Last week the Women & Child Development Minister, Maneka Gandhi, decided to hold a Q&A on Facebook. The idea was simple — to get feedback on citizens' perspective of 'Good Governance' and suggestions on the way forward. However, predictably, male Facebook users arrived in droves in the comments section to complain about how shortchanged they felt because of India's "skewed" gender laws.
Men on Gandhi's timeline seemed to be outraged that a ministry that is meant for 'Women & Child Development', existed only to deal with, well, the problems of women and children.
Sample this. One man had these questions: "Do u think that Men don't/can't suffer from any Domestic Violence acts? Do u think that only Men are capable of Violence and abuse only, women are too soft to be abusive/violent/troublemaker ?... Do u think that Women in India, are the only gender that needs all the support in every form whatsoever, thereby r u not making a gender discrimination?"
Gandhi had a response to this. "Of course they do and they can also use the police."
But it didn't end there. He further asked: "So in nutshell all laws are only for Women, no laws for men. As per your all violence is only male generated and Women CANT/CANNOT do any kind of violence, so men don't need any Domestic violence to protect /for their safety (sic)."
Here's a perspective. While this user's questions are all valid — men do suffer from domestic and sexual violence (and often hesitate to report it for fear of being ridiculed) — historically, in a society with roots deeply wound around a culture of patriarchy, women have been and are continuously subjected to far worse.
Here are some basic stats.
The female literacy rate is 65.46% in the country as compared to 82.14% for the male population. India has one of the lowest female participation in the workforce, ranking 120th among 131 countries. The participation level has been dropping since 2005, despite having 42% women who are graduates.
And it's not just about education and work, two thousand girls are killed in India every day, with many slain before or just after birth. The country has by far the highest number of dowry deaths in the world, according to the NCRB data in 2012, a bride is burned every 90 minutes. And every day there are a number of reports on rape and acid attacks.
The male users on Gandhi's FB page not only deviated from a necessary and valid discussion on issues that affect both men and women, they also charged her with hating the male gender.
While many women asked questions on adoption laws, maternity leaves and how companies refuse to hire women after they have a child, on whether POCSO was non-bailable and about child sexual abuse, someone started a hashtag called #MalehaterManeka. Well of course, according to the understanding of 'meninists', a relatively new movement that champions men's rights, if you are the minister of Women & Child Development who is raising issues about women, you must be a man-hater. Go figure.
Here are a couple of comments and questions from men. You will have to look no further to understand how patriarchy works.
One man even went on to suggest "Soon there will be a ministry for man and only man."
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