Men, It’s Time to Bow Down & Apologise

Men of QualityIn the recent wave of MeToo stories of women having faced sexual harassment in their work lives, with revelations of how much-respected men (in positions of power) have misused their power to make unfavorable advancement towards women in their surroundings, it is time men start accepting that they have occupied too much spaces.
The new wave of feminist empowerment strategies have given strength to the women, young and old to speak out of the workplace sexual harassment they faced in recent times or years back. This has put the Bosses into uncomfortable seats at the moment of position they now hold, and MeToo campaigners and supporters are asking for resignation / stepping down of the man from the position he holds. Initially the MeToo stories were from the West – from the field of Media and Politics, then the stories from the Universities and Judicial came, and now in India in the present month of October it has moved from Films, to Media, and more to NGO stalwarts.

I work in the NGO sector and am in the ‘business’ of working for social change – with projects for development / rights of communities, and a strong focus on the marginalised sections of society, which have been defined as women, dalits, adivasis, poor, and more. In the 2 decades of my work I have slowly built a connection with the Feminist movement, and count myself as a part of it. This is not a common phenomenon as very few men associate with the women’s movement, because of its pro-active stand with women, and negation of men’s privileges. For historical reasons, men are seen as perpetrators, and women as victim. Maybe quite rightly so, for most of the incidents of violence against women, but in few instances the patriarchal mindset ingrained in society might have influenced the women and hence perpetrator – victim model might not be a good analysis for a violence case.

Having said the above that women could play an active part, and might not be a passive receiver in certain cases of violation of sexual rights, it is appropriate that men realise the privileges that men hold through ages. They have occupied spaces – and when I say this, I am counting myself as part of the human community, which has violated the spaces where men and women are supposed to have equal rights.

“I am also. a part of the problem. And while presently, I am trying to create solutions and break the chains of patriarchy, it’s not as if I have never violated the spaces.”

The sexual violence against women, is best understood from the ‘consent’ perspective. Any wooing can be interpreted as violation, if its without consent. When it comes to sexes in India, men have a tendency to be open about their sexual propositions, and women usually do not make the first move (unless it is a case some tribal community where women may be as daring).

So if a man makes an advancement towards the woman she responds with an expression to agree or disagree. There already is a myth that has been promoted in the men’s world, that a woman’s ‘No’ is actually a ‘Yes’ in her passive style of responding. It is for this reason that unless a firm loud and clear ‘No’ is not expressed, the people around do not believe in her disagreement or non-consent. This has been depicted in the film ‘Pink’. The film has also added to clarity in understanding of how a consent based touch, could move towards a non-consented sexual touch which in legal terms could be understood as attempt to rape, and hence an act of sexual violence.

The above para was about sexual harassment or violence in a relationship. Now, when there is a power dynamics between the two party, with a kind of of a hierarchy (as at workplace site), the relationship is unequal and hence the issue of consent has a different dimension altogether. Can a junior refuse to give consent to a senior, in a situation where there might be negative repercussions if the junior does so (refuses to consent, in other words objects to the act)?

Brings to my mind, the movie ‘Aitraaz’ (2004) depicting how a man was accused of sexual harassment by the senior manager (woman), and the story unfolds to show that the woman had forced herself on to the man. It was a different story, supportive of the idea that many men pose, that laws are usually biased towards women, and that men can be trapped into such incidents.

So ‘Yes’, there are a few cases where men may have got falsely ‘trapped’ in a sexual harassment case, yet it cannot be denied that in 98-99 percent of work environment men hold greater power, in terms of a senior position, permanent versus contractual position, and more. This added to the advanced form of articulation of sexual desires by men is a concoction which is commonly witnessed around. Men and boys, invading women and young girls’ spaces, crossing over the limits of body space sanctity – to touch, grope or just stare, is a phenomenon quite common. ‘Boys will be boys’ attitude prevails as boys and men are cultured in this manner. Any boy who dares to act differently is laughed at, called girlish, and more.  To be masculine and ‘Mard’, boys and men are required / forced to succumb to patriarchal thoughts and acts – as a Fresher to College has to shed his ‘cowardliness’, and approach girls to say ‘Hi I Love You’, whistle at them, give them ride on the motorcycle and ‘protect’ sisters. In this way men’s sexuality gets expressed while women’s sexuality get curbed / controlled by men around her.

Now, why is it that so many MeToo incidents are being reported? It’s all because women have found ways to express themselves through various means of communication and empowerment within. They are making their position count. They have realised that when you get raped, sexually harassed then there is no ‘Izzat’ or honour which is lost, it is a physical emotional trauma that she has to pass through, and can be overcome – not like the olden days, when suicide or ‘Jauhar’ in the name of honour was a trend.

Yes, society has changed through years and there are parents who are preparing their children to resist any injustice, be it sexual violence or mental violence in the name of dowry. Parents are investing in their girl children to help them enjoy wholesome lives, through completion of their education and taking up of jobs to be self sufficient, and not rely on their husbands. This change in family systems and a fast trend in women becoming self reliant, and the communication tools advancement has together strengthened the voice of women.

Feminist Movement has started building new waves with the way ICT has contributed to campaign building. There is now a media which is more decentralized in terms of ownership, has varied channels of expression, and hence control over the writer is very little. She / He can write and self publish – make range of friends across cultural, national boundaries and receive support from the friends across the globe. The language of rights is also now more known to people – and its not just rights which the State has defined but beyond that to equate with international human rights standards. This transnational global closeness is taking movement emerging in one country to another. LGBTQ movement is one such spread of movement, and now MeToo is similarly spreading.

As every article has to come to an end, let me try summarizing this write up, and get to the point. When I said that I am part of the problem, I talk about myself and many other men who have grown up in the same Patriarchy which is so much prevalent around. And while I try to work towards women’s empowerment and gender equity, it is a tough struggle within to shatter own patriarchal values or behaviours or male privilege. This is an internal struggle which any conscientised man has to go through if he wants to shed his patriarchal chains.

Yes, patriarchal chains have harmed men too – they can’t cry, can’t express love to children the way mothers are able to, forced to follow the division of labour principle where men have to earn and women to look after households, forced to be protective in the name of family, community honour and more.

Many men might be going through this shedding of patriarchal chains as I do. But this is not to say, that I have a clean history. We, all men are waiting, when their name will appear in a MeToo allegation by someone. As men, we have all invaded women’s spaces, in some moment of time, when we were in High School, or College, or a Camp, or a Tour, or in any Job, or any unknown neighbourhood, or in a relatives / friends place and so on -the stories and experience that all men have gone through, because of the patriarchal environment we have grown in.

Its time to men to apologise to women and girls as a community, and give way to their expression and rights journey.

Dear women, there are men who trying hard to bring about a change in themselves and to other men and boys around. Men do not want to remain perpetrators and predators, they want to change. Please help the men around you to get sensitive to gender issues, respect women and transgender, and their sexuality. Together there is a need to make a community where these sexual rights and its diversity is accepted and kept free from any kind of violation. We ‘Men’ want to be good human beings as son, brother, husband, uncle, lovers and friends – help us to be so, dear women and girls !

‘Bearing Witness’ – A WSS Book on Sexual Violence in South Chhattisgarh

bearing_witness_preorderThis book is a comprehensive compilation of the incidents of sexual violence in South Chhattisgarh, drawing on independent investigations or joint fact findings by WSS. Pre-order a copy for Rs. 100…

Source: ‘Bearing Witness’ – A WSS Book on Sexual Violence in South Chhattisgarh

The Tiger: An Old Hunter’s Tale

द टाइगर के सीन पूरी रात सपनें में आते रहे. कहानी मूलतः एक बूढ़े शिकारी और एक टाइगर की थी – किस प्रकार उनकें रिश्तें स्थापित होते हैं और प्रतिद्वंदी होतें हुए भी, वें किस प्रकार सह-अस्तित्व को रूप देनें का प्रयास करतें हैं. कोरिया देश के जंगल पहाड़ में रहने वाले ये दोनों प्रोटागनिस्ट्स (protaganists) लालची शिकारियों और जापानी फ़ौज अफसरों के डोमीनेटिंग (dominating) घमंड के सामने सर न झुकाकर अपने जंगल के नियम का पालन करतें हैं. उन्हें घोर विश्वास अपने सह-जीवन के मूल्यों पर – वें कपट के सामने न झुक कर अपनी बहादुरी मरते दम तक जीना चाहतें हैं.

स्टोरी कुछ इस प्रकार हैं जिसे मै खुद ना लिख कर विकिपीडिया से यहाँ कॉपी कर रहां हूँ.  ..'s_Tale
The Tiger is set in 1925, with Korea having already been under Japanese rule for mb3df8dc6acore than two decades. Determined to crush the morale of the local population, the authorities — or, at least, the governor — is at work to exterminate the country’s tigers, an animal seen as the embodiment of the Korean national spirit. But the plan has hit a snag: Casualties are mounting as soldiers fail in their attempts to kill a remaining streak on Jirisan, one of Korea’s most sacred mountains.
As it happens, Jirisan is also the home of the film’s protagonist, Man-duk (Choi), who — as shown in the film’s prologue — was once the best and most dignified hunter in the region. By the time he is summoned to the governor’s office in 1925, he has already become a wreck, a sickly widower who long ago traded in his shooting prowess for an alcohol-fueled existence. As Man-duk retreats into his stupor, other desperate hunters of more questionable skill come to the fore — namely a gang led by the callous Gu-kyung (Jeong Man-sik). They are soon joined by Man-duk’s son Seok (Sung Yoo-bin), a teenager hoping to earn some money and pedigree so he can marry his sweetheart.
Of course, Man-duk doesn’t stay out of the picture for long. Shocked into sobriety when he realizes Seok has joined the deadly mission, the decommissioned hunter finally reawakens his old self when tragedy strikes. Through flashbacks, we learn that Man-duk and the tiger have met previously and, despite having killed each one another’s loved ones, are more kindred spirits than sworn enemies. Both the hunter and his quarry abide by a moral code which has become passé at a time when cynicism reigns and the powerful (in this case, the Japanese occupiers) play locals against each other.

maxresdefault-1अश्विनी ने जब पूछा की फिल्म कैसी लगी तो मैंने कहा – ‘बहुत बढ़िया, दोनों ही शेर थे और शेर की तरह जीए’. एक समय शिकारी ने टाइगर की मदद की थी (बचपन में उसकी रक्षा की थी, खिलाया था) तो टाइगर भी शिकारी के बेटें पर वार नहीं करता हैं (जब बेटे को जापानी, शिकार समूह का हिस्सा बनानें में कामयाब हो जातें हैं, इस आशा में की बूढा शिकारी भी अपने बेटे के साथ टाइगर पकडनें में मदद करेगा). अंतिम क्षणों में जब लालची शिकारियों और जापानियों के विन्धवस्कारी रणनीतियों के कारण शिकारी का सोलह वर्षीय बेटा मर जाता हैं और टाइगर के भी परिवार का अंत हो जाता है और वह लड़ते लड़ते घायल हो चूका हैं, तब वह शिकारी से मिलने उसके घर जाता हैं. दहाड़ता है ‘देखो मित्र तुम भी घायल हो और मै भी’. बूढा शिकारी भी समझ जाता हैं ‘अब शायद समय आ गया हैं की हम अपना अंतिम खेल खेलें’. अंतिम खेल, यह दो दोस्त टाइगर की गुफा के पास पहाड़ के ऊपर पर खेलते हैं. बर्फ की सर्दी में वें दोस्त अपना खेल करते हुए नीचे (जानबूझ कर) गिरते हैं और पहाड़ की बर्फ में दफन हो जातें हैं.

निर्दयी, लोभी शिकारीदल जो जापानी फ़ौज के साथ शिकार पर हैं इन दोनों शेरों को नही पकड़ पाते हैं – गायब हो जाते हैं ये पहाड़ के देवता. और कायम रहता हैं बहादुर, अपराजित भगवान् पर विश्वास जो जंगल पहाड़ की रक्षा करता हैं. क्या यह विश्वास गलत हैं की एक शक्ति प्रकृती की रक्षा कर रही हैं जिसका विन्ध्वंस करना, गलत हैं और ना-मुमकिन भी. प्रकृति पर विजय हासिल करने का मानवीय षड़यंत्र सह-अस्तित्व, सह-जीवन को किस प्रकार नष्ट करने का प्रयास करता है, यह फिल्म इसी को प्रदर्शित करती हैं.

इस फिल्म ने मुझ पर बड़ा प्रभाव छोड़ा – जो जंगल बुक से और आगे था. दोनों ही फिल्मों में सह-अस्तित्व और सामूहिकता का स्वर सुनायी देता हैं – और चालाक षड्यंत्रों को हराने की उम्मीद जगाती हैं. लेकिन इस फिल्म में बुढा शिकारी शायद बहुत दर्शकों को उम्मीद देगा जो कठिन दौर में भी विशवास को डगमगानें नहीं देतें हैं. वह विशवास और अपने मूल्यों के प्रकृति मूल्यों के प्रति प्रतिबद्धता – ठंडी हवाएं चलें, बीमारी जकड़ लें, अपनी राह में अकेले हो जाएँ – फिर भी ज़िंदगी आगे बढ़ते रहने का नाम हैं.

शायद जिस प्रकार से बूढ़े शिकारी में जो ताक़त प्रदर्शित हैं वह असलियत में आज के दौर में नहीं दिखती लेकिन तो भी यह फिल्म उन पुरानी कहानियों की याद दिलाती हैं जब इंसान के पास सिर्फ दो मुख्य चीजें थी – एक अपनी शारीरिक ताक़त, हुनर एवं दूसरा उसकी मानसिक, भावनात्मक ताक़त – और पूंजीवादी जीवन पद्दती पुरे तरह घर नहीं कर गयी हैं. पहाड़ के भगवान् टाइगर के प्रति श्रधा और अपने सह-जीवन मूल्यों से प्रेम के बीच हमारें आदिवासियों के बीच अभी पूंजी भी घर बनना रही हैं क्योंकि सामाजिक आर्थिक जन जीवन में अब प्रति-स्पर्धा ही नहीं परन्तु ‘सरवाईवल ऑफ़ द फिट्टेस्ट’ (Survival of the Fittest)  मूल्य काम कर रहा हैं – जो समय के साथ ‘फिट’ रहेगा वह ‘प्रगति’ करेगा और बाकी लाइन में इन्तेज़ार करतें रहेंगें . बढ़ते व्यक्तिवादी जीवन में हमें अपने अस्तित्व की चिंता हैं और प्रकृति समाज के संतुलन पर हमारा ध्यान ही नहीं हैं. कोरिया देश में जापानी, लूट की प्रवृति प्रोत्साहित करतें रहे और कुछ पूंजीवादी मूल्य इसी प्रयासों में देशज लोगों में घर कर गए.

एक राजनैतिक कमेंट करती हैं यह फिल्म – अपने सह-जीवन के मूल्यों के प्रति और पूंजीवादी, व्यक्तिवादी रणनीतियोंuntitled-picture के विरुद्ध. बूढ़े शिकारी का चित्रण आशा, उम्मीद जगाता हैं.

आयोजन के लिए धन्यवाद

फिल्म का आयोजन हुआ था रांची शहर में ‘साल सकम’ समूह द्वारा. और क्यूँकी भारत के पठारी क्षेत्र में रहने वाले आदिवासियों का रांची एक मुख्य केंद्र हैं इसलिए ऐसे चर्चाएँ जिनका सन्दर्भ आदिवासी जन-जीवन एवं प्रकृति से जुड़ा हुआ है, यह समूह कुछ अंतराल में, आयोजित करने की कोशिश करता हैं.
फिल्म जबरदस्त थी. लेकिन क्योंकि कोरियाई भाषा में थी, अंग्रेजी सबटाईटेल्स के साथ, इसलिए मुझे लगता है की फिल्म प्रदर्शन के दौरान २-३ मध्यांतर करने की आवश्यकता थी की अंग्रेजी ना पढ़ सकने वाले हिंदी भाषी लोगों के लिए कुछ फिल्म अनुवाद किये जा सकें.

Media for People's Rights

द टाइगर के सीन पूरी रात सपनें में आते रहे. कहानी मूलतः एक बूढ़े शिकारी और एक टाइगर की थी – किस प्रकार उनकें रिश्तें स्थापित होते हैं और प्रतिद्वंदी होतें हुए भी, वें किस प्रकार सह-अस्तित्व को रूप देनें का प्रयास करतें हैं. कोरिया देश के जंगल पहाड़ में रहने वाले ये दोनों प्रोटागनिस्ट्स (protaganists) लालची शिकारियों और जापानी फ़ौज अफसरों के डोमीनेटिंग (dominating) घमंड के सामने सर न झुकाकर अपने जंगल के नियम का पालन करतें हैं. उन्हें घोर विश्वास अपने सह-जीवन के मूल्यों पर – वें कपट के सामने न झुक कर अपनी बहादुरी मरते दम तक जीना चाहतें हैं.

स्टोरी कुछ इस प्रकार हैं जिसे मै खुद ना लिख कर विकिपीडिया से यहाँ कॉपी कर रहां हूँ.  ..’s_Tale
The Tiger is set in 1925, with Korea having already been under Japanese rule for mb3df8dc6acore than two decades. Determined to crush the morale of the local population, the…

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Reflections on working with men and masculinity

This write up is in the backdrop of what Anand Pawar wrote on Facebook –
All of us working with men and on masculinity are so busy celebrating our ‘successes’, collecting (many a times) superficial stories of change, approving or disapproving one’s work, gathering number of ‘transformed men’, publishing materials, creating our ‘hegemonies’ etc… that we never created spaces to discuss our failures, never engaged in critical discussions on whether our projects are really creating long-term impact, as compared to resources we spend on this work.
In response to this Abhijit Das writes
Unfortunately the development business doesn’t encourage reflection. We are all trying to sell our successes. The work with men is particularly vulnerable as all of us are trying ‘advocate’ without a clear grasp on the fundamental issues in many cases.
Meena Seshu brings a very personal touch to the discussions from her own family experience and reflects
 I live with a boy[son] and man[husband]… the fear of being `real’ is so scary for them that they prefer to accept they have deeper feelings. what to do? Why deal with the inconvenient when when it is so easy not to deal with it?
Quite a reflective discussion happening all over around us amongst people who are ready to delve into uncomfortable zones of thoughts – ideas which are not in line with the present day societal thinking and practice. Working with men does remains a big challenge to the development sector and feminists.

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