“WHY ARE YOU, A MAN, HERE?” SHE ASKED

“Silence is Violence” was the theme of a demo in front of Bangalore’s Town Hall to protest innumerable and increasing incidents of attacks on women in India.

A good number of women, and men too, turned out on a weekday forenoon for the event featuring posters, slogans, street theatre, media interviews and a meeting among some of those present on future action. There was banter, laughter … and, undoubtedly, inner rage.

A journalist wanted an interview. I too am one, and hacks don’t quote each other, I told her. (They do too, in certain contexts.) Then again, I wasn’t reporting but participating.

So to answer her, why was I, a male, there?

Because to borrow from the words of Martin Niemoller (http://allpoetry.com/poem/8601069-First_They_Came_For_The_Communists-by-Martin_Niemoller), if I don’t speak up when Muslims are attacked, when Christians are attacked, when Dalits, Kashmiris, people from northeastern India, when ordinary people in Chattisgarh, Jharkhand and Orissa (mineral-rich states with indigenous populations) are attacked, and when women are attacked, who will speak up for me when I am attacked?

Because violence against women is violence against nearly half the population of India. Why ‘nearly’ half? Because the male-female ratio is skewed out of all proportion in most of India (http://censusindia.gov.in/Census_Data_2001/India_at_glance/fsex.aspx).

Because we practise female foeticide, we go in for what in Greek is known as amniocentesis and which happens like mad in India, despite it being illegal: finding out the sex of the unborn child so as to abort if female.

Photo courtesy Rashmi Vallabhajosyula

Because we neglect and ill-treat the girl child, we fail to give her as much attention, education and nourishment as we do to the male. Because we want to be rid of her as early as possible through marriage or, if it came to that, concubinage or trafficking.

Because we are inured to domestic violence, to dowry deaths (“bride burning” being an Indian innovation), to daily torture of a major section of India’s population.

Because during the total of 16 years I lived in Hong Kong, many women, of all races, would cover their chests at the sight of me. Because we Indian men have acquired a reputation for staring, stalking, groping and worse? (I hadn’t noticed this initially although a woman from the Philippines on a domestic helper visa had told me Indians and Pakistanis harassed Filipinas.)

Photo courtesy Vishwa-New Socialist Alternative(CWI-India)

Because, as a young man I saw visual rape being committed on women in New Delhi buses, men astride scooters stopping in front of a woman waiting at a bus stand and gesturing to her, obviously a stranger, to hop on, and because I tried to put myself in her shoes and felt violated. And because far more horrendous indignities are forced on women every day all over India.

Because I too am deemed capable of attacking, assaulting, groping, harassing, misbehaving (euphemism watch!), raping, stalking, staring, violating and, to use that paragon of all the silliest euphemisms Indian journalists use blithely, ‘eve-teasing’.

Photo courtesy of Mickey Sugarless of kicking.and.screaming. Check out Mickey’s blog here http://soapboxfound.blogspot.in/

Because I’m ashamed, outraged, saddened.

 

 

[Photos courtesy of Rashmi Vallabhajosyula, Vishwa-New Socialist Alternative(CWI-India) and Mickey Sugarless of kicking.and.screaming (http://soapboxfound.blogspot.in/)]

About walkerjay

The author, N. Jayaram, a journalist now based in Bangalore after more than 23 years in East Asia (mainly Hong Kong and Beijing) and 11 years in New Delhi, was with the Press Trust of India news agency for 15 years and Agence France-Presse for 11 years and is currently engaged in editing and translating for NGOs and academic institutions.
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7 Responses to “WHY ARE YOU, A MAN, HERE?” SHE ASKED

  1. SMB says:

    Thank you for attending the gathering and for speaking out, Walker J. So few men can be bothered. Much appreciated!

  2. B.S.Ahalya says:

    Nice of you to have taken the trouble to attend a meeting held by the India’s endangered species.One of the earliest activist in Delhi has said that unless men take up the women’s cause none of women’s problems can be solved. Here in Mysore too we have some men activists though there number is small. So welcome . Do your bit.

  3. Aniery says:

    It is true that men have to fight alongside women against physical and mental violence. But first women themselves have to take a stand.
    As long as we allow violence against women inside families there will be violence in society. And we see so few women, even among feminists, talk about violence against women in their own families! (Fathers, uncles, grand-fathers, cousins,…)
    In my own family, my three sisters refused to take a stand against the violence (physical and mental) of their father against our mother. They didn’t want the outside world to know, the family honour was at stake!!!
    Among the participants at the demonstration in Bangalore, how many are willing to talk openly of the violence in their extended families, how many of them are willing to boycott family members or friends heaping violence against women?
    We are all willing to change the outside world, to stop injustices, etc.. but how many are ready to change the inherent violence prevalent inside our families!
    Let each of us start at home by stopping violence in our extended families but also sharing equally in the daily chores of cleaning, cooking, washing, etc. There is also violence there…

  4. walkerjay says:

    Men need not be thanked for opposing violence against women. Common decency demands it.
    Mohan, you’re right in urging us to turn our gaze towards ourselves. The theme of the Bangalore demo was “Silence is Violence”. That sums it up.

  5. Reshma says:

    Amazing that you would care and join. And more amazing that you are proud of it. Thank you!

  6. shovonc says:

    Good for you. It just needs a few good people to make this a better country. Most of the creeps are cowards, or easily influenced.

  7. beenasarwar says:

    Thanks for this post. We need more men like you.

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