Commentary > Campus gender politics
  • PD

    I think a lot of sexual violence is triggered when men raised in conservative, patriarchal households, encounter women who do not fit into conventional norms of womanhood. In India, a woman doesn’t have to do much to be labelled “loose” and therefore, “rape-worthy”. The list of “provocations”, rapists put forward is ever increasing.

    Nirbhaya’s rapists saw her alone, “late”, (9.30 pm), with a male companion, and decided that she was “rape-worthy”. If she could be out with one man, she’d be open to sex with a few more.

    In the case of the student from EFLU, her drinking convinced her rapists that she was rape-worthy. After all, a woman drinking is basically signalling her availability, her “loose character”. Every Indian knows what “loose women” look like and how they behave.

    University campuses are also teeming with sexual frustration. Young men from traditional families suddenly encounter young women of a kind they have never seen before. These are the assertive, confident, “free” women who dress as they please, are uninhibited and comfortable around men, and make no attempt to be discrete about their romantic relationships.

    To a certain kind of man raised in a conservative, repressed and patriarchal family, a woman who’s in a pre-marital romantic relationship, or one who drinks, is basically a “loose woman”; everyone knows how much loose women like “it”, with any man. If so, why not them?

    I don’t know where the answer lies. India is a country where women are increasingly chasing freedom and autonomy, while their male counterparts are still stuck in a time warp, gazing in consternation at women who make no pretence of being “docile”, or “shy”. Much of this confidence and lack of inhibition is interpreted as an invitation for sex, to the detriment of both genders.

    Given the general sense of insecurity, given the endemic nature of sexual violence, women become more wary, and more careful. They begin to treat every man as a potential rapist. Their parents enforce strictly and tighted “rules”. Ordinary men feel unjus victimised, ordinary women feel perennially unsafe; all because a few men saw their “chance” and seized it.

  • Ketaki Chowkhani

    Thanks for writing this Asmita. As an elected student member of GSCASH committee on TISS campus, we have organised two workshops on campus. One was on sexual harassment in the workplace, gender roles, women and work, the new act, micro steps to take in the workplace and consent. Though this was for students and non teaching staff, most students didn’t turn up. But the non teaching staff (section officers and so on) came in large numbers (double the number of men) and were very pleased to know about it. They found it an eye opener. We were quite happy that the admin in that sense were sensitised to this.
    The other workshop was for students on masculinity- masculinity and patriarchy, culture, caste, globalisation and so on. We discussed in the end about intimate relationships on campus (since that was what we felt was important for cases of harassment amongst students) and felt that we need to provide a safe space for students to talk about relationships, sexuality and violence. That is something we felt needs to be taken forward.
    we are hoping there will be more such workshops on campus. I’ve not really encountered any resistance organising them, which seems to be a good sign.

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