Guest post by Suvarna Menon:

The Guwahati case has shaken the nation just as Twitter was ablaze with shouts of disapproval at Sherlyn Chopra’s nude photos. As a fellow Twitter user @Urban_Sanyaasi rightly pointed out at the time, “Sherlyn Chopra on one side, Guwahati incident on the other. Perspective cannot be gained more objectively. A voluntary baring. A violation.” We speak of a nation with values, customs and traditions intact; a nation of people who are up-in-arms at the thought of ‘indecency’ or ‘inappropriateness’ and who are easily scandalized by skin-show even when it is voluntary. However, in the face of real crimes including violence against women like in the cases of rape, molestation and harassment of women, the perpetrators of the crimes escape unnoticed. The onus is inadvertently on the woman – for being in the wrong place at the wrong time, for arousing lust in the man, for being ‘inappropriately dressed’ – the list is endless.

As concerned people, we can blame the media for objectifying women, we can continue to raise our voices against men who engage in such appalling acts of crime, or we can sit helplessly in our living rooms, watching on as the news worsens each day. We can talk of respecting women at an intellectual level, but lasting effects can only be brought about by engaging in discussion and changing attitudes beginning inside our own homes.

As a father, do you tell your daughter to dress appropriately and not ‘ask for trouble’ because you ‘know what boys are’? Or do you encourage her to be an independent, empowered woman who can stand up for herself and speak up against injustice? As a woman, do you think girls who wear short skirts or ‘revealing clothes’ deserve it any more than boys who wear shorts do? We have spent years teaching our women how to protect themselves, prevent themselves from being noticed or prevent themselves from attracting attention. We are now at a stage where most women are professional working women and are most certainly in the limelight. But can we as a nation make this a safe space for them to explore their creative talents, aspirations and dreams, rather than making them feel threatened and insecure about their achievements?

By all means raise your sons to respect women, but stimulate discussions which make them realize that women are humans and equals that are worthy of respect, rather than a false sense of respect emerging out of pity or a macho need to ‘protect’ them because they are a ‘weaker’ sex. Raise your children to speak up for justice for both sexes. Make your parents believe in equality of sexes and allow it to translate in your own interactions with the opposite sex.

If you believe you are a man who respects women, and you still come home and lie back on the couch, asking her to serve you dinner while you watch the news in ‘horror’ at the atrocities committed against women, you are not fooling anyone. Similarly, as a woman, if you generalize all behavior and spew hatred towards all men, you will achieve nothing.

Examine your own thoughts, challenge your own attitudes towards the two sexes. Critique your parents’ attitudes, and stimulate change around by encouraging rational discourse and pointing out flaws in people’s thought process. Only then can we hope for a better tomorrow. The change begins with you.

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