Patriarchal Anecdotes From My Lectures On Women Empowerment
I have been delivering lectures on women empowerment with specific reference to the statute called Protection Against Harassment of Women at Workplace Act, 2010 at a Punjab government training institute called Directorate of Staff Development (DSD). DSD imparts training to teachers of basic-pay-scale (bps) grades 17-20, working in different districts of Punjab. These lectures have been introduced with a view to make teachers of all genders more aware of their legal rights under the Act and to further enlighten them with the concept of women empowerment.
Having delivered these lectures at DSD for the last two years I have been able to figure out the actual reasons behind the lack of respect for women along with ignorance of the masses. A predominant majority of male participants sits in the lectures with a shut mind transpiring a visible aversion to the acceptability of women empowerment. Their ignorance of law in general and to the teachings of our religion is alarming.
During one of my lectures, I informed the participants about India’s legislation prescribing punishment for men gazing at women for more than 14 seconds. The response by one of the participants was epic who immediately commented, “Should we then only train our minds and restrict our eyes to thirteen seconds.” At that juncture I was speechless and was further shocked by his question post-session, “Can the harasser only be a young person or someone like me also qualifies?” This question coupled with his derogatory smile was certainly not driven out of light humour but was a result of his refusal to the accept notions of women empowerment and sexual harassment at the workplace.
I was more appalled by the views of the participants from the fairer gender who would always strive to display their knowledge of the subject as opposed to the concepts. In one of the sessions, while I was talking about women’s rights in Pakistan to contract marriage independently, I received the most surprising comment of life which came as a rude shock: “It’s purely because of people like you that young females are eloping from their homes, who deserve no mercy but death.” I had nothing in me to even attempt in any way to convince the lady.
There were a few progressive participants as well who were ready to combat the ill-founded views of their colleagues. A participant of bps grade 19 once asked me what the reasons were behind Punjab government legislating on domestic violence because in his view it clearly amounted to increased interference in family lives by the government. I told him that if people stop beating their wives the law would automatically become redundant but the participant was not ready to believe that a man could beat his wife. In fact, he argued with me for minutes on the issue of alleged religious backing to the concept of “halka phulka tashadud” (light beating). He simply discarded the state’s interference into the private lives of citizens and also added that the law should automatically become redundant because if any wife reports an incident of violence against her husband then she must immediately be divorced because of ‘crossing her bounds’ allegedly prescribed by religion.
The whole point of discussing the above is not to register myself as pseudo-intellectual with ‘enlightened’ views on women empowerment but to highlight the ignorance and aversion prevalent in the minds of our schoolteachers towards concepts accepted throughout the world and most importantly within our religion. These teachers are responsible for training our youth who are primarily responsible for impacting the demeanour of our society. At present, there are 12 million students studying in government schools who are unfortunately being taught by a majority of teachers who have absolutely no clue regarding the concepts of women empowerment, domestic violence and sexual harassment at the workplace.
I was greatly impressed by the Chief Minister Punjab’s decision to introduce such subjects at training levels and I hope that subjects such as Sufism are also taught at elementary levels so that we can turn out to be a more tolerant society. The syllabi coupled with teaching methods prevalent in our country have become totally redundant. The resort is made towards improving teachers’ grip over the theoretical side of curriculum as opposed to the conceptual side.
“I have never let my schooling interfere with my education.”
– Abraham Lincoln
Teachers in any society are vested with a very important role of reforming the society. Students tend to emulate their teacher which makes it imperative for the state to train the teachers in the most modern manner so as to equip their minds with the latest methods of teaching and make their minds more open towards acceptability of concepts such as women empowerment and laws as such those against sexual harassment at the workplace.
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