On 6th December, as part of the 16 Days Campaign Against Gender Violence, we held our first ever Men and Boys Community Cafe led by Sriram Ayer of Nalandaway. It was a conversation that touched upon some uncomfortable truths and built platforms for many more productive actions.
"Men are the protectors. It is their job to care for women" - This is a commonly held opinion that we find expressed in many forums and not many of us find fault with these kind of statements. In fact, we actively believe that the opposite of violence is a kind of chivalry characterized by a protective instinct. The group discussed how such characterizations impact men, women and the choices, opportunities and resources available to them.
The session began with a 'Spin a Yarn' session where a primer line for a story is given and everyone adds to it, in turn. It started with a young man on his way home from work, who spots a young woman smoking on the road. The story changed in perspective and tone as each of us took turns adding to it. It raised many problematic themes about how women are viewed, what we believe is appropriate behaviour for women and the conditions we place on their use of public spaces.
It was a great starting point for a brisk and practical discussion on gender violence and its many forms, from homes to workplaces to the street and the conversation centred on what can be done to change how things stand and what each of us can do, individually and collectively to make a difference.
Here are some of the points that were raised:
- As a society, we have set standards for masculinity and femininity and this sets unfair and forced expectations for both men and women.
- Girls and boys are raised with different sets of rules and this automatically impinges on women's freedom and choices.
- As bystanders, how can interventions be made - The space between doing nothing and doing something extreme, such as approaching the police was discussed.
- A question was raised about why interventions were skewed towards survivors and in what ways society can intervene to change perpetrators. While prevention mechanism in terms of education and attitude change and targeted interventions with young people were raised, the idea of changing violent behaviour among offenders was a far more complicated issue than could be discussed in 2 hours.
- Individual actions were also discussed and many practical suggestions were made including the use of social media to spread messages about gender and violence as well as initiating many more dialogues such as this and engaging in sustained conversation about GV.
Thank you Sriram Ayer, for being such a wonderful host!