We should thank President Pranab Kumar Mukherjee and the Congress for gifting us a politician like Abhijit Mukherjee because he held a mirror up to us, the men of India, when it came to our values on women.
Abhijit Mukherjee, through his fabulous words of wisdom, has told us all about what is wrong with our men and why our society is endemic to violence against women. His words have also told us that what we are attempting with laws and police are just cosmetic, because attitudes of men - including from hugely privileged classes like his - regarding women are astoundingly archaic and menacing.
As Firstpost reported, Abhijit Mukherjee had this to say about the girls and women who participated in the recent protests in the capital against the gangrape: “These pretty women, dented and painted, who come for protests are not students. I have seen them speak on television, usually women of this age are not students.”
National TV channels played out more illuminating words, including on students who go to discos, from this scion of India’s first family.
Obviously, Abhijit Mukherjee’s values about women and girls, particularly those who go to colleges, discos and protests, and those who look good (very good looking women, dented and painted) are regressive. Same way as some men feel that women can be subjugated and oppressed, or assaulted and raped.
For some, women dent and paint themselves and go to discos, to provoke their libidos.
It’s universal knowledge now that men and boys are critical in achieving gender equality and to reduce violence against women because they are the ones who perpetrate it, and boys are the men of the future. The UN General Assembly resolution on the Declaration of the Elimination of Violence against Women (1993) is very clear on this:
“Violence against women is a manifestation of historically unequal power relations between men and women, which have led to domination over, and discrimination against, women by men and to the prevention of the full advancement of women; and that violence against women is one of the crucial social mechanisms by which women are forced into a subordinate position compared with men.”
And obviously in his growing up years and public life, Mukherjee-junior didn’t get his values and norms right. It is a failure of his family, community and society. Interestingly, Times Now reported that his sister didn’t share his views. Another example why, within the family, there should have been more focus on Abhijit as a male child and as a teenager, regarding his views on the opposite sex. Global research shows that masculinities are not static and men’s ideas over manhood evolve over time.
It is indeed shocking to note that such sexist remarks came from a politician whose father is the President of India. India is a signatory to all the right-sounding international conventions on human rights and gender, and our politicians and bureaucrats are so enthusiastic about international conferences.
Whatever they do in those flashy conferences, both abroad and at home, the son of our first family perhaps has never heard or understood what Cairo Consensus or the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action meant when they stated that “men can provide positive role models for boys and young men, based on examples of shared mutual responsibility with respect to parenthood, sexual and reproductive health and family life.”
Equality of women and men is articulated even in the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which had an Indian providing drafting inputs.
There are umpteen research studies which show why it is not the women’s responsibility alone any more to change their unequal status in society, but also that of men because they control politics, institutions and resources. And more importantly, they are the primary perpetrators of the violence against women.
The Congress and his family should take the responsibility of urgently educating Abhijit so that he becomes a role model for Indian men and not an anachronistic embarrassment on national TV or an inspiration for budding Pramod Muthaliks. Once he is ready, he should read this document (will be a bit tough for him given his present understanding of the issue) by an expert group of the UN on The Role of Men and Boys in Achieving Gender Equality.
“To move towards a gender-equal society often requires men and boys to think and act in new ways, to reconsider traditional images of manhood, and to reshape their relationships with women and girls. Changes of this kind are already happening in many parts of the world, but not in all situations or with all men and boys.”
As of now, Abhijit and his political India is an example of the last sentence.