- written by Anisha Niyas
I came across an interesting tweet a few days ago. It read: “If you can teach your daughter about safety, you should teach your son about consent.” It addresses a very real issue in our society on gender inequality. As young girls and women, we are taught to always be careful. To never walk alone in the streets at night, to always have a second look at what we wear, that there are men out there who think access to our bodies are their right…in public transport, on the streets, in crowded places, in schools, workplaces, the list goes on. The burden is solely the woman’s to bear, so much so that being harassed, abused, cat-called, assaulted is almost a part of normal day to day life.
As a woman who has experienced physical assault by someone I once dated, it makes me sad to say that violence against women is not only common place but deeply entrenched in our society. If someone hits you and doesn’t draw blood you are expected to just get over it. It makes me even sadder to say that every single female friend I have has experienced some form of assault, harassment or abuse in their life time. Every single one. What does that say about our society? What does that say about our culture? Don’t we burden the weight of blame on women only? What about our sons, fathers, cousins, boyfriends? Shouldn’t the responsibility to acknowledge, accept and address the problem lie equally in the hands of both sexes?
Violence against women cannot be addressed or solved without the engagement of men. That much is clear. Our responsibility lies in teaching our sons and daughters about the concepts of safety and consent. Too often we berate our daughters on what they should not do; with little focus on teaching our son’s the values of mutual respect, understanding and responsibility. This is where we go wrong because violence against women is an issue that affects both genders in equal measure. Sons who grow up in abusive households often become abusers themselves. Daughters, who experience abuse at a young age, grow up to accept this as normal.
This is where the cycle starts and it affects the lives of many, like an unwanted curse passed on from generation to generation. Addressing this issue starts with education and although this being taught in schools is a long way off in Sri Lanka, at least let’s the conversation start at home.