This newspaper report, based on the findings of a recent UNICEF survey, draws attention to exactly the kind of serious and very unpleasant social realities that we Indians live with, and prefer strongly to shove under the carpet rather than discuss threadbare with a view to criticizing what is bad about us and replacing them with healthier attitudes and practices. In this day and age, 57% of male teenagers and 53% of their female counterparts are okay with the idea that married men should beat their wives now and then!
I, of course, differ strongly on the question of whether India is ‘rapidly developing’ as the editorial writer claims, as anybody who reads this blog regularly should know. Sanitary toilets, decreasing superstition, greater freedom of expression and increasing public awareness of rights and responsibilities are far better indices of development than cars and cellphones and shopping malls, and my worst critic cannot deny that we have made very little progress on such counts. But let us think for a while about all the possible reasons why such a fiercely atavistic attitude regarding what is permissible in marriage should still prevail so widely among our young, especially given that so many of them believe (inspired by Bollywood if nothing else) that ‘love’ should be the cornerstone of a good marital relationship.
First, the survey could be very small and based on too biased a sample to be reliable. I doubt it, though, because the UN is not known for superficial and shoddy work.
Secondly, (if we assume that the above is not the case) it may be that the young are so indoctrinated by both oral tradition and what they see at home that they actually believe wife beating is ‘normal’ and even right. If that is so, what, as the editorial asks rhetorically, are our young people being taught at home – what kind of parents are we? Do we need the kind of public regulatory authority of the sort that they have in countries like Norway, where governments can take away very young children from home and put them in professional care if their experts think that the parents are incapable of raising decent children decently? How many Indian parents are going to lose their children if that happens?
Thirdly – and I am being politically incorrect here consciously – shouldn’t we ask why such an attitude still prevails among so many? Let us grant the feminists what they have always shrilly claimed, that men are brutes, pigs, so they can’t think of anything better, marriage for them has always meant exercising crude physical dominion over the wives. Well, why aren’t today’s mothers (many of them ‘educated’ too) teaching their sons any better? This is one question feminists answer with a loud silence. Much more alarmingly, so many girls seem to find wife-beating okay too – what can be said about that? What is it about our females of all ages that they should still hold such a belief? Could it be – dare I articulate this question? – that too many women are aware, deep inside somewhere, that there is much in them that needs disciplining lifelong in the crudest possible way? Could it be that too many women, having seen how some of their highly ‘liberated’ sisters abuse their freedoms, have decided that most women cannot handle freedom responsibly? (I hold no brief for men, by the way – to my knowledge, most men cannot do it much better either, but the very ancient tradition that acknowledges their ‘superiority’ in this matter still seems to have very strong roots in many women’s minds!)
And what about the remaining 43% of boys and 47% of girls, those who apparently do not condone wife beating? Shouldn’t they play a more vocal, more active role in bringing about change for the better?
My daughter belongs to this set of teenagers. What her attitude in this matter is should be obvious to all who know – if only from this blog and hers – what kind of parents she has. But the fact that she is growing up in the midst of so many others of such a very different and ugly mindset is something I find most disturbing to contemplate. Will most of these girls be happily married if only their husbands buy them a lot of clothes and jewellery, and let them go to parties and malls and beauty parlours every now and then, even if they are occasionally beaten just to be reminded who is the boss? Is that all they ask from women’s ‘emancipation’?
An old boy was recently lamenting that his girlfriend of many years, having suddenly ditched him for a wealthier husband without so much as a by your leave, is now trying to get back to him, moaning about how badly she repents her ‘rash’ decision! Do such women deserve to be beaten by their menfolk, then, as disgusting creatures who have no real minds and feelings of their own? Remember, in our hoary scriptures, women have often been compared to various kinds of domestic animals…
Postscript: Critical comments are welcome, but for those who base their comments merely on the last line (because they have already forgotten the rest), let me remind them that if I have referred to a certain type of woman derogatorily, I have also called some men pigs in the same blogpost! I have written glowing tributes to women I admire, too. And if I see that most female readers prefer to stay quiet, I shall assume that most of them cannot see anything wrong in what I have written, only they are too embarrassed to say so openly.