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Are Men the New Second Sex?

Kingson Chingakham

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Its been more than about seven decades when Simone de Beauvoir wrote the masterpiece ‘The Second Sex’. It talked about the treatment of women throughout the history. In these seven decades, much have changed and with a number of feminist movements, the states have adopted policies to empower women.

In India, Article 15(3) of the Constitution of India provided the state the power to make any special provisions for women and children. Therefore, we have a number of laws that favours the well being of women. This is looked into as a form of ‘positive discrimination’.

Few days back, Equal Measures 2030 released the ‘SDG Gender Equality Index’ and India was placed in the 95th rank. The Index clearly sent a global message that none of the countries were in the position to achieve the Sustainable Development Goal 2030. Now this Gender Index, especially, talked about women only.

Why do we have to look gender from women’s lens only? Why didn’t the ‘Gender Equality Index’ talk about men and the third gender?

Arguments are being made that we still live in a male – dominated society. And therefore, we need laws that favour women. Yes, I agree. But if there could be laws that favour women than there should be gender neutral laws too.

I will take the example of Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013. This law protects women from sexual harassment at their place of work. We need to appreciate such laws. But what about men? Are not men vulnerable to sexual harassment?

Sexual Harassment cases against men might not be widely reported as in the case of women. But there are plenty of cases that came up during the #MeToo movement. Men equally suffer from sexual harassment. I have close friends who work in big firms and who have been sexually harassed by their bosses which can be both by men and women. There is no harm in making this law gender neutral.

Secondly, we have a number of schemes that promotes education of girl child. It is a reality that a massive number of girl child are out of school most probably because of social construction – where girls are asked to stay back home and take care of the household chores, where the parents in the rural India think that it is useless to educate the girl child because they are going to get married someday and it is better to save money for dowry.

Boys equally suffer from the problem of out of school and drop outs. Where girls are expected to stay back home and take care of the household chores, boys are expected to take up the responsibility of being the ‘bread-earner’ of the family. Boys are pulled out from the schools and put in factory, farms and other unorganized sector. We hardly talk about this problem.

I have two cases that I personally came across. One is the case of a boy who studied till the third standard and dropped out because his father wanted him to start earning and support financially the family of seven members. His three sisters never got the chance to study and his two brothers had to drop out.

Another similar example is from a nearby village in National Capital Region of Delhi. His parents used to send him to schools because of the mid-day meal. As soon as he finished his 5th standard, his parents came to know that mid-day meals were not covered beyond the 5th standard (now it has been expanded to cover till the 8th standard). So, his parents decided to stop sending him to school. Instead, he was asked to earn and save money for his sister’s wedding.

Few days back, Prime Minister Narendra Modi approved changes to the ‘Prime Minister’s Scholarship Scheme’ under the National Defence Fund (NDF). The rate of scholarship provided to boys and girls have been modified from Rs 2,000 per month to Rs 2,500 per month for boys and from Rs 2,250 per month to Rs 3,000 per month for girls. Why didn’t the government provide the same amount of scholarship to both boys and girls?

Crime against women are rising. National Commission of Women has been actively playing a very important role to address the problem of atrocities against women. But if there can be a National Commission for Women, why can’t there be a National Commission for Men and the Third Gender? I know, some of you might be thinking the rationale behind it.

The National Crime Records Bureau brings out figures of violence against women in the country. Do we have any proper statistics of violence against men? Why do we live in this misconception that since India is a male dominating country, men are not vulnerable as women?

Yes! Men can be beaten up by men. Men can be beaten up by women. Man can be murdered by another man. And men can be murdered by women. Men can be raped too. In India, around 53% of the cases of sexual abuses against children are reported to be against boys. Now, we can see the gruesome side.

If there could be a Ministry of Women and Child Development (MoWCD), why not a Ministry of Men and Third Gender? Don’t we need a ministry that will address the issues of men? If the MoWCD acts as a guardian of the Dowry Prevention Rules and protection of women from domestic violence law, should not there be a Ministry of Men that will look into the cases of misuse of dowry prevention rules and domestic violence by women? Because of many misuses, the number of homicide cases among men are rising. Who will give attention to such cases?

We talk about 33% reservation of women in the Parliament. This is a welcoming move. This is one way to empower women and should have given a push. But the political establishment because being male dominated will not pass such laws. Instead they will provide freebies to women.

Freebies will not empower any women. They need opporunities to work, earn and be self independent. They want to be actively involved in the political economy of the country.

The recently released Periodic Labour Force Survey 2017-18 have shown that unemployment rate among men is higher in rural India and unemployment rate among women are higher in urban areas. Therefore, we need a gender neutral policy to economically empower both men and women rather than taking it as a women issue or men issue. If the country has to progress, empowerment of both men and women are required.

There are hardly any civil society organization that works for the cause of men. You will see plenty of NGOs working for the empowerment of women and to address rights issues. We need more NGOs that will work for the cause of men in future.

I know that positive discrimination has helped women. But I am afraid, this might result to a cyclical process. There will be a day when women because of such benefits would leave men behind. The government will then again have to start positive discrimination for men. I just hope that the laws will become more balanced in future and address the issues of all the gender rather than focussing just one gender.

Personal Blog. For details please mail me at observersindia@gmail.com

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