Even 67 years after Independence we can only think of ‘protection’ for women. When and how would we ensure that women also feel free, unencumbered and empowered? Why cannot all agendas of women go together - safety along with freedom, liberation and empowerment?
We may not have not consciously realised it, but the woman has stepped out. She is working, travelling and entertaining. But unfortunately that world still remains a male bastion, made for him. We expect her to conform to this world, rather than trying to change it to make the new member more welcome and comfortable. However, in this modern world, economics is beginning to trump ‘culture’. Working women are earning well…and will soon take their rightful place. Maybe they will shun reservation, and make it on their own. They surely are not a minority, and do not need that mindset. It has been written…soft(women)power shall prevail over hard(man)power, as surely as software has trumped hardware. We shall then celebrate an International Men's Day.
Do women themselves reiterate stereotypes? Copying men is not liberation - in fact it just may reinforce the ‘difference’. Is a good copy better than a less than perfect original? We do need to realise that the focus has been far too long on women’s’ bodies, their physicality. We should remember that beauty is not skin deep. Even women need to seriously introspect. Let us stop all sham symbolism. Let us stop conveniently mouthing platitudes like ‘women are equal’, ‘recognising’ them as homemakers and magnanimously accepting them as the better halves, while actually treating them like handicaps - or worse, our honour!
There is a very strong case for the setting up of an Aam Aurat Party. Of course women, having the better-half sense too, would probably like to call it Aam Log Party or Hamari Party. The issues at a local level have most to do with the provision and delivery of adequate civic and social infrastructure, facilities and services, and their maintenance – consistently and equitably. And of course providing for the safety and security of all the residents. It’s quite a no-brainer to realise that more women (than men) have to deal with (the lack of) these facilities and services on a daily basis, and it is they who better know the answers/solutions to the issues. They could also be trusted to implement the solutions more effectively. Of course men could also participate, and soon even ask for a quota (reservation)...even in the Party. Further, no one would be more sensitive to the issue of children’s and women’s safety than women themselves. Men simply have not learnt…to even ‘talk’ with sensitivity. A special Women’s Police Force (again with a ‘reserved’ number of men) could more effectively tackle street harassment - and will definitely not smile indulgently and say ‘boys will be boys’. They will even manage traffic and ‘no parking’ issues better. The frustration of the ordinary citizen is primarily on account of the daily issues – of inadequate and infrequent water and power supplies, the rising prices of food items, poor sanitation and the filth around, and of the inconvenience and insecurity of travelling by buses and autos. Women face special issues of open defecation and the lack of public toilets. The males just haven’t bothered enough about all this. The education and health of the children and of the poor is another ‘soft’ area that needs sensitive handling and delivery, rather than the boast and flourish of fund allocations. The same thought and care would apply to the housing for the poor, and the setting up of facilities and services for the differently abled. Women will also think twice before allowing the mushrooming of liquor vends, that too around residences and schools. It’s time for women to also regain their freedom in the parks, rather than being forced out of them. Once the ladies in numbers take charge, things at the ground level will get better very soon.
Men have conveniently used the Indian woman stereotype, and exaggerated the ‘specialised skill’ needed to run administrative and political posts, as an excuse to keep women out of decision-making roles outside the house. Women, we are told, are not ‘jugadu’ enough. They do not need to be. Women would handle corruption better and in a more practical and focused manner. Men will only feel the heat if they are put at the receiving end – especially against women. They are beginning to get a taste of it, with ‘frivolous’ cases of dowry and live-in rape being on the rise. Surprisingly, the Supreme Court had recently intervened in such a case, to signify that it thought this had already gone too far! Is that the ‘tolerance’ level of (even) the Supreme male? The time for the woman - the aam aurat - has to come...soon. Really achhe din tab hi aayenge.
It’s surprising that there are very few women RWA Heads in the City. The men seem to believe they have all the answers – even outside the office.