South Asia and Sexism

We live in a society where we daily witness numerous forms of discrimination against women due to the prevailing patriarchal practices in our societies. Women are always considered to be the ‘weaker sex’ and are expected to behave in a particular way that the male dominated patriarchal society want them to behave. If any woman deviates from those accepted norms, they are immensely criticized by the society.

The main reasons for writing this blog article was seeing a short Indian video which carries an intense message regarding sexism in society and a recent lecture which took place regarding ‘women’s rights and children’s rights.’

The short video was extremely powerful in depicting the sexist mentality of the majority of the South Asian men. For this they have used an ordinary incident of a girl wearing ‘jeans’ and a ‘sleeveless’ blouse which the sexist identifies as an ‘invitation’ for him to approach her. This exactly is what happens on the roads in Sri Lanka, India and in any other South Asian country for that matter. Mentally retarded men take it for granted that women are sex objects that they can make fun of and engage in street harassment either individually or in groups. However, the sensible friend, (although we begin to wonder how such a sensible person became friends with a sexist), who is with this mental retard is capable of injecting some sense into him by pointing out the fact that despite the sexist being dressed in shorts and a vest kind of shirt, the girl does not get sexually provoked by it.If we have men like the sensible friend in this video, it is not impossible to create a change in the mindset of men and create a safe environment for women and overcome the patriarchal restrictions.

Having said, let me go back to the second reason which triggered me to write this short article. The afore mentioned lecture based on the topic ‘Women’s Rights and Children’s Rights’ at one of the highly recognized institutes related to the field of International Relations made me realize how the patriarchal ideologies still overwhelm the minds of men whom we expect to be more open minded than the ordinary men because they always expose themselves to the things that happen all around the world merely because of their field of study and work. However, after a wonderful lecture, when the lecturer opened up the floor for questions for a longer period of discussion than usual because the topic requires the exchange of ideas of both males and females, I could observe that almost half of the men who were in the lecture room got up and left the room. These people, I am pretty sure that they might have stayed till  the end if it was the Q&A session related to some other topic. But because this was a discourse mostly about women, they left early proving the fact that even among the so-called ‘educated’ people, there are many men who still want to sustain their male domination.

Nevertheless it should also be mentioned that amidst people like this, there were people like the sensible friend from the video who actually spoke up for women and about diverse issues including victim-blaming and the lack of legal literacy.

In a world where the global superpower is going to be headed by a sexist from tomorrow onwards, we cannot expect high level policy makers to be involved in changing the perceptions of men and women who still promote the patriarchal practices. The only thing we as ordinary people can do is to try to change the mindset of the person sitting next to us and hope that there will be a ripple effect from that small initiative. There will not be any immediate effects, but some day at least for our grandchildren, there will be a society which does not stereotype genders and make women sex  objects. But for that, we must start approaching people from today, from now onwards!

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