Sex & The City

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  • Published 30.10.06

The first arrest has been made under the domestic violence act. But last week, with the act barely out of Parliament, a group of men went slightly wild. To protect the hallowed institution from the threat of “legalised terrorism” by women, they launched a protest group called Save the Indian Family. When anyone who has been in touch with contemporary Indian culture knows that nothing can save the Indian family since Rakhi Sawant burst onto the scene and I will not dwell on the word “burst” in this context.

A democracy has to allow for all sorts of phenomena and their expression: Rakhi Sawant, Gandhiji T-shirts following his rehabilitation through a film starring a bomb blast accused, the possibility of Navjot Singh Sidhu printing his complete works… So why should men who feel that all women are potentially terrorists be stopped from holding their protest march?

But I was just wondering what made the men feel so threatened. There doesn’t seem to be much reason.

India is the world capital of legislation — it loves to pass acts that will never be implemented. Otherwise the act banning child labour would never have been passed. Without children in our homes, tea stalls, factories and red light areas, the economy will crumble and all foreign journalists will go away.

The domestic violence act is very welcome and it will be a shot in the arm for many women, but I have a feeling that many more will never know about it. I know a young woman who works as a cook at several houses. She has two children. She was a bright student and her parents — her father is a watchman — had high hopes for her.

But she met a dashing young man one day, the chief mason at a nearby building under construction, and fell in love. True, he drank, but love is a great cure for alcohol. So she gave up school to watch him slap the cement on the freshly-laid bricks and never was watching paint dry so much fun. She married him.

Now he doesn’t work, drinks and drinks and sometimes takes a break to beat her up. The women who read the papers would probably have turned to the law enforcement agencies in her situation, but it is unlikely that she will.

The act, the men said, brought into being by “modern sadists” and “modern Surpanakhas”, would encourage terrorist activity by women. Are the men worried about this girl?

The men can also take heart from the areas covered by the act. It tries to map the crucial areas of torture — marital rape and sexual, physical, verbal and economic violence — and in that it is generous. But it leaves out some notoriously unspoken facts about the tortures of living with a man. They can lead to slow death for the woman.

What happens when every day, after a hectic time at the office, the woman comes and sees the floor strewn with empty plastic bottles, which means that not only she has to put them back, but also fill them with filtered water? Then the wait at the filter? Then to find that an empty pizza box is lying on the bed? To find that the fan had not been switched off, though he left home later and came back earlier? That the clothes are all to be folded, while he watches the recap of how India lost because they played Dhoni at number six? To feel too tired by the end of dinner to give in to his wish — of watching a movie together? To have to scream at him, though that’s not how it should have been at all? Day after day after day?

What is the name of this torture? The Daily Grind? The Lazy Mind? The Thick Hind? Whatever it is, it is again unlikely that many women, though living through this, will report to the police the details of their domestic lives.

Then what are the men so scared of?

I think the secret is that it takes very little to make men feel scared. Anything that poses a threat to their control of the world makes them tremble. Even the thought of a threat makes them scared. Sometimes they invent the scare, a great big bogey, from nothing, just to assert themselves. Like George Bush Jr. and the Weapons of Mass Destruction.

It is probably no coincidence that the men who formed the society see the women as “terrorists”, “modern sadists” and “modern Surpanakhas”. They could be talking about Weapons of Mass Destruction too.