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Women Assaults: A Pedagogical Fault
Monday October 7, 2013 11:38 PM, Nafisul Quamar Jilani

My ten year old little sister goes to a convent, which is the only decent school in the town (for girls). The reputation of the school claims (academically and socially) to be the best, and the school feels proud of its legacy of 'producing' numerous educated women. The school follows a strict dress code and also polices the behavior of the students. According to the school norms a girl cannot have a 'hair cut', every girl during her high school, has to opt for subjects like 'home science', etc.. The text books (which is common to boys and girls) they read in their primary school, has stories describing an 'ideal type' household, which reads sentences like, "Raman plays football in the evening with his friends, while Geeta plays with her dolls in home…", "Raman goes market to shop, while Geeta helps her mother in the kitchen…", their history books glorifies the 'johar' done by women of Rajputana monarchy; and recognizes those women as 'brave', who 'sacrificed' their lives but did not submit their chastity to the invaders. These are the texts which my sister mugs up every day along with millions of school going kids of her age; and like many other girl my sister also visualizes herself as a "good girl", and in order to impress the family members, she has learned to make a good cup of coffee which she serves to my father when he comes back from the office.

The above mentioned situation does not sound awkward, in fact it appears very 'normal' and somehow it is like what we expect from our daughters and sisters to be, isn't it? The answer is of course 'yes', but this conformity is the root of many contemporary social problems. The above mentioned situation also poses a series of questions, ranging from pedagogy to social constructs.

In our society the notion of a 'good girl', starts from objectifying her body such as in the name of rules forcing her not to have her hair cut, because as per established construct long hair signifies woman's beauty. It becomes more dangerous when a victim does not have the realization of his/her victimhood; this is what exactly happens when girls of tender age by hearts the lessons embedded with the notions of patriarchy. The problem does not lie in the issue of signifier and signified but the actual problem starts when institutions like school or family constantly perpetuates these constructs loaded with patriarchy, which also attempts to mould their womanhood. I would rather call it a pedagogical crime which we all have done and continue of doing so, we start from teaching our daughters and sisters to play with dolls and later we tend to protect/preserve them as precious objects. Our education system has been structured in a way that apart from producing knowledge it also perpetuates the ideas of patriarchy.

Through the ideas of 'the way of an ideal life', ideas of social establishments and institutions are incepted in the minds of a child so early that he/she does not even understand that the circumference of his/her thoughts is being created. The short moral stories taught in the basic schools, which also injects 'values', 'ethics' and the ideas of an ideal type of everything, somehow they aren't open and at other hand they also perpetuate the patriarchal establishments. This further does nothing but consolidates the status of a woman as a 'dependent creatures' or rather makes them a 'second class citizen'. This of course is a structural problem, but unfortunately being dealt at the agency level. Recent incidents of rapes and women assaults, which got media attention too, also reveals the above mentioned ruptures of the society and proves our approach and jurisprudence wrong and very surface.

The reason why I am calling the efforts very surface is, because they are not dealing with entire structure but speaks to the agency. For example, rather searching for the reasons of rape we are hanging the rapists; which certainly discourages the other 'rapists' to rape but simultaneously it also encourages them to adopt more sophisticated ways to commit the crime which also includes murdering the victim in order to not get caught. Here we can see the failure of the jurisprudence which is being used for the rape prevention, and statistics also proves this failure too. If we think carefully of the probable reasons of the failing of this approach, we can easily see that instead of mending the process of the production we are filtering the produce. I mean to say that those rapists doesn't come from some other planet but they are very much part of our society, so at first step mustn't we look for the reasons that why rapes happen and why women has to face sexual or any kind of assaults? Here I would like to make myself clear that I am not against punishing the culprits, but I am advocating to consider the social environment in which the culprit has grown up and hold the social institutions around him equally responsible, because assault on women is not very rare thing to happen so considering it as an individual pathology would be a very incomplete assertion.

As I have mentioned in the beginning that how we implant the ideas of gendered division of labor and the imagination of ideal (patriarchal) family establishments, in the children's mind through formal education at very tender age. The child grows in our society by learning inequality, the male learns to see women as an object and the female learns to understand that she is the subject of the male. Precisely this incepted understanding is the reason for women being treated as things; at the level of society, through various institutions we do make sure that its members to be the perpetrators of patriarchal inequality. So it should not be very strange when a dominant asserts his dominance, and assaults on women are nothing but this assertion by the other side. And most interestingly we all are continuously doing the same experiment over and again with the expectation of different results.

At the end I would say that until and unless we recognize the various roots of these inequalities, be it at the pedagogical level or family level and many more, the prevention measures wouldn't be complete and successful. For everlasting and more effective results we must start the reforms at very basic levels, so that the circumference of our thoughts could be larger, horizon could be wider and their terrain could be more equal.

Nafisul Quamar Jilani, is a research scholar and currently pursuing his research at Delhi School of Economics (New Delhi, India). His areas of interest are Minority studies, Commodification, Consumerism, and Education. Email:-

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