Moral Policing and India

Society & Philosophy No Comments

If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.
– Mother Teresa

There are many queries that haunt my mind as I read through the newspaper in the last few months. There have been attacks against women in Karnataka, gory incidents on New Year ’s Eve in various parts of the country, remarks against young upcoming sports personalities such as Sania Mirza, ugly scenes on Valentine’s Day, college codes regarding dressing not to mention a few rapes and wife battering which anyway do not count under the sub-heading of moral policing. It seems to be that Indian women have been imprisoned in the shackles of culture. No longer are women equal participants in the country’s citizenship. The country which is proud of Tagore’s ‘Where the Mind is without fear ‘is no longer able to tell the women to walk with their heads held high. The doors to knowledge and learning are no longer opening the minds of Indian men. It is unable to provide the future resources to the individual women. The contemporary women may have increased education, may have better understanding of the social settings and yet is unable to live a free and uninhibited experience.

Our immediate concern is to understand this paradox of women in careers and their inability to think and act independently. This inability to act as one can understand is due to heavy socializing and conditioning where women are forced to learn the lessons of subordinating themselves as well as become submissive. Thus gender roles are so well nurtured that the women perpetually live within the norms unable even to raise their brows against injustices happening around them. Yet another factor for this submissive act of conformity is that Indian women have to constantly face either male hegemony or other kinds of hegemonic behavior such as fiery mothers-in-law and trouble some sister s-in-law. A third dimension is that many women do not have economic independence.

In case the above points are tackled women are still brutalized in the name of culture. Thus one can see the burgeoning incidents of women being asked to conform to roles. Women have according to societal patterns the ability to seduce and hypnotize a man and it is therefore essential to put them down with a heavy hand. Today the nation has lost all norms of ethics and is ready to lay down the morals for women and the nation’s governing authorities have taken a fundamentalist attitude towards women.

Most individuals discuss such issues of moral policing vociferously but there are very few which discuss how this could be contained. The first point is that centers for women studies and organizations dealing with women’s issues need to run gender sensitization programmes where in men are educated   and explained about women’s rights and human rights. Secondly these same programmes should also train women to know themselves, to understand their values and to fight for their causes if not radically atleast make efforts for their progression. Thirdly women through education have to be trained to think independently and democratically. Acts of moral policing will continue until women learn to act on their own boldly and defiantly. Finally woman needs to understand that her rights beolg to her and not to any other individual or organization.   As Roseanne Barr states, “the thing women have yet to learn is nobody gives you power.  You just take it”.

Dr. H. Kalpana

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