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The Gender Debate: The Limits Of Challenging Household Patriarchy

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The women rights movement in India that gained prominence in the 1980s and 90s has often been claimed to be a success. True, India has seen some improvement in women trafficking cases and rapes,inter alia but the situation is far from perfect. For instance, sexual violence is still a huge problem with around 30% of married women facing it at least once in their lives and the figures for stalking and related incidents are equally shocking. Not only the oppressive social structure, but also the response to it has also been the culprit. Many elitist feminist movements post independence failed to question the social order which perpetrated patriarchy, instead satisfying themselves with freebies for women or some philanthropic work. However, some of the post-70s organisations realised that women rights in India can be talked about only to a certain extent without discussing the more pressing need of changing societal structures and thus have since worked for the betterment of women. The policymakers on the other hand, have been lenient in addressing root causes and are unaware of ground realities, something that this article tries to understand. It seeks to re-explore the core issues on which Indian feminism stands and what is meant by ‘social transformation’.

There are broadly two aspects in a typical Indian woman’s life that sustain the patriarchy which this article specifically deals with, first, the trade offs that they face such as that between education and children and second, the role of marriages in their lives and how it shapes their societal position.

Women, Children & Jobs

“No one wants to hire a mid-career mom”-Devyani Shahane-Carvalho,a housewife recently told a newspaper. Unfortunately, the statement also reflects the plight of many other Indian mothers. This problem manifests itself in various ways and has several dimensions.

Firstly, higher educated women choose less children. The average fertility rate of college graduates is 1.9 kids per woman,3.8 for illiterate women. This shows that education for women comes with a realisation that having children has an opportunity cost in terms of their lost careers. Education being an able means to provide the requisite understanding of how women are being deprived of decision making,this is perhaps why rural India still prefers to keep its women uneducated. This in turn, deprives them of agency and informed life choices thus maintaining the authority of men. Women resisting the system have often been seen as unhealthy by the society thus forcing them to choose children over education.

Secondly, women are considered second-class citizens and are systematically discouraged from choosing work. This has ample evidence. For instance, the women who in the 70s and 80s worked in the informal sector dropped out when the average household income rose after liberalisation. Similarly, educated women in financially sound households are disinclined to work perhaps because working women are seen as a social stigma in that they are considered to be “forced” to work thus reducing the family’s social status. Also,a Pew research claims that 84% Indians believe that men should be preferred for jobs over women in times of financial crisis.

All this in turn, cements the belief that they are only apt to work at home, something quite emphatically depicted in the recent Anubhav  Sinha release,Thappad. The women,Amrita like lakhs of others becomes so attuned to her everyday routine, which largely includes ensuring that her working husband is well-fed,has adequate rest,stays fit among other things, that people around her start taking her for granted. This lack of financial independence and reliance on her family reduces her to an inferior creature who is then subjected to violence(let alone a slap). This is the plight of India’s many Amritas and shows that their social standing and familial importance gets reduced because of the roles society assigns them.

The Institution Of Marriage

Marriage as an institution and the watertight social norms that accompany are an equally organised agency of perpetuating patriarchy. It not only decides the status of women after but also before ‘the sacrosanct union of two souls’.

The problem lies in the societal attitudes towards marriage. The ordinary Indian parents for decades,preferred sons over daughters because they believed the girl to be a burden on their households who would get married into someone else’s home and not be able to support their parents in their old age. Women financially supporting or living with their parents after marriage is considered a matter of suspicion and shame.This in turn perpetuates their inferior treatment in terms of education, health and jobs, accompanied with an urge to marry them off early.

When asked in a poll about the number of boys that women in India wanted,60% preferred at least two sons and an additional third wanting at least one. This desire for boys over girls has led to 63 million women “missing” from our population. Albeit a larger number of women are getting educated,are participating in national level politics or getting better property rights but if Indian parents still have an unmistakable bias against girls then it seems that marriage has been able to resist any change in societal structures and that too,quite successfully. This is also partly due to the fact that women are effectively constrained in making choices in regards to clothing, sexual freedom and relationships.

Legislations And Alternative Solutions

Before delving deep into understanding the possible changes that can be made at the society level,let’s have a look at how the laws have also failed Indian women.

For instance, the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act,2005 is one of the many laws that have proved to be quite impotent. First, one can’t impose criminal penalties on the accused unless a protection order is violated. Also, the definition of domestic violence is too broad to be made any sense of by the courts. Second, the relief in the act is to a huge extent, based on the Protection and Residence officers’ discretion leaving less for the judge to decide, jeopardizing the sensitive issue of justice to the victim.All this is not brow-raising when women constituted only 8.29% of the parliament when the law was discussed and passed in 2005. Not only that,there is a huge backlog of cases and victims are told to wait for as long as 3 months. Judicial attitude is equally to blame. For example,in 2006,SC restricted legal definition of shared household in relation to the act to that belonging to or rented by the husband to avoid “societal chaos”.

For a deeper understanding,a cursory glance at some other laws is desirable. For example, The Sexual Harassment at Workplace Act 2013 demands that firms have internal committees for sexual harassment complaints but has near to zero compliance or the Dowry Prohibition Act,1961 which is rarely enforced in letter or spirit.

Howsoever,acts such as Prohibition of Sex Selection Act,1994, or Hindu Succession Amendmnet Act,2005 and many similar laws have helped but have poor enforcement,the police often siding with the accused or the case not being reported in the first instance.

Women rights organisations have suggested several other measures to rectify the solution. For example,role-reversals is a much suggested solution. The women do the job,the men the household work,giving the former greater financial independence and social acceptability over time. Even though women might take up the task of breadwinner,the society or men will not accept themselves in their new tasks,not because they are not suited to it,but because the household work has no dignity.

Nuclear families,which are considered as another possible answer, have not provided definitive help in ending patriarchy and it comes at cost of reduced social security and frequently, severance of familial ties. Also,much acclaimed self defence techniques have neither shown concrete and verifiable results nor have they changed attitudes.

The Meaning Of ‘Social Transformation’

It is not that the laws or similar abovementioned alternative solutions are completely impotent but they can’t be really effective without political and social willpower. This boils down to the societal attitudes which straitjacket women and their aspirations. Perhaps that is where social transformation comes in. It is,however,quite a broad term. It is generally what people make of it thus giving it different interpretations and it is upon the society to accept one of them. However,there is general consensus that the root problem lies in how we perceive the institution of marriage and how it affects even remotely related issues like Indian parents’ birth decisions or education given to girls,as illustrated above. Social transformation will help adress this root problem.

This can be achieved by changing the belief that the girl’s parents are not her  responsibility needs to be changed. Parents need to be made to realize that their children, both men and women, have shared duty in this regard. Perhaps, effective implementation and appropriate amendments to laws such as Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act,2007,which sets the legal framework in relation to the shared responsibilities of children towards parents, would help.Also, the legal process needs to be flexible and easier for victims of patriarchial violence or discrimination.

Also, the woman, along with her husband, needs to be given greater autonomy,if she wants to move into her husband’s home. She should not be forced to concede to patriarchal norms of the residing place of women after marriage.

In addition to that, patriarchal narratives need to be changed by altering how parents bring up their children(teaching boys to be strong and girls to be emotional and docile). Everything,from the toys girls play with(dolls etc.) to the movies they are ‘supposed’ to enjoy more(rom-coms,etc.), needs to be changed and both boys and girls be given the freedom to make their own choices in this respect. This could help erase the inherent gender bias against women and ensure that men don’t feel privileged over women. 

Sex education plays an equally important role in that it helps break sexual stereotypes and bring to an end,biological misinformation. Boys and girls need to be taught the importance of private space of others. Children need to be made aware of regular biological processes like menstruation so that they don’t need to see them with suspicion and a sense of confusion.

  Most importantly, there is a need to give up those traditional values that advocate the persistence of male-headed households and physically and socially constraining women for sake of preservation of social order,before it starts to hurt the ever changing  Indian society. The society decides what is right for it and if some customs don’t fit into the present-day social structure ,they shouldn’t be carried on for their own sake. The social transformation that has since been vividly discussed, essentially refers to this societal change, notwithstanding the different interpretations that people give it.

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New Social Compact

Social Media And Polarization Of Society

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Social Media has witnessed a mushrooming growth that has impacted the discourse of political, cultural and religious systems by providing the equal opportunity of Freedom of expression and sharing opinion or viewpoint  on any issue.

Social Media has played a greater role in rightwing politics that paved the way for populist politicians to reach out to their voters.

Though Social Media has connected the people around the world but at the same time, it is causing division or disintegration and facilitating the social media lobbyists to polarize the communication to such extent that the people support the arguments or opinions or political tirade against the leadership without fact checking .

The world has been rocked by social networks such as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube etc because the user statistics of these social networks have already surpassed millions and growing but due to the limited regulatory framework, fake news, cyberbullying, extremism and terrorism has reached the new heights.

The influencers interactions with social Media users have polarized the political and social circles that led to the formation of online echo chambers a tactic of social media recommendations by politicians to influence the users to strengthen their narrative regardless of facts that whether it is right or wrong but it is knit in a manner that echo chambers appear to be normal for the people thus changing the way of thinking and increase the supporters base    .

The Echo chambers post such content that we enjoy a lot while reading while keep us away from the content that may stir a debate or arguments or expression of our disagreement over certain social, economic, religious, cultural or Policy matters. 

The Echo chambers keep ideas flowing on regular basis to the one side –the positive side of the argument while its negative side is deliberately concealed to hide the facts.

This is the big issue that might be discussed and students should be informed and taught at School, College or degree level so that positive and constructive usage of this digital medium could be ensured.

Social media connectivity around the world is undoubtedly amazing but the problems it created for both people and students are very dangerous and need to be addressed and regulated.

 Digital Media especially Social Media for a long time remained unbridled to post any content that may fall in the purview of hatred, racism, bullying, derogatory remarks, Character Assault, rebellion, Anti-state elements instigating people to create chaos using the olive branch of Social Media since it was not monitored given the type of content being circulated and information of people posting such content including their motives behind such content that may have a constant flow of information that is recommended by the users pretending to be professionals, experts and mentors.

Alarmingly, people without fact-checking go on sharing the content and thus creating hype for such an issue that does not have a basis and was the result of the conspiracy to exert pressure on some person or leaders to get some favours.

Sometimes, the active Echo chambers or volcanoes erupt over such issue that may be beneficial for the wider circle of society but finds serious criticism masterminded by the people with the individual approach. They term it detrimental for them since it did not serve their interests though it might have been beneficial for general people.  

It is accepted truth that Humans have an intuitional inclination to communicate with like-minded people or the people with the same choices on Social Media thus the echo chambers get even stronger. The discourse that discourages dissent voices always comes under fire from the thinkers and intellectuals of the nation since it is tantamount to concealing the facts from the people.

The world is coming closer after the recent pandemic that engulfed the entire world , bringing misery and economic crisis. The social Media debates go with  biased and unbiased approaches regarding vaccine . Some optimists termed it great while some pessimists or biased approaches raised questions.

The Echo chambers try to influence their opinions and win support .Similarly, echo chambers of both Democrats and Republicans only canvassed for their candidates but the leaders instigated masses to attack Capitol Hill through social media and emotional speeches using their influence on social media specially twitter .

Some researchers have found that echo chambers influence people to win support but social media influencers have a followers base of millions, may polarize the Public and Politics since influencers share success stories like internet marketers compelling you to buy their products.

The opinion leaders and experts reveal that for the last two decades, the percentage of American people having consistently holding liberal or conservative beliefs—rather than a blend of the two, which is the case for most people—has increased from 10 per cent to over 20. While the beliefs about the other side are becoming more negative creating an alarming situation.

Since 1994, the number of people who see the opposing political party as a threat to “the nation’s well-being or security” has doubled which heralds that how deepening polarization has predictable results raising eyebrows.

The government shutdowns, violent protests, scathing attacks on elected officials, capitol Hill incident –all predict that social Media has been polarizing the Political System and divided the nation each passing day due to echo chambers of both mainstream parties regarding the issues of health, Security, Human Rights, employment and environment.

According to evidence from empirical research conducted on the US politicians indicated that the politicians with extreme following Ideologies attracted a larger public audience than those who were moderate which is the real example of Echo Chambers.

Usually, messages containing extreme thoughts, emotional instigation, patriotism, criticizing the opposition received a warm welcome on Social Media Platforms then those messages reflecting merely information.

The Polarization of issues and political ideology will have serious repercussions in future that should be addressed on a timely bases so that societies could be saved from further isolation and disintegration.

The issues could be resolved through educating the people and creating awareness about the fair and professional use of social Media Channel for advocacy for wining support regarding legislation, issue, policy or employment.

Instead of showing the dark side of the issue, we have to educate people regarding both pros and cons of matters of importance for the general public rather than mislead the people with biased approaches to oppose the initiative Government, Community or Civil society for the benefit of common people.

Social Media network operators are the bigwigs and the most influential .They cannot be controlled but can only  be regulated by framing such laws that  may ensure fair use of this digital platform and being careful so that users may not face any legal issue by discussing some sensitive issues such as Desecration of holy places, religions, personalities, anti-state tirade, rebellion, terrorism, extremism etc. The sensitive issue may stir protests and cause legal proceedings, if the cyber regulatory laws are implemented to discourage the influence of one-sided opinions or campaigns.

We cannot deny the importance of social media platforms as they provide equal opportunity to the people to express and share their thoughts or opinions, but safe and thoughtful use of these platforms will encourage healthy discourse and prove pivotal to promote dialogue to discuss social, economical and cultural issues peacefully without hitting the sentiments of other communities.

 Thus, Echo Chambers will be less powerful to build a narrative that is appealing but the readers will be engaging themselves in the debates that need interaction.

Undoubtedly, social media platforms have changed the political and social approach of the people and enabled face to face digital interaction through video and audio conference calls, the fair use will mitigate its cons manifold.

 The social media network apply the algorithms to connect you with like-minded people but it is up to you that your engagement in communication is either  unbiased or biased.

Social Media should be discussing the positive discourse to explore the political, economic solutions to the problems of people by reflecting the two sides of the coin so that discourse must be constructive and problem-solving.

Honestly speaking the social media has given a voice to marginalized people and Governments are compelled to resolve the issues of people on a priority basis due to trending topics of social media.

Even the populist leaders may face resistance from social media as the Public makes the most of the  freedom of expression and criticizes the role of politicians for their failure to address the issues of the public.

In recent times, Facebook, YouTube and Twitter have been  creating history in highlighting issues of both public and national interest but at the same time such platforms taken by storm by those influencers who continue to feed the news about their vested interests and create psychosocial hype for any issue that may jolt the power corridors of Government.

The politicians always take to Twitter for their precise viewpoint and policy debate and usually followed by million followers. Even the print and Electronic media i.e News channels take the tweets as policy statement or narrative of some party of the Group.

 The Schools, colleges should chalk out the initiative to create awareness and practice of fair use so that Social platforms should not post single or one-sided opinions or arguments but should welcome both so that positive use could be ensured. This will further the importance of Social Media .

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New Social Compact

Solok Literacy Community held a discussion for Indonesia in the future

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As one of the youth mobilizers in Solok and surrounding areas, Solok Literacy Community once again held one of its flagship activities or programs, ‘Ngopi Discussion’. With a proactive discussion format that involves the activeness of the audience on a participatory basis, the discussion that was held on Sunday (11/4) then went interesting and very uplifting.

In his event, Solok Literasi invited an extraordinarily dedicated and accomplished presenter, Al Mukhollis Siagian a cross-continent writer and Yulenri Arif Hidayat as vice chairman of GenBi West Sumatera. Through the theme “Dreaming of a long and steep road to Indonesia gold 2045”, Al Mukhollis began the discussion by explaining the problems faced by the community ranging from global, national, regional to regional levels.

Followed by building a problem map or roadmap that occurs around the community, Arif tried to find equiblirium problems of youth today so that later can be found a joint solution. At the end of the discussion it can be concluded that complex problems around the community have unconsciously turned out to have caught the youths off guard today.

Indonesia gold 2045 itself is a great dream of indonesian youth in productive age in forming a nation and country that is able to compete with other nations. Besides of course can first solve the fundamental problems that exist in the country of Indonesia. Whether it’s about democracy, legal supremacy, emancipation of education, health, poverty to have a vocal point as a maritime country.

After counseling and finding the real problem point, Dinda Kusuma Putri as moderator can conclude that the core solution of the problem is how we jointly build synergistic mutualism by building a network of partnerships and then move smartly to educate every element of society.

Although shortly before the event there was heavy rain but did not discourage the intentions of soliters friends who want to attend the coffee discussion this time. Held in Hikari Cafe where the atmosphere and background of the place is very supportive for the holding of discussion forums. The coffee discussion lasted for 3 hours and ended a joint pledge regarding the integrity of the future movement to be much better.

The discussion of Solok Literacy Community coffee was also attended by various communities in Solok City and its surroundings, including Solok Millennial Creative (SMC), SolokMuda and Solok Student Alliance (AMS). The proliferation of movement of various youth communities in Solok also has a significant impact on the development of intellectual mindsets formed in every young person solok.

Coffee discussion itself is an activity with almost the same format as FGD (Focus Group Discussion) which studies an issue to be reviewed and found a solution together. Coffee discussion activities are identical to the discursus patterns held in coffee shops a la the current trend of young people and then always have a clear outcome after the course of the discussion.

Approximately 7 months since its establishment on September 21, 2020, Solok Literacy Community consists of 61 solok young people consisting of various basic vocational education. Solok Literacy crystallizes its movement through 4 excellent programs, namely coffee discussion; free reading stalls; surgical film; and classes of interests and talents.

Moving as a literacy promoter in Solok and its surroundings, The Solok Literacy Community has a desire to be able to print great narrators who are able to tell how extraordinary the resources owned by Indonesia to the international world. This long-term goal certainly begins with small, structured and systematic movements from now on.

To see the movement of Solok Literacy Community itself in order to educate the public about the importance of early literacy can be seen together on @solok_literasi Instagram account. The presence of Solok Literasi Community is also known to re-encourage other young people in West Sumatra to re-voice useful things and devote themselves to the benefit of the nation and the country.

Solok Literacy Community hopes that in the future it can continue to be consistent in improving the scalability of literacy among the community. In addition, also how the government is also aware and aware of the problems facing young people so that both the government and the organization/ community around it is able to build a synergy of partnerships that benefit the community.

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Athletes knock the legs from under global sports governance

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Sports governance worldwide has had the legs knocked out from under it. Yet, national and international sports administrators are slow in realizing the magnitude of what has hit them.

Tectonic plates underlying sports’ guiding principle that sports and politics are unrelated have shifted, driven by a struggle against racism and a quest for human rights and social justice.

The principle was repeatedly challenged over the last year by athletes as well as businesses forcing national and international sports federations to either support anti-racist protest or at the least refrain from penalizing athletes who use their sport to oppose racism and promote human rights and social justice, acts that are political by definition.

The assault on what is a convenient fiction started in the United States as much a result of the explosion of Black Lives Matter protests on the streets of American cities as the fact that, in contrast to the fan-club relationship in much of the world, US sports clubs and associations see fans as clients, and the client is king.

The assault moved to Europe in the last month with the national soccer teams of Norway, Germany, and the Netherlands wearing T-shirts during 2022 World Cup qualifiers that supported human rights and change. The Europeans were adding their voices to perennial criticism of migrant workers’ rights in Qatar, the host of next year’s World Cup.

Gareth Southgate, manager of the English national team, said the Football Association was discussing with human rights group Amnesty International tackling migrant rights in the Gulf state.

While Qatar is the focus in Europe, greater sensitivity to human rights appears to be moving beyond. Formula One driver Lewis Hamilton told a news conference in Bahrain ahead of this season’s opening Grand Prix that “there are issues all around the world, but I do not think we should be going to these countries and just ignoring what is happening in those places, arriving, having a great time and then leave.”

Mr. Hamilton has been prominent in speaking out against racial injustice and social inequality since the National Football League in the United States endorsed Black Lives Matter and players taking the knee during the playing of the American national anthem in protest against racism.

In a dramatic break with its ban on “any political, religious or personal slogans, statements or images” on the pitch, world soccer governing body FIFA said it would not open disciplinary proceedings against the European players. “FIFA believes in the freedom of speech and in the power of football as a force for good,” a spokesperson for the governing body said.

The statement constituted an implicit acknowledgement that standing up for human rights and social justice was inherently political. It raises the question of how FIFA going forward will reconcile its stand on human rights with its statutory ban on political expression.

It makes maintaining the fiction of a separation of politics and sports ever more difficult to defend and opens the door to a debate on how the inseparable relationship that joins sports and politics at the hip like Siamese twins should be regulated.

Signalling that a flood barrier may have collapsed, Major League Baseball this month said it would be moving its 2021 All Star Game out of Atlanta in response to a new Georgia law that threatens to potentially restrict voting access for people of colour.

In a shot across the bow to FIFA and other international sports associations, major Georgia-headquartered companies, including Coca Cola, one of the soccer body’s longest-standing corporate sponsors, alongside Delta Airlines and Home Depot adopted political positions in their condemnation of the Georgia law.

The greater assertiveness of athletes and corporations in speaking out for fundamental rights and against racism and discrimination will make it increasingly difficult for sports associations to uphold the fiction of a separation between politics and sports.

The willingness of FIFA, the US Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC) and other national and international associations to look the other way when athletes take their support for rights and social justice to the sports arena has let a genie out of the bottle. It has sawed off the legs of the FIFA principle that players’ “equipment must not have any political, religious or personal slogans.”

Already, the US committee has said that it would not sanction American athletes who choose to raise their fists or kneel on the podium at this July’s Tokyo Olympic Games as well as future tournaments.

The decision puts the USOPC at odds with the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) staunch rule against political protest.

The IOC suspended and banned US medallists Tommie Smith and John Carlos after the sprinters raised their fists on the podium at the 1968 Mexico City Olympics to protest racial inequality in the United States.

Acknowledging the incestuous relationship between sports and politics will ultimately require a charter or code of conduct that regulates the relationship and introduces some form of independent oversight akin to the supervision of banking systems or the regulation of the water sector in Britain, alongside the United States the only country to have privatized water as an asset.

Human rights and social justice have emerged as monkey wrenches that could shatter the myth of a separation of sports and politics. If athletes take their protests to the Tokyo Olympics and the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, the myth would sustain a significant body blow.

Said a statement by US athletes seeking changes to the USOPC’s rule banning protest at sporting events: “Prohibiting athletes to freely express their views during the Games, particularly those from historically underrepresented and minoritized groups, contributes to the dehumanization of athletes that is at odds with key Olympic and Paralympic values.”

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