If morality and tradition are meant to guide society in the right direction, why aren't they strictly applied to men as well?
After six months of marriage, Sakshi, a resident of Ranchi, the capital city of Jharkhand, returned to her home, leaving her husband's residence where she had faced harassment. The video of her return went viral on social media and was later covered by several news channels and newspapers. Why? It was due to the ceremonious way in which her father, Prem Gupta, celebrated her return. He marked his daughter's homecoming with dance, music, and enthusiasm.
In an interview, Prem said, “When I could send Sakshi off with such pride at her wedding, why should I bring her back shamefully when she is not at fault?” He aimed to set an example for the many women and their families undergoing a similar situation. “If I had brought my daughter back secretly, everyone would have said, “My daughter was unsuccessful in her marriage; she was the one at fault,” he added. Sakshi and Prem made a strong statement against domestic violence.
However, not every girl has the support of someone like Prem in their life. Located 315 km from the state capital Dehradun, Charson village in the Garur block of Bageshwar district in the mountainous state of Uttarakhand is an example where the silent screams of girls and women do not find an echo. The total population of Charson village is approximately 4000, with a literacy rate of about 75%. However, in comparison to men, the literacy rate of women is significantly lower. Due to the lack of education, women in this village are unaware of their rights, making it challenging for them to speak out against any form of abuse.
Simran, an 18-year-old, expressed, “When we go out, we have to endure comments and taunts. These experiences affect our physical and mental health, making it difficult for us to focus on our day-to-day life. We are unable to concentrate on our studies as well. Most women in the village face restrictions when going out, and if they do work outside the home, they are closely monitored.” Ritika, another girl from the village, added, “Even the choice of our clothing, like jeans and shorter tops, is restricted, as people not only look at us with judgment but also make comments that affect us mentally. It feels like we have done something wrong, and society blames us without even thinking about the impact of their words.” Sadly, instead of supporting a girl who speaks against violence, society tends to label her negatively.
According to a 2023 report conducted by BMC Women’s Health, “In the South Asian countries, the prevalence of lifetime and current physical and/or sexual partner violence were highest in India.” The report also said, “The increase in prevalence of current violence in India and the higher ratio of current to lifetime violence also suggests that violence continued, once it had started, for more women.”
Moreover, gender-based violence finds support in the pay disparity between men and women. A recent survey report titled “Women and Men in India 2022” by the National Statistical Office reveals that market-determined wages for women performing similar work are significantly lower than those of men. The gender wage gap has not only persisted but has widened in rural areas over the past decade, even as it has narrowed in towns, as reported by a leading newspaper. National figures indicate that the average daily rural wage for men is Rs 393, whereas a woman worker receives only Rs 265.
Sangita Devi, a 26-year-old, mentioned that this wage disparity is rationalised by the notion that a man can break stones, but a woman cannot. Despite women being capable of the same physical work as men, they receive less pay. Social worker Neelam Grundy highlights that even today, many rural women are unaware of their rights. Unlike their urban counterparts, women in villages like Charson lack awareness, leading to a higher incidence of violence against them. Neelam emphasises that women must raise their voices against violence and underscores the need for societal mindset change. She adds, “Society needs to understand that everyone has equal rights according to the constitution. It's time for patriarchal societies to change their thinking.” The question that arises is, if morality and tradition are meant to guide society in the right direction, why aren't they strictly applied to men as well?
(Taniya is a student in Uttarakhand and writes about gender issues, views are personal. Charkha Features)