Deconstruct stereotypes: Let men and women be good human beings

Give me a handful of energetic youth and I will transform India, had said Vivekanand, who recognised the potential of youth power and had said this long back. Today, from government to voluntary sector, everyone is talking about youth to tackle a plethora of problems by involving them. When bringing the change is mentioned, women automatically get referred to along with youth as both are considered to be the crusaders in changing the world into a better place. Read more

United Nations also understood the power of youth and thereby involving boys and men in stopping violence against women. The issue has got top priority of the UN agenda. Taking the issue forward UN Solution Exchange Gender Community organised a maiden meeting of northern region of the country.

The activists both men and women from six states of India gathered at Lucknow to throw light on the power of youth and women and the potential involvement of both in checking violence against women.

Explaining the issue of men and women former Vice Chancellor of Lucknow University Professor Roop Rekha Verma from Saajhi Dunia said it is not a tug of war between man and woman but it is a tussle between two segments of people, one which dreams of equality in all spheres of life and the other, which finds inequality as the divine rule. The day both start sharing their dreams, there would be no tussle between two genders rather there would be a harmonious world around us. The discussion started with what is masculinity? Is it the way men dress or behave or is it much more beyond and much deeper than this?

"Violence and power are two words which are generally being associated with masculinity," pointed out Rahul Roy, the advisory committee member of gender community of UN Solution Exchange. Rahul was the first one to stand up when the concept of involving men in checking violence was initiated a couple of years back. Today addressing a gathering dominated by men, Rahul said the men lag behind in exploring within themselves, which women do get time to do and that is the reason women have come so far. The time has come when men too should look into their relations, do some introspection to improve their lives qualitatively, said Rahul.

The problem is that men do not bring themselves under the purview of gender but they relate gender only to women, Rahul explained. Men primarily need to work with themselves before they start working with other men. The society constructs masculinity and femininity in boys and girls since their very childhood and with this construction, gender-specific behaviour is imbibed in boys and girls, said Professor Roop Rekha Varma. She said the need of the hour is to deconstruct the stereotype and start constructing human beings. "Muscle power has lost its meaning in the nuclear era, therefore no more respect to male ego but due respect to self respect of man and woman both," she indicated.

When the issue of respect came, Satish Singh from Men's Action for Stopping Violence Against Women (MASVAW), who is working with men to stop violence against women, clarified, "respect the difference between man and woman but do not discriminate between them at any level."

However, there was a general query from the men participants as to where is the support mechanism for those men who acknowledge the fact and want to change the way they had been constructed in their childhood.

Lalit Kumar, Secretary, National Foundation for Communal Harmony, which is an autonomous body of government of India, was also present at the event. He said the event is talking about women and youth, which constitutes 75 percent of total population.

Raymond Brands from Partners for Prevention from Bangkok stressed on importance of establishing links between policy makers and local realities, besides the need for networking among the partners working on similar issues.

Alka Pande
(The author is a senior journalist based in Lucknow, India)

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