Indian men on women: In their own words – Tamil Nadu

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‘Modern culture is giving an impression to young people that a woman is an object of desire’

Palani Sundararajan, 42
Government Servant, Tuticorin, Tamil Nadu

Why do you think so many rapes and sexual assaults happen in India?
Rapes happen in India due to sexual perversion, unequal gender relations, attitude of law enforcers and regressive mindset of our politicians.

Do you think this happens more in big cities and less in small towns? Do you think ‘modern culture’ is responsible for this?
Rapes happen in both cities and villages. Modernity is not all bad. But obscenity masquerading as modernity is corrupting our youth. Modern culture is giving an impression to young people that a woman is an object of desire. This leads to sexual frustration among gullible members of society, which encourages bad sexual behaviour, often resulting in sexual crimes. The Delhi gangrape involved a minor. He had left home at the age of 13. Away from parental influence, he was obviously in bad company in addition to be corrupted by the westernised modern lifestyle of Delhi.

Many people feel women’s freedom is responsible for the rise in sexual crime — how they dress, how late they go out, if they have relationships outside marriage, if they go to bars or work independently. Do you agree?
There is no merit in the argument that freedom leads to sexual violence. Only disorderly social conduct and bad elements in society are reasons.

Do you think women are responsible in any way for being assaulted by men? Do you think that women bring it upon themselves?
No. Women don’t bring violence on themselves.

Are you comfortable with women getting freedom? What are the freedoms you would be comfortable with for your sister/girlfriend/wife?
Women have enough freedom in the country. We are a free nation.

What do you think should be men’s attitude towards women? Do you feel there is anything wrong in our men’s attitude towards women? If so, what? What do you think is the root of the problem? Is it in the background, educational system or upbringing? Where do you think that this mindset against women is emerging from?
There is a difference between men in the Hindi belt and those in Tamil Nadu. Rapes are a rarity in Tamil Nadu and other states in the south. Respect for women is greater here and men are not perverse in their thoughts and actions. The criminal-mindedness is rampant in the Hindi belt and there is a need to reform societies here. Tamil Nadu is way ahead of the rest of India in social parameters. Proabably, the so-called cow belt should be educated in sexuality from an early age.

What were you taught to think about women in your own family? Do you think women should have equal freedom as men? Has your thinking changed in any way as you have grown up and been exposed to other ways of thinking?
We are always taught to respect women.

Today, lots of women like to enjoy their bodies — wear nice clothes, many of them are comfortable with having relationships before marriage or outside of marriage. Do you think this is good or bad for society?
As long as a woman’s sexual conduct is within acceptable limits of society, it is fine. Public indecency is a crime under the Indian Constitution and anything that is indecent to the tastes and sensibilities of the public should be avoided at any cost.

Have you ever seen violence against women in your own family?
There has been no violence against women in my family.

If any woman/girl in your family told you she had been molested by someone within the family or outside, how would you react?
I will report the matter to the police.

Would you like to take up the issue or protect the family or woman’s honour? What do you think makes it difficult to take up issues of sexual abuse?
It is difficult to take up issues of sexual abuse because of the stigma attached to it.

What is your concept of a modern successful woman?
A modern woman is one who is educated and economically self-sufficient.

What is your concept of an ideal man — in terms of how he deals with women?
A man should always be gentle towards women, in speech and actions.

There is so much discussion about rape in the country today, how do you think this problem can be fixed?
There is no single solution to fixing rapes. Stricter punishment and strong policing are effective deterrents in the short run. However, in the long run, it is important to change social mindsets, especially among those cultures in India that are still backward, like the BIMARU states.

There is a lot of talk about sensitisation… what sensitisation do you think is needed?
Sensitisation can be done by carrying out social awareness programmes in troubled regions where crimes against women are commonplace. The media too has an important role to play by constantly reminding people of the norms of social conduct. Regular roadshows should be conducted. More importantly, the process of sensitisation should start in Parliament itself. Politicians should pass the Women’s Reservation Bill and set good examples for others. When we see a woman being slapped by a politician in Bihar or a woman being groped in public in Assam, and the offenders go scot-free, it sets a bad example for others.

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Sai found his calling in journalism after having done his Honours in Economics from the Shri Ram College of Commerce, University of Delhi. Graduating in Television Journalism from the Asian College of Journalism, Sai Manish has worked with India’s top TV channels including Times Now and NDTV. Joining Tehelka in 2010, Sai has honed his reporting.skills in a new medium. For his work at Tehelka, Sai Manish has been nominated for the prestigious Kurt Schork Awards in International Journalism, becoming only the second Indian journalist to bag the prestigious nomination.

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