AN INDIA INDEPENDENCE DAY SPECIAL ARTICLE
When the 2001 Census brought to the fore the horrifying fact of depleting sex ratio due to the large scale female foeticide and infanticide in the country, one could not but reflect upon and get disturbed at the civilizational collapse that it depicted. Since then more than a decade has passed and the 2011 census has only reinforced the depleting sex-ratio due to the continued inhuman practice of female foeticide and infanticide. As per the provisional data of the Census 2011 released last year, the total sex ratio in India is 940 per 1000 males and the child sex ratio (children in the age group of 0-6) is 914 girl children per every 1000 boy children. Though, statistically, the overall female sex ratio has increased by 0.75 % in the Census 2011 as compared to the previous Census of 2001, an analysis at micro levels has shown trends which are quite disturbing.
While traditionally the so-called ‘women-hating’ badlands of the North India like Haryana (877 girl children per every 1000 boy children), the national capital of Delhi (866: 1000), Chandigarh (818: 1000), Punjab (893) have been in the forefront of this reverse sex-ratio trend, the problem seems to have become all the more alarming if the child sex ratio is seen closely which is faring even worse not only in these states of the North, but also in the ‘women-friendly’ states like Kerala and Tamil Nadu. During this one decade, while the child sex-ratio has fallen down sharply in states like Punjab (from 961: 1000 to 846: 1000) and Haryana (from 954 to 830), the states like Kerala (from 965 to 959) and Tamil Nadu (from 959 to 946) have also shown a downward trend with some of the districts of these states showing much lesser average than the state average. The situation becomes all the more horrible when we are told that the trend is far stronger in urban rather than rural areas, and among the literates rather than the illiterates. In this light, the disturbing trend of Kerala with its highest literacy rate in the country can be cited. Underlining this, a Times of India report stated:
(Where have Kerala's 'missing' girl children gone? http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2012-03-19/thiruvananthapuram/31209985_1_female-foeticide-girl-child-ratio)
This report only re-emphasised what an Economic and Political Weekly commentary had underlined following the 2001 census. (Adverse Juvenile Sex Ratio in Kerala http://www.epw.in/commentary/adverse-juvenile-sex-ratio-kerala.html). In fact, at the national level, child sex-ratio has been decreasing in every census (from 983 in 1951 to 914 in 2011), the period during which literacy rate has increased from nearly 15% to 74%. The depleting child sex-ratio is of greater concern because it is generally believed that if a girl child can survive till the age of six or so, her chances of surviving are much brighter. Hence infanticide, which is many a time prolicide/filicide, seems to be becoming a bigger monster making murderers out of the so-called parents and guardians. The smugness with which we have come to accept that spread of education and economic growth can correct gender bias becomes all too evident here.
What is most distressing is that the alarming imbalance in sex-ratio and pronounced social preference for son have stuck their roots despite the overall ambience of civil rights, gender equality, feminist ideas, wide-ranging constitutional reforms under which the educated and the progressive in India have been apparently brought up in the post-independence era. The question that rankles one is that has the women’s liberation movement in the country failed to dent this deep-rooted gender prejudice that envelops our social psyche? Or has everything been left into the domain of the feminists, the women fighting for equal and dignified status for themselves in the society, making men passive partner in the longing for this change? One may ask that considering the deepness of this societal attitude, is the movement for women’s liberation enough or something called the Men’s Liberation Movement (Men’s Lib, for short) as its natural ‘offspring’ too should come into play to correct the gender bias?
It is also a more serious and more introspective response of men to the gender issues and to Feminism as an ‘ism’ in itself, as it tries to negotiate with the doubts expressed by male-feminists like Stephen Heath who believed that men entering into the discourses of feminism 'may be tempted to colonize it'. As Prof. Wes Chapman, Associate Professor of English, Illinois Wesleyan University quotes Heath’s following words from the latter’s work ‘Male Feminism’:
|The idea that manhood somehow depends |
on the subjugation of other people has hurt men too
It is a kind of realisation that a mere adoption of a patronizing tone towards women’s issues on the part of men may not take the cause of man-woman relationship much further and that a more concrete and more self-analytical response about the particular male attitudes to women is called for. The idea that manhood somehow depends on the subjugation of other people has hurt men too as the idea trains them consciously as well as unconsciously to oppress, to take upon themselves a hollow superiority complex and in turn to become brutal. Men’s Lib underlines that it is this skewed male gender role inflicted upon the men as they grow up that stifles their development as a ’wholesome’ human being.
Steve Biddulph, an influential Australian author of books such as Secret of Happy Children, Raising Boys, and The New Manhood, activist, psychologist and one of the most eminent philosophers of the Men’s Lib, has been very emphatically able to underline how boys can be ‘trained during the first two decades’ of their life to develop into ‘mature and loving men’, while also stating ‘that this process frequently does not take place’. In his article, ‘How We Turn Boys Into Creeps’, Biddulph states
Further down in the article, Biddulph suggests “a men’s movement/women’s movement alliance” so that society as a whole can come upto comprehensive solutions to gender bias as expressed in our daily lives, representations in the media etc. (http://www.manhood.com.au/manhood.nsf)
|Looking for an alliance between women’s lib and men’s lib|
Perhaps this aspect, the aspect of Men’s Lib, would have to be primarily negotiated by men themselves with the female of the species playing the much needed supportive role. The alliance between women’s lib and men’s lib would then have to be bridged by male-feminists on the one hand and female-men’s lib advocates on the other. The possibilities of the latter brand would need to be worked out from the original feminist ideas with certain modifications thereby expanding the limiting scope of feminism as we understand it today. Thus, Men’s Lib, by insisting on not turning our boys into arrogant and foetus-killing sons and sons-in-law through a process of unlearning, can take upon itself a more positive role in supplementing the effort to achieve man-woman equality so that men are not left repeating the Wordsworthian lament “What Man has made of Man.”
The above para has been quoted by Mohandas Nemashray from a Dalit Woman’s autobiography in his article published on anaytha.com, which is a painful narrative of the multiple colonialism that a dalit woman has to negotiate—of the upper caste male, upper caste female and dalit men, to specify a few. Dalit discourse has justifiably found a connect with the Black movement of the USA, and it may be proper to quote a para from one of the earliest writings of one of the Black feminists, Mary Ann Weathers. In an article titled ‘An Argument For Black Women’s Liberation As a Revolutionary Force originally published in No More Fun and Games: A Journal of Female Liberation, Cambridge, Mass: Cell No 16,Vol.1, no. 2 (Feb 1969), she wrote what may be termed as very enlightening in the context of man-woman liberation movements with race, and one should add in Indian context, caste, minorities and tribes being the crucial denominator:
|Feminism within the parameters of Dalit Discourse can |
explore possibilities of Men's Lib too (above a photo of Tamil Dalit writer Bama)
Thus, Men’s Lib, with its emphasis on freeing men from the illusions of superiority and fixed notions about gender roles, seems to be as valid and compulsory necessity among the marginalised communities as it might be for those holding on to the centre of the things. The crucial question that it raises is that the individual man and woman have to take more responsibility in raising children, and more particularly their sons, which a socio-political movement may not be ready to accede to them as well recognise because of its own immediate necessities to assert community identities. May be some beginning, some balancing can be thought about because ultimately all socio-political assertions should end up giving power to decide and take decisions to individuals.