The recent events during the New Year in Bangalore leaves much of the nation feeling ashamed about the unruly behavior of a handful of hooligans that have made thousands of women feel unsafe in their own villages and towns all over India.
Shame on all of us!
It's time for us to simply stop talking about rape, molestation, and cat calling and seriously start acting about the most important issue plaguing India today - the issue of gender equality and mutual respect for the sexes.
Where are parents in India hiding? Doesn't primary responsibility to raise socially responsible children begin at home? Being silent because this topic makes them feel uncomfortable can no longer be an acceptable answer. It's time we demand parents have conversations with their children about this sensitive issue and foster from a young age both a dialogue and a framework for equality of treatment and mutual respect across the sexes. As much time as parents and grandparents spend telling stories to their children from our great reservoir of books, spending a fraction of that in teaching our children to have respect for women will go a long way for sure.
Often children learn from their set up at home. They watch very carefully how parents treat each other in their day to day familial dealings, the ways in which they talk to each other and most importantly interact with one another. The Indian home becomes the most important laboratory for our impressionable children. What is not taught early and at home to our children is seldom going to be put to practice later on in life. Each parent inadvertently by their own actions, often unaware, are shaping the behavior of the potential future leaders of our country. Our parents owe the country this much at least.
The second level of reinforcement needs to happen in our schools. Very few schools in India are co-ed. However, the real world is actually filled with both women and men and often at a 50/50 rate. Without practice and norms for interaction at an early age across the sexes, most children, tend to become who they are, based on what they've observed at home, or by watching TV or that which they see and imbibe through going to movies. This is why conversation in our schools and formal education on the benefits and costs of the lack of gender equality is crucial and needs to happen in our schools as a part of our curriculum.
Children are often taught moral science in our classrooms every day. Why should this not be extended to a mandatory course in gender sciences and equality as well?
These two simple steps:
1) greater parental involvement together with
2) basic mandatory education at school
will go a long way to break the widely prevalent stigma that currently pervades our society at large. We need to break this implicit notion that women are objects to be ogled at, they are the weaker sex, they are meant to stay at home and cook, and they are financially dependent on men.
Several scholarly studies in the last decade have now conclusively demonstrated that there is a significant positive correlation between policies which promote gender equality in a society and the levels of economic growth that such a society eventually experiences. In fact, promoting inequality of the sexes is akin to imposing a large tax on the economy which needs to be ruthlessly eliminated.
The time to deal with and eliminate this cancer is now. With a little help from the parents and grandparents of India together with a little adjustment in our school curriculum we can create a revolution that can significantly transform India and give truth to what our culture has always believed in:
The true power of a society comes from the way in which its women are empowered.