What will happen when women refuse to perform household chores, get equal opportunities at work, and become financially independent? Men are still not brought up to live and adjust with independent and powerful women, and therein lies our basic problem.
While women are raised to either respect or fear men, men are raised to either use or exploit women. Women are never told that safety is their right. Similarly men are told that breaching women’s safety is a crime. All that men and women understand growing up is that the two genders are always together in a relationship in which men dominate and women obey.
Even government brings out rules of women’s safety by imposing restrictions on women and not men. For example Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan last year introduced a women’s safety programme in which every woman going out of home for work will be tracked by a local system in the police station. Why couldn’t the MP government bring in laws that control and track men?
Victim-blaming or policing women is not the answer to the problem of growing sexual crimes in India. Conditioning boys since an early age to understand consent is. If men today don’t have empathy and respect for women, then the blame lies with society. And so, before men and women, society in general needs to keep check on its own dictates and see where changes can be made so that justice, humanity and equality can prevail.
Views expressed are the author’s own.