Published: 29th March 2021
We need to bring up better sons who are sensitive to women's issues: Suhasini, Mihira Sood, Anuja Chauhan at ThinkEdu
Author Anuja Chauhan, actor and director Suhasini Maniratnam and lawyer Mihira Sood were speaking at TNIE's ThinkEdu Conclave 2021
We have a three-pronged issue when it comes to protecting women in the country — the quality of the laws, quality of enforcement and the lack of awareness or sensitisation, said Mihira Sood, a Supreme Court lawyer while speaking at The New Indian Express' ThinkEdu Conclave 2021 on Monday. "That is why we women remain tigresses on paper, whether it's because of poor laws or poor implementation and the lack of sensitisation. A major part of the problem is that people expect that the law will provide them with an answer to their problems, whereas what it actually does is give you an option if you are in a position to use it. We should not rely on the law as solutions," she added.
Mihira was speaking at a panel on the reality of today's Indian women along with author Anuja Chauhan, actor and director Suhasini Maniratnam, which was being chaired by senior journalist and author Kaveree Bamzai. This year's ThinkEdu Conclave is being conducted online from March 26 to March 30, 2021.
Emphasising more on how laws are not always the solution to women's issues in India, Mihira further added, "Laws are not always the solution. It is more of a social problem, women are not empowered enough to use the options they have. As a society, we are looking for quick-fix options, rather than actually think about reforming society. I don't agree with the idea that law is the answer to every social problem, it sometimes adversely affects people from marginalised communities. It has begun governing every aspect of our lives and we are keen to see a new law crop up for every problem. Rather than just coming up with new laws, policies like the right to education, affirmative action in hiring policies, higher maternity benefits are things that would actually empower women from the ground up."
Agreeing with Mihira, author Anuja Chauhan, who wrote The Zoya Factor, added, "Women in this country are not tigresses in reality as the onus on the girls all the time. As a parent, I tell my girls to go live their best lives, not care about anything, have the same freedom as boys and be fearless with their political opinions. However, as a mother, I am really frightened, it is a horrible place to be in." To this Suhasisni added, "People tend to work against you when you are a woman."
Responding to Kaveree about how laws in India are good on paper but not in action, Mihira explained that she believes we have strong laws on paper but they don’t actually do anything to improve the condition of women. "The people in power really haven’t taken the lived realities of women into account at all. On paper, India has a plethora of laws for the upliftment of women, protection of women, we have a separate Ministry for women, a national commission and state-level commissions for women. It shows that women's issues concern us as a society, our political leaders. However, we have a protectionist approach rather than the idea of empowerment in our minds, that’s the root cause of our problems with laws. For instance, the sexual harassment law at workplaces — it is a progressive law, sounds amazing but the fact is that you still have a structure where a woman is expected to file a complaint with an in-house committee that has one external member, rest are all senior people in her own organisation who probably have a closer relationship with the harasser than the woman given the hierarchical structures. Why would she even make that complaint?" asked Mihira.
Moving on, Suhasini added that "We do have laws but they don't reach women at all." To which, Mihira agreed, saying, "There is a lack of legal education. People do want to know about the laws, so it needs to be broken down, explained to them. To increase interest and awareness, laws should be made a compulsory subject at a younger age. Basic fundamental rights, basic criminal laws, which are also more relevant to children such as rape laws, child abuse, definitely need to know about these at that age."
Finally, speaking about what needs to done to create a safer country for women, Suhasini said, "We need to bring up better sons so that when they are in powerful positions, they are sensitive towards women's issues. When they begin supporting women at home only then will they do it outside." Agreeing to this, Anuja added, "Fathers of daughters are at the forefront, it is more of a social battle and it takes everybody to work together." The clincher: "We need policies that are made using our imagination and not stick to some script of how things have been done forever," concluded Mihira.