Monday, January 30, 2023
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Talk Point: Steel secretary’s attempt to vilify women is a disgrace to her gender

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Senior bureaucrat Aruna Sharma has lashed out at what she calls the “narrow approach in the name of women’s rights”. She believes this has led to a rampant misuse of law by women, asserting that such “activism” is resulting in men losing faith in the judiciary and the institution of marriage.

Is the call to revisit some of our gender laws and their implementation valid or exaggerated?

Tales of wily women are the stuff of history – they are not endemic to our times alone. But to extrapolate the examples cited by steel secretary Sharma to vilify women as the new brand of “dacoits” is a gross, hyperbolic exaggeration and a disgrace to our gender. This is especially so when someone so privileged and empowered, brands her sisterhood thus.

Needless to say, I do not agree with Sharma’s sweeping assertions. Firstly, she does not care to address the fact that the basic problem regarding women and their rights persists. The exploitation of women in our country and in global society at large has not abated. Violence against girls and women, in war and peace, is a given. The very men women give life to, and nurture, become the specters of evil that turn on them. Let us not evade the issue. Parts of our country, our teeming cities and our tiny villages, are tormented with these problems. Nirbhaya’s soul still haunts our lives, and there are many of our sisters who have similar harrowing tales to tell.

Here are other sharp perspectives on Aruna Sharma’s comment on women misusing laws:
Shailaja Chandra: former secretary to the government of India, former chief secretary, Delhi
Amit Lakhani: President of the Men Welfare Trust
Chitleen K. Sethi:  Associate Editor with ThePrint
Nandita Singh: journalist, ThePrint

Secondly, are the laws in our country, women-friendly? Is our society accommodative and generous to girls and women? Despite our religious and spiritual traditions that respect women as powerful and merciful, do a majority of Indian men honestly favour women’s independence and the assertion of women’s rights? Why is patriarchy the dominant, default approach to problems concerning women who wish to assert their rights as normal, thinking adults?

To my mind, it is incomprehensible why a senior woman civil servant should champion the cause of those she calls “boys” (as opposed to men) against “women” (she does not call them girls). She is betraying the cause of millions of our sisters who wait in the dark for deliverance from centuries of the suppression of spirit, aspiration, and ambition.

Nirupama Rao is a former Foreign Secretary and Ambassador

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