Let’s talk society

  • Patriarchy harms men as much as it does women
Let’s talk society

Mar 12, 2015-

On Sunday, after battling for her life for 17 long days, Puja Sah, a seven-year old girl, passed away in Kanti Children’s Hospital. Puja had gone missing on the eve of February 20 from her home in Kalaiya. The next day, the police found her lying unconscious at the garbage disposal site of a cotton factory at Motimarg in the district. The child had been raped, beaten and left to die. She was immediately rushed to Narayani Sub-Regional Hospital for treatment and then airlifted to Kathmandu. After lying unconscious for the next two weeks, she tragically succumbed to injuries inflicted by the rape.

Condemnations of the rape in social media and calls for capital punishment for the alleged rapist, a 28-year-old man, have followed since. This outrage in Nepal coincides with protests against violence against women the world over. Across the border, the Indian government has placed a ban on ‘India’s Daughter’, a documentary on the 2012 Delhi gang rape. Heated debates on the film, both in favour and in opposition to the ban and what it means for women rights has followed. In Turkey, after a 20-year old girl was killed for resisting rape last month, men in Azerbaijan posted pictures of themselves wearing mini skirts on Twitter in support of the victim. In the US, academic institutions are debating ways to curb the increase in sexual assaults and campus rapes.

According to the UN, 35 percent of women worldwide have experienced physical or sexual violence in their lifetime. One in every 10 girls below 18 years of age has been forced to have sex. The problem is, therefore, global. Its solutions, nonetheless, are local.

It is thus the prerogative of Nepali authorities to give justice to Puja. In the Criminal Code bill—which, along with a separate Civil Code bill, is set to replace the Muluki Ain—the sentence for rape of a minor in below 10 is 10 to 15 years respectively. A high-level committee on gender-based violence, which was formed in 2012 after the ‘Occupy Baluwatar’ campaign, however, had proposed lifelong imprisonment for gang rapes and incarceration until death for the rape of a minor.

The government, on its part, still has time to heed the committee’s suggestion and amend the bill. Yet it will take much more than just implementation of such laws to deter perpetrators. To end such atrocities, society must question the continuous reinforcement of masculinity in men since their childhood. For instance, the notion that men should not reveal their emotions or that they need to be aggressive. It is equally important that men be seen as crucial actors in all anti gender-discrimination programmes—for patriarchy harms men as much as it does women. It overburdens men with responsibilities by questioning women’s ability to fend for themselves.

The monstrous crime against Puja must not go unpunished. But it is equally important that we do not produce monsters in the first place.

Published: 13-03-2015 08:44

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