Thursday, October 29, 2009

Same initiative : New beginning

To make 'No Gender Inequality' (NGI) blog more interactive for our readers and supporters, we have decided to move NGI to .

As always we look forward to your views, perspectives and notions. Please continue to support the cause like you always have and subscribe to new feed and use comment space to let us know your views on the new blog.

Thank you all!

-NGI team

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Domestic Violence Awareness : Learn to say NO

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Reach out to a friend or relative who might need your help. Let them know that they are not alone and that they have the option to say NO.

When we hear about domestic abuse, we think of a poor woman beaten black and blue. Domestic abuse has nothing to do with social strata, gender, religion or race. Any abuse or violence that takes place within a family where spouse/partner, children, and aged are involved, is domestic violence. In most cases though we find women and children as victims of domestic abuse, a reason why we have women's shelter homes and children's welfare homes set up by social services. So here I am addressing issues related to children and women. It is parents' responsibility to provide a happy home for the child they bring to this world and not to let them witness violence and abuse at home.

According to Child welfare Information gateway [
link], the problems that children who witness domestic violence face, fall into three primary categories:
• Behavioral, social, and emotional problems: Higher levels of aggression, anger, hostility, oppositional behavior, and disobedience; fear, anxiety, withdrawal, and depression; poor peer, sibling, and social relationships; and low self-esteem.

• Cognitive and attitudinal problems. Lower cognitive functioning, poor school performance, lack of conflict resolution skills, limited problem solving skills, pro-violence attitudes, and belief in rigid gender stereotypes and male privilege.

• Long-term problems. Higher levels of adult depression and trauma symptoms and increased tolerance for and use of violence in adult relationships. [
excerpt ends]
Domestic violence isn’t just about physical battery, scars and bruises. Verbal abuse and emotional battery is equally damaging and unacceptable. Most of us are serious about physical abuse because we can see the scars but psychological abuse is most common type of battery which goes on because we don’t consider it as an abuse. Constant belittling, name-calling and dictating, over a period are equally harmful because it makes a person feel worthless and leads to depression and in some cases suicide. An emotional battery is the one when an adult is treated like a child and needs to ask permission before doing anything. When an adult is forced to hide her own feelings thinking that the partner might verbally attack her for the same and also, giving up on all unreasonable demands of partner.

We are often not convinced when a woman from upper strata of society complains of domestic abuse. We can't believe that a highly educated woman can be belittled. This video by Safe Horizon depicts a common emotional battery that can happen to even a highly educated woman and shows how her work suffers along with her mental strength.

The motive behind domestic violence is power. If not by physical strength then by emotional overpowering.

Adjustment is one of the keys to happy life but a life full of adjustments becomes suffocating and worthless. It is an issue that needs immediate attention. First step is to be upfront and address the issue, if that doesn’t work then may be involving an older person from immediate family or counseling might help. If situation goes out of control then it is always good to call a domestic violence hotline. There are trained professionals who attend the call and they offer wide range of options.


If you don't have anyone to turn to and suffering in an abusive relationship then it is better to talk to trained advocates who offer guidance. If your friend or relative needs help then help them. The caller is asked whether she is in immediate danger, and whether she can receive calls because most of the times, women hesitate to call from their own homes fearing her husband or partner.

  • National Domestic Violence Hotline ( : 800-799-SAFE
  • Safe Horizon : 800-621-HOPE
  • Aasra: 1-800-313-ASRA
  • Ashiana ( Details on the website.
We can all take responsibility for helping to bring about change, and keeping our friends and colleagues safe from domestic violence.

Monday, September 28, 2009

That huge sense of entitlement

Guest post by Apu of Apu's World.

Excuse me for being a little angry here but what is it with (some/many?) Indian men and their huge sense of entitlement? Perhaps I should add a caveat here. You may (if you are a man) jump in and say, but, not all of us are like that. True, true. But, here’s the thing - there are enough such scum around that incidents like this one are only too common - a 25 year old woman in Mumbai, a mother of two, was gang raped and then burnt, it appears, simply because one of the assailants had been rejected by her a few years ago. Acid attacks on women who have turned down a man or broken off a relationship are only too well known.

It is a normal human tendency to feel sad when rejected by anybody. But, where is this sense of entitlement and anger coming from? Why this feeling that she must like me, I am too good to be rejected, I cannot possibly be turned down?

In my opinion, this starts out with the preferential treatment that many boys receive at home. Let’s start with simple things like the traditional Indian style of eating where the mother cooks and keeps serving while others eat, and then has her meal once everyone is done. The girls in the family too are roped in to help mother in the kitchen, as soon as they are old enough. The boys? The boys sit and eat their hearts’ fill. Perhaps this is why I’ve often seen men help themselves and even empty the vessel without any thought of whether the women who will eat later will have enough. When the message is that everything revolves around you, why bother to contradict that?

Food is just one of the many ways in which boys are subtly and un-subtly told that they are better, that they deserve the best, that in fact, whoever denies them what they want is simply wrong. In case you think it is only a few backward people who behave like this - unfortunately not. The scale of discrimination may be smaller in urban families but it is still there. Boys may be allowed to set the table, for instance, but in South Indian households, they will still rarely be allowed to clean up after meals the traditional way, where you sprinkle water and use your hand to clean. This is demeaning to them you see, although its perfectly ok for girls. Ecchal Idardu is what we call it in Tamizh, a concept difficult to translate into any non-Indian language, but would roughly correspond to jhoota saaf karna (झूठा साफ़ करना) in Hindi. I remember once going to a relative’s house, where after lunch, their two boys were excused while I, the guest was asked to clean up, because, that’s what girls are supposed to do!

It goes on in many other ways, including the amount of freedom girls and boys are allowed. (Girls are told that this is for their own safety, while the truth is that many crimes against women occur at home and are perpetrated by relatives and so-called friends). Of course, while every other Indian household is this way, not every boy raised this way is going to become a killer or acid-thrower. We can’t deny though that such conditioning is a great way to make boys (and the men they become) think that the world owes them everything. It develops a false sense of manliness based on others kow-towing to you rather than on reciprocal, affectionate relationships.

Movies too have a role in promoting this ideal of manliness. Mainstream South Indian movies have taken this to an extreme with the Cult of the Eve-Teasing Hero, who mysteriously, gets (often, more affluent and educated) beautiful women to fall for him because of or inspite of the tactics he uses, which the more sane among us would only call sexual harassment. Great role models for boys in this country! Should we wonder that some among this lot aspire to darker versions of what their heroes practise on screen?

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Conditioned thinking -- How to break away from it?

[This post was submitted by a blogger who wants to remain anonymous.]

Recently I met a friend of mine from college days after a long gap. We had been rather close and used to spend a lot of time talking about whatever came to our minds. Gender inequality we faced was on of our favourite topics. We discussed it with passion. We were unanimous on one thing: we were NOT going to discriminate between our son and daughter when we married and had children of our own. Oh no sir!

Destiny did not put me to the test. It gave me sons, a pair of them. I was disappointed at not having daughters for the simple reason that I couldn’t prove to the world how those daughters were going to be brought up without discrimination unlike how I had been. I had been waiting to thumb my nose at the world in general and at remarks people were wont to make and to stand steadfast by my daughter(s). I consoled myself that I could prove my point when the time came by doing the same for my daughters-in-law. In the meantime, I tried to inculcate the right values in my sons.

My friend on the other hand was blessed with a son and a daughter. She had ample opportunity to put into practice what we so passionately believed in and discussed during college days. But as the evening wore on, I felt restless. Was this the same girl I knew back in college? Her conversation was peppered with a lot of ‘I was telling my daughter, men will always be men. Women have to adjust…....and more of such juvenile thought process” I was horrified. Where was that firebrand I knew back in the old days?? And what did she mean putting such regressive ideas into the head of her daughter, the new generation?? I was totally disappointed. And yet she claimed to have brought up her children as equals. Hmm…

Visiting her I noticed that she called her daughter to serve the guests a cold drink or for help in the kitchen. In my own house, my boys would serve cold drinks to the guests. Was it because I did not have a daughter, I asked myself. I admitted, perhaps out of habit, that “conditioning,” even I would have been tempted to call my daughter, if I had one, for help. But then breaking that “conditioning” is what we had talked about so passionately. I knew that even if such “conditioned” thoughts came unbidden to my mind, I would brush them aside consciously and do the right thing. Well that was me. Apparently my friend had succumbed ‘unconsciously to social pressure.

One day while relaxing over a cup of tea and pakodas, husbands in tow, she started laughing and told me of a conversation she had with her children earlier in the day over the phone. It seems that her 'lazy' son had appointed his sister to wash his undies on the weekends she visited him from her college hostel as they now stayed in the same city. His other clothes were given to the dhobhi. Till then he had washed them himself. Now that he was employed he gave the duty to his sister dangling the carrot of pocket money. The daughter who is still a student agreed. My friend was laughing at her son’s evident laziness and ‘smartness’ for finding a way out of doing some work. My husband and hers were laughing away too. I did not find it funny.

I wondered if the daughter had been older, and the brother younger, would the son wash his sister’s undies for her?? Would the parents have allowed it?? I could just imagine the horror on her face and that of her husband, in fact my husband too if I asked that question. So I kept mum. I wondered how they could see the funny side of it and not the less funny and discriminatory side of it. The father was even suggesting that the daughter should have held out for some more pocket money, as the son was earning well enough.

Am I over reacting?? I don’t know. But it revolts me that we should be “conditioned” enough to think that a brother washing clothes for his sister is a no-no but its merely a laughing matter (and the done thing) the other way round. I laid the matter before my sons later in the day. The elder son was merely amazed that such a thing was happening. The younger one flatly refused, saying, “I wouldn’t do that for him (elder bro) even if he offered me good money. (he washes his own undies by the way) But both of them were unanimous on one thing, the boy should not make his sister do something that he wouldn’t do for her. Ok, that is fair enough. That is exactly my point. But would he?? Would the parents allow it??

How difficult it is to come out of ‘conditioned’ thinking? Washing, cooking, laying the table, serving guests, sweeping, mopping are all woman’s work! I really don’t know how much I have succeeded in impressing my own children about gender equality. After all they live in the same society and see the difference in treatment meted out to women all around them. But I can say that I have tried my best and on occasions have argued my point with vehemence when they have unconsciously repeated ‘conditioned’ remarks heard elsewhere. I hope when the time comes, they treat their spouses the right way. But no matter, if they don’t, they have me to reckon with!

Saturday, August 8, 2009

What does it mean to be a ‘mother’ ?

[Guest post contribution by Shailaja Mohan of Shail's Nest.]

An elephant does it. So does a goat, orangutan, polar bear, tiger, puma… Yeah they all do, give birth I mean just like countless other mammals on earth including humans. There is a difference though. While after giving birth, the rest of them go about their business of being a mother quietly, humans (the one human that gave birth and the rest of the crowd consisting of women and men) crow and trumpet about it, some among them continuing to do so throughout their lives, never letting their offspring or anyone else forget what a great and noble act was theirs. ‘Pathu maasam chumannu, nonthu prasavichu’ (Bore you for ten months, of course technically wrong, and gave painful birth) go the Malayali mothers (in real and reel life) and I am sure their counterparts elsewhere have something similar up their sleeve to keep those errant and not so errant but merely independent (which it seems is the greatest sin in the eyes of most mothers) children in line.

It IS a tough act, no doubt to it. But please spare me all those paeans sung in praise of mother and motherhood. Please spare me also the worship and adoration. Please spare me all that (nonsense) talk of divinity. Please spare me that place reserved for mothers over there on that too tall (and shaky to boot) pedestal which makes one look ridiculous apart from the danger and discomfort of standing on it impersonating an inanimate stone statue while the rest of you burn incense sticks suffocating one in its smoke, burying one beneath garlands of tributes and chanting praises to mother and motherhood till one goes deaf…. And all for what??! For going through the perfectly natural biological act of giving birth?! Give me a break society.

Yes, I am a mother. So what??

I am no God-like figure.

I am no superhuman.

I am not an inanimate object/stone idol.

I am not an asexual being.

So stop treating me like all of the above just because I have given birth.

I am human.

I am made of flesh and blood like the rest of you.

I have all the human feelings and failings.

I laugh, cry, get angry and stressed. I may scream, throw something in frustration. I love with all my heart. I also hurt. I desire, long and yearn. At times I may feel jealous, envious, disillusioned, and delusional. I need love, sex, sympathy, care, pampering.

I sometimes hurt with innocent remarks or barbed words spoken in frustration. I forgive the worst of mistakes. I expect to be forgiven too.

Sometimes I am down in the dumps, I am lost. I need a hand to pull me out of my despair or at least railings to hold on to pull myself out. Don’t think/assume that because I am a mother everything becomes alright magically. I need affection, a caressing hand, a warm breast to lay my head when I feel cold and alone. I think you are the world, but I need to be made to feel I am the world too for someone, somewhere.

I am scared at times, unsure too. I make mistakes, I may want to walk out, start afresh. Instead of kicking me down, accusing me that a mother cannot, help me start over again. I am also capable of hate. I lash out, strike, spew venom. I may have my moods. I may look forlorn and morose. Don’t expect that ‘mother’ is a synonym for the mannequins in the malls or worse still, the models who are paid good money to do a bit of smiling for a short time in front of movie cameras. I also look frumpy most times quite unlike them, though I try not to.

I fall sick (remember I am human). I need the doctor, maybe someone to listen to my real or imaginary aches and pains. I want to be left alone just like you all want at times. I want to do my own things, not to be at your beck and call at all times. I have likes and dislikes. It is not always about your likes and dislikes. Respect my privacy. Motherhood does not mean my life is an open house for you all to walk in and out when it pleases you.

Don’t talk down to me, talk to me; you may know a lot of things. I know a few things too. Don’t treat me as if I have half a brain. I may not be used to certain things, so may take longer to learn or simply won’t be up to mark in some. Don’t poke fun or make unkind remarks as if I don’t exist. I do. Don’t assume (or expect) that ‘sacrifice’ is my middle name. Don’t worship me as you do the idol in the temple and then walk out to forget me till the next time you need something.

Yes, I became a mother when I gave birth, a biological act that has been assigned to me by Nature as of now. But that does not make me a saint with superhuman capabilities.

I am no God-like figure.

I am no superhuman

I am not an inanimate object/stone idol.

I am not an asexual being.

So stop treating me like all of the above just because I have given birth.

I am human.

I am made of flesh and blood like the rest of you.

I have all the human feelings and failings.

Treat me like one, just like you treat each other. Is that asking too much??