Despite having signed the Human Rights Declaration on the Girl Child, India is one of the three countries in the world where maternal mortality is actually rising; the other two being African countries in the throes of civil conflict and chaos. The biggest reason for this is that mothers are dying during botched abortions.
Families are in such a hurry to get rid of the female foetus that they don’t care if they have to put their women through a late abortion. And if it’s not allowed legally, then go to a quack who botches it and she bleeds to death. It then becomes a statistic that is hidden under tons of paperwork. The government denies it but two reports of the WHO and one of the Public Health Watch confirm the trend. This, while India Shines her way in the stock markets.
I’m giving this little gem to show how much we care for women in general; the molestation of women being just a little glitch in this violent misogyny that needs to be explained in more concrete sexual terms. Indian men are just not comfortable with women and this shows in all male cruising places, mostly where gay men hunt for sex.
What shocks me is how men talk about women. I remember over-hearing part of a conversation that went like this:
Macho Man No 1: “I give her a house, I give her enough money to run the house and even pocket money, so what more does that bitch want?”
Macho Man No 2: “Man, give her a kick on her arse”.
The woman in question was Macho Man No 1’s wife.
Hindi, among other Indian languages, must be one of the few places where a vagina is seen as totally disembodied from the woman herself and has two different names — before and after childbirth. This is because the Indian male is highly uncomfortable with the geography of the female anatomy.
I learnt this while watching pornography in those awful “video parlors” where blue films are shown for wild titillation. The moment the action starts, the ever-ready males are handling each other. I bet they would be at a huge loss knowing what to do if a woman suddenly came into that space. They would most probably “molest” (manhandle) her, simply like the way they manhandle each other.
All this anecdotal evidence is to show that most Indian men do not know how to behave or engage a woman at all. Even women have internalised this misogyny: it was in the HT that a survey showed most Indian women approved of domestic violence — as if some women deserved to be punished, for being women!
These wild cards came back with startling clarity when I read about the molestation of women in Bombay. That too in a safe area like the Juhu which has umpteen residential colonies and women go for walks on the beach late into the night. Obviously, everything had changed and nothing has changed. The same Home Minister who closes down dance bars because “they spoil our boys” now wonders why these same boys are molesting passing women.
There’s a message here and I hope you get it.
(The writer is a gay rights activist and a consultant on homosexual and transgender issues at UNAIDS)