When change happens - Fearing people’s criticism
Kamlashankar, 26 lives with his wife, mother, elder sister-in-law and a younger brother in Ramaipur village of Pratapgarh. His elder brother stays in Mumbai for work and visits them in 2-3 months. He was married eight years back against his will. Kamla is unemployed and has been preparing for SSC after completing his Masters last year.
Susheel was an active member of the men’s group formed under the Multi Country project on working with Men and Boys for ending violence against women supported by UN Trust Fund in Uttar Pradesh, India. Under the project, the men’s groups from 20 selected villages of the districts of Pratapgarh and Jaunpur in UP received intensive training on gender, masculinity, violence and sexuality with a focus on men’s role and experiences in a gendered society. These men’s groups were then organized to meet regularly to discuss and relate these learning with the village realities and transfer the same to other men and key persons in the village. The men’s groups were further engaged in organizing campaigns in the villages against gender based discrimination and violence against women.
Kamla says in his own words “I already believed that one should not do something s/he doesn’t like to be done with her/himself. But I realized it more deeply and practiced it only after attending the gender training. I realized that there are many acts in our daily life that can be called violence. For me, violence means forcing someone in any manner or doing something which you won’t like to be done with you. If we don’t like when our mothers and sisters are teased in the road, why should we do the same thing with others? If we react so much when our sister is tortured by her in-laws, why do we torture the one who is married to us?”
“The next important thing that touched my heart during my involvement in the whole process was the idea of women’s mobility. I now completely agree that women should also be allowed to come in the front. We always want to go out and do some jobs but we want to dominate our women and keep them at home. But it’s still not possible because of the pressure from the society. Villagers will talk too much if some woman is moving freely. But I don’t like this and I think those who go for change should prepare themselves to face the criticisms.”
“Before joining this intervention, I never gave a thought to the issue of partner’s readiness and desire in sex. After attending the training I realized that it’s necessary to take into consideration whether and how much the partner desires to have sex. Just like me, my partner also has a mind and desire.”
“I believed that it was the wife’s duty to do all the domestic tasks like washing clothes. But sometimes I didn’t get satisfaction when someone else washed my clothes and so I used to wash them. But I stopped this around four-five years back when neighbours criticized me badly saying that I was doing women’s work when women are already there at home. But after attending the training I got the motivation and started it again. Now I think that if I do jobs like cooking and washing, people will criticize first and then they will stop someday. This fear of people’s criticism has gone away after being involved with the program.”
I have has always carried a frustration because of my forced marriage. This frustration has increased because of unemployment. I could never develop good intimacy with my wife. I used to spend the day out and even at nights I often slept in a separate bed. This continued for around 6 years and the pressure from the family was always to spend time with wife but I never responded positively. It was the gender training that made me think on this issue again and slowly I started spending time at home. Now, whenever my wife is working at home I try to help her by bringing water or providing other small assistances or even I just sit by her side so that she doesn’t feel bored while working. Earlier I used to read newspaper or gossip with friends whenever I was free. This is the change in my behaviour that my wife likes most. Initially she was a little surprised at this changing behaviour. Then I used to tell her about the learning from the training and about the fact that all of us have equal right to live with dignity. The family is also happy thinking that I am taking my marriage seriously and giving more time to wife. However, she sometimes warns me that people would criticize if I spend the whole day at home. Sometimes my brother and the sister-in-law don’t like this increased intimacy with wife and remarked that I was wasting valuable time in that.”
The most important change I find in my behaviour after involving with the program is an increased sense of responsibility. Earlier I used to ask my wife and others to do all my work. I used to throw my books anywhere in the room after returning home from tuition and ask them to find it the next day. I used to scold them when they didn’t get it quickly. I realized these mistakes and try to avoid them now. My wife, mother and younger brother are now sharing their issues with me. This was not possible earlier because of my bad mood.
Being completely income less, I often fail to meet my wife’s demands. I try my best to manage the situation coolly but sometimes it causes some irritation. But I find lot of difference in the way I handled similar situations earlier and the way I do it now. Earlier I used to react angrily at the first conversation when she asked for money and sometimes I even used physical violence. But now I try hard to get the money it and if it’s not possible I tell her the situation gently and with patience. I often tell my parents that if my wife would have been educated, even she could have tried for some employment. But they laughed and said “now you will engage your wife in earning? Get your kids and try to fulfill this desire through them.”
There has been lot of change in the thoughts and behaviour other boys in the group also. The biggest change has been that they have stopped teasing girls. Another important change I observe among the youths in our group is that they now behave with patience and respect with others. These men now don’t dominate younger ones during games and other occasions.
We often find it difficult to involve in gender activism without an employment. We remain frustrated in the absence of earning and people also don’t pay attention to what an unemployed youth is saying. Sometimes people also think that we are running these activities for money.
By Kamla Shankar, Pratapgarh, Uttar Pradesh
- Tags: UN Trust Fund