Some men have regressive attitudes towards women, but these can be changed
Some great news about boys and men. A survey and intervention programme actually transformed the regressive attittudes that some men have towards women – all in the space of a year and a half! Contrary to what some women believe… a leopard can change his spots.
First – the synopsis of the research. The NGO’s CORO and Population Council conducted a research and an intervention program called Yaari Dosti in four slums of Mumbai. 126 young men were interviewed (informal conversations) over a period of one month . It was discovered that many of the young men either denied or justified gender discrimination. They also felt that going to sex workers, dominating women in general, forcing them to have sex and being aggressive and powerful was the test of a ‘real man.’ It followed that that these men felt absolutely no guilt about forcing girls to have sex with them ( raping) and then blackmailing them into having sex with multiple partners. Women were in general looked upon as sexual objects. Also, women were bracketed into two kinds – the good girls and the bad girls. The latter were those who were either sex workers or those considered having a ‘loose’ character. The awareness about how exactly one could contract HIV was low, and therefore many of the young men indulged in risky sexual behavior.
These boys were seen as allies
What was really unique was that the researchers did not see these youngsters as enemies of society… but as allies. Allies who could be helped to overcome their skewed ideas about gender equality and their risky sexual behavior. That is why a ‘large-scale invervention programme’ was conducted amongst 750 young men from the same slums – to try and sensitize them to ‘gender violence’ and make them aware of health issues. This was done through games and group activities.
Men realised what it was like to be treated like objects
One very significant ‘game’ that was played was one where half the men became ‘Objects’ and the other half became ‘People’. The men who became ‘Objects’ were ordered around and made to do humiliating things. In another game, some men had labels stuck on them and the other boys were to treat them exactly as per the labels. This was quite humiliating for those who were labelled ‘prostitutes’.
The result of this whole program was that the participants realised what it felt like to be treated the way they treated women. Interviews revealed that their attitudes altered to some degree. The men in the study became more sensitive, started helping more at home, and overall became more respectful of women. Even the eve-teasing complaints against these boys decreased. Many of the young men also reported that they became ‘quieter’ and less aggressive after the program. They said that they had become ‘changed from within’. Their self-esteem increased and their relationships with women improved.
Our society creates these attitudes
Whether or not the effects of this program last is not the point. It shows that the regressive attitudes of these young men can be changed if they are caught at a vulnerable stage in their life. In fact these kind of gender sensitisation programmes should be carried out in each and every school.
Though the men picked for this particular survey were from the slums, these attitudes are not restricted to the poor. The case of Manu Sharma who shot Jessica Lall because she refused to serve him a drink is a case in point.
It’s not just the poor
Gender discrimination is common even in elite schools. Girls are not treated equally – not just by the boys, but by the teachers themselves! In my daughter’s school for example, girls who do something naughty (say, skip class to see a basketball tournament) are severely reprimanded while the boys ‘get away with everything.’ Also, whenever the teachers suspect that there are couples, it is the girls who are victimised and humiliated, as the teachers (even the female ones!) assume it is the girl who entices and ‘traps’ the boy. Therefore even if the boy has had a healthy upbringing at home, this attitude of the teachers and of society can make him believe that women are indeed always to blame. No matter if he is the aggressive or lewd one.
Related Reading: It’s important to talk about sex
A real life incident of molestation at the Gateway of India
Why some men are violent and aggressive towards women
A poor attitude towards women is the cause of the poor sex ratio
Men beat their wives because they think it is their right
How to prevent being molested in public
Men will not be allowed to teach little girls