Tuesday, 19 October, 2021

Feminism not a fight between men and women


The country is now marking 16 Days of Activision against Gender-Based Violence from November 25 to December 10 with the theme, “Generation Equality Stands against Rape.”
The government has announced to mark Nepali year 2076 B.S. as the year to end the gender-based violence in Nepal along with the announcement for the National Plan of Action.
There are also a number of gender-friendly laws and policies. However, brutality against women still exists in families across Nepal. The cases of violence against women continue to occur in the rural areas. But surprisingly, a recent report of Nepal Police shows that Kathmandu, the country’s capital, has recorded the highest number of cases of violence against women, compared to the six States of the country.
The level of awareness has increased among the people. There are many laws and policies. But only nominal improvement has been noticed in ending violence against women and ensuring equal status of women in Nepali society.
In this backdrop, Member of National Human Rights Commission Mohana Ansari, Stella Tamang, the founder of Nepal Tamang Women Ghedung, and writer and woman activist Rita Shah shared their views on the issue at the weekly Gorkhapatra Sambad on Sunday. Excerpts:

Women have to stop running after fairness cream

Media are the agenda setter in public on hot issues of debate. The media are disseminating socio –ideological information well. Along with news contents, even advertisement, other programmes have also set the agenda in community. Now, male is in power and the perception set by media is also dominated by power. So, the contents of the media are also set by male and the society perceives their assumption from the media contents.
Recently, the trend of breaking the society-set gender role has been increasing in the city area. Many women of the latest generation have been doing the jobs that are fixed by society as male’s jobs. Now, we can see many female working as drivers, conductors, engineers, doctors and players, which was rare a few years ago. Although in the city area, the females have been changing their role, the condition of women in the remote areas has remained the same as it was in the past. The reason behind this is lack of awareness and economic strength. The masculinity thought is dominant in the rural areas, so females there always remain suppressed.
Although economically women are not empowered, they are empowered while performing household and other works. The work of female is not evaluated in money.
The society has put sex and rape in the same category when we talk about women violence. That is social taboo. There is a social strategy to marry the victim with the rapist. Such mentality never helps female to free from discrimination.
In another context, there are many things that have to be changed by the females for their own empowerment. Females have to change even in the way of discussion, dress up and others. Females are giving more priority to their dress up, food and other minor elements. They have to engage in academic discourse rather than talking about dress up, food and other minor things while meeting with friends. Female have to stop running after the fairness cream.
In the context of women’s poor representation in leadership role, I want to say that women are limited only in minor position like members and rather than being in decision making level. That all has happened because female cannot buy the votes, cannot exchange votes with money, female are not contractors but males doing all these things.
There is a problem within us too. I admit the blame that women’s movement against different kinds of discriminations is limited only in elite groups and the city area. So, the campaigners of the movement have to think about extending the campaign in the grassroots.

Women have now become leaders

The level of consciousness and awareness among Nepali women has improved over the years. Women who were denied to cast vote in the country are now able to become candidates in election. The victims who faced violence in the past have now become activists. From followers, women have now become leaders.
Women’s participation in politics has increased remarkably. Thousands of women have joined politics, enabling them to enter the top decision-making level. They are now able to play critical role in the overall affairs of the State.
Now there is a need for changing perception of seeing women. Women should not be considered as a weak victim, but should be taken as a very powerful force for change. They are very much ready for this. If we ignore this force, this will be a blunder.
We have to understand that women are not only seeking rights, but have been preparing themselves to take responsibilities as well.
Knowingly and unknowingly we are redefining the masculinity. I have seen many young generation people breaking gender stereotypes in many contexts. Mostly in the urban and educated communities, the most conventional gender roles are changing.
Still, patriarchic mindset is so deep-rooted in our society that we are denying equal rights and freedom to women. Women are expected to behave in a way considered correct or appropriate by the society and family.
But at the same time, we have understood that feminism is not a fight between men and women. Some are provoking anti-male sentiment in the name of feminism and portraying the men as enemies. Feminism is not a fight against men but against the root-cause which is provoking society to deny equal rights to females.
Considering the rising cases of violence against women, especially the rape incidents, women are forced to think whether they are safe within their family? Can they trust their father, their brother? This is the situation.
So to resolve this problem, we need to promote anti-bias education in the country like Nepal, where there are multi-cultural, multi-religious and multi-lingual communities are residing. Anti-bias education will help create equal and supportive environment for both male and female and for all communities.
Also this is the time that men should act somehow like women and women should act somehow like men. This doesn’t mean that man has to be like woman and woman has to be like men. The only thing I am saying is that the conventional gender role should be redefined as per the changing scenario and to create balance in their role.
The challenge in our society is to understand how to work with differences, with different ideologies, different sexes, ethnic groups and communities. We need to live together, so we have to break this intolerance against each other. Males should change their attitude of highly superiority complex and women should also change their attitude of highly inferiority complex.
While talking about women economic empowerment, we talk a lot about Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). As mentioned by the SDG, richness is based on rights. When people were provided equal rights, they can be rich. But we should not forget that no development is possible without guaranteeing equal rights to all.
Nepali society is the one which sees their future only in their sons. Sons are always in the priority of the family. But I feel very happy that in recent years, there are many families who are investing millions of rupees for their daughter’s education. This shows that Nepali society is changing and we are on the way of establishing equal rights for men and women.
We are aware that the 16-days activism against violence against women is limited
only in celebration. It has failed to reach the targeted group.

Change in use of words a must for gender equality

Nepali society and the state have been suffering from the patriarchy thought. Therefore, the power of the state and society has also been dominated by such thought. The state mechanism is also developing from the same aspect. A recent report about women’s status also proves this. The report shows that 70 per cent women in Nepal are limited in household chores whereas only 30 per cent women come out of their homes to move ahead with professionalism. The story of career-forwarding women is more terrible.
In terms of use of language, people are not using gender friendly words knowingly or unknowingly. So, the change in the use of language is a must if we want to change the community’s perception towards gender. Systematic language could pave the way for a cultured society.
Women are forcing to face domination from male, because they are biologically weaker than male. But this saying is only a myth. It is proved from the outstanding performance of the female players in the ongoing South Asian Games (SAG). Females are becoming weak in mass perception as the people say it time and again.
There are four dimensions of empowerment of women. They are: strengthening in economic, education, health and politics.
In the context of Nepal, women are being empowered in politics, but in other three dimensions the status of women is still poor. The economic strength of women is very poor and because of this women in their family are suppressed by male.
The issue of violence could not be judged from the same perception across the country. Nature of violence is different on the basis of the socio-economic status. In Terai, there is the problem of dowry system, and in the far west, the women are falling prey to Chhaupadi and menstrual taboos as gender-based violence.
Here, I want to share a recent report of gender-based violence in State-2. Although State2 is vulnerable to dowry system, out of 10,243 reported cases of violence against women, none of the case was related to dowry. This illustrates that many cases of violence are not disclosed, and violence takes place in the consent of those group.
To control the gender-based violence from the country, different awareness generating programmes targeting the ground people are required. But that has not happened. The country has been launching different campaigns to raise voice for gender equality but that cannot work until it is limited only in the elite group.
Likewise, formulation of powerful laws targeting the gender-based violence is a must. But formulation of laws alone will not be sufficient. The law could work only if we inform the public about it and only if it is implemented effectively. Formulation of laws in local languages could be suitable to inform the community and make them aware about its provisions.
If we will grow a male child and a female child without showing any discrimination towards them and offering same role to them, the level of violence will automatically be reduced in the coming generation. So, the community has to think this way as well.