Baby steps toward gender sensitisation

Shanti Maria Fonseca | FEBRUARY 02, 2013, 08:10 AM IST

A society of equals has never been one that has ushered insince the dawn of human civilization. Marxism and the various isms that followed did try their hand in creatingone, but miserably failed in their attempt. The role of women as child bearersand homemakers remains the same as it was yesterday. An indicator of this isthe many seminars held on the topic “Balancing work and home”.  Incidentally when we talk of women’sliberation and their emancipation, we need to be sure of which women we aretalking about and what kind of liberation or emancipation we are aimingfor. 

Emancipation and freedom for the woman who works outside thehome would certainly be different from the woman who is suffocated 24 hourswithin the four walls of her home. The wife of an industrialist or businesstycoon would certainly be looking for a different kind of liberation. Thoughthe traditional family has changed over the decades, the gender roles of menand women have remained the same be it the joint family or the nuclear family.Bringing up children, cooking food, marketing, washing utensils and clothes,ironing, cleaning toilets, removing cobwebs and attending to the sick are primarilythe functions and duties of most women.  

Why is a woman looked upon as the weaker sex when she is thefirst to rise in the morning and the last to go to bed at night? While men havetheir break time at the work place, women have no break time or even a smallrecess at home. The worst is when a husband comes home and asks – what have youbeen doing whole day? Amusingly when both partners are working you often findthe male with his newspaper and TV once back home and the women has got to seethat dinner is ready for all within reasonable time besides attending to thehomework of her children.

For certain nothing is going to change overnight. Women atall echelons need to create and find their own spaces. There can be no onecapsule of liberation for women. Each of us has to navigate our waydifferently. Empowerment is not about the money you earn outside the house. Itis all about the respect you command at home. I know of many fathers who telltheir children “The closest thing to God is your mother.” When husbands treattheir wives with respect it follows naturally that children will treat theirmothers in the same way. The battle of equality among the sexes does not endwith who earns the money and who keeps the hearth warm. It’s about respect andreverence for each other. A brother who has looked at his sister with colouredglasses will continue with the same tint when he comes into a relationship as ahusband and father of a girl child. The liberation of women kind cannot comefrom the streets. Neither can it come without the active participation of theother sex. The biggest contribution women can make in pursuit of gender justiceis if they begin with small acts of sensitization in their homes.

The writer, a social scientist and lawyer has for decades asa human rights activist, espoused the cause of vulnerable sections of society

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