Maan na Maan, Misogyny 

By Sama Zehra 

LIMELIGHT hit an 18 year old when she cleared class 12th boards with flying colours. Many rejoiced but some looked at her accomplishments through a cynical and sexist lens.

The recent events in Kashmir have unmasked the deeply engraved patriarchal values of our society.

Over the years, cishet men have claimed certain positions as their birthright and when these positions are taken by others, the hell loop of criticism starts. The wrath of backlash initiates when men think that their dominance is being challenged, and they are being robbed of their opportunities and privileges.

Two weeks back, one incident shook Kashmiri society. A human-faced barbarian lashed out his anger by throwing acid on the face of a woman, who showed audacity against his filthy demands. Statistically speaking, the cases of acid attacks in Kashmir are on the prowl and are gradually on rise. In the last 8 years, four cases of acid attack were reported whereas numerous have gone unreported. Such instances narrate the story of misogyny in our society. A practice of punishing women for expressing

audacity to disregard male entitlement, by not giving men the required attention; either socially or in private, by refusing to engage with them either sexually or emotionally, or being indifferent to “any” of his demands while bound in wedlock.

Time and again, the Apex court has gone to great lengths for safeguarding the autonomy and liberty of women, however, recent instances highlight some major loopholes and inefficacy in Law. In recent times, with advances in the technological world, the Internet, other than being a legitimate workspace, has become a safe haven for trolls and cyberbullies.

According to a survey conducted by Microsoft, India ranked 3rd out of 25 countries in the list of online bullying cases. The survey also revealed that 90% of such cases go unnoticed and therefore, the matter never reaches the doorstep of the Judiciary.

To strengthen the rights of women, the Supreme Court in “Vishaka v. State of Rajasthan”, broadened the definition of “sexual harassment” and defined it as  “as any physical touch or conduct, display of pornography, any unpleasant taunt or misbehaviour, or any sexual desire against women, or sexual favour”. Considering the broader ratio of the case, the cases of cyberbullying and stalking also come under its ambit. Although certain sections of the IT Act combined with other laws have the teeth to bite such wrongdoers, the laws are grossly insufficient. Moreover, India lacks a full-fledged Law against cyberbullying.

Whether it is a  case of cyberbullying or acid attack, an instance of sexual assault or marital rape, or any other women-related crime, the vicious cycle of sexism lies at the root of it all. Ironically, sexism also encompasses men who reject traditionally established gender roles in favour of taking on what patriarchy labels as women’s responsibilities.

Misogyny is a cultural attitude that we unknowingly engage in. We are immersed in this culture, and we internalize the practices and social mores that characterise it, therefore, perpetuating it. Even if we are not aware, we still are involved.

Ignoring harassment as harmless banter, silencing the victim, instilling male chauvinistic beliefs into boys, and advising women to “compromise”, all this colloquial termed behaviour perpetuates the entwined power structures of patriarchy and discrimination. No matter how many laws are introduced, or how safeguards are provided, the issue will remain where it is, until and unless a change in perspective and mindset is brought.

Undoubtedly, it is not an overnight project, but slowly changes can be introduced. We need to chip away at the infrastructure that categorizes humans as “powerful/ strong” and “powerless/fragile”.

The moment to counter this cruel categorisation is now.

Views expressed in the article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the editorial stance of Kashmir Observer 

  • The author is a student of Law 

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