Of women and their position Gender policy

Encouraging to note that Social Welfare Director Ngangom Uttam is keeping the doors wide open for suggestions to give more teeth to the draft gender policy prepared by the Manipur State Commission for Women before its adoption. Let the experts and individuals who have an idea of where women stand vis-a-vis the men in society give their inputs to make such a policy more effective, which should not only appear fair for the women, but should give room to introspect on the prevalent values in society. At the same it should be kept in mind that a policy is a policy and it is the mentality of the people and society as a whole which need to wake up to the ugly reality that not everything is fine. That a place like Manipur should even contemplate something like a gender policy says something profound about where women stand vis-a-vis men and there is nothing to crow about this. A place which gave the Meira Paibi movement to the world, a place where there is a market place run and managed exclusively by womenfolk, a place where a special date is fixed to pay homage to the heroes of the two Nupi Lans and to think that situation has come to such a pass that the State Government is working on a gender policy should expose the double standard that has been maintained so far. According to some, a gender policy is deemed necessary to ensure equality of all opportunities between women, men, girls and boys so that development efforts have an equal impact on all gender. An impartial look at this line should throw some light on where exactly women stand in comparison to men in society and this is a point which cannot be swept aside while working on a model to make the proposed gender policy all encompassing. The Sangai Express does not have the draft proposal that has been worked out and are definitely not experts in this field, but looking at the reality should underline where exactly women stand in society and this should be a matter of shame for all. True Manipur has no recorded cases of female foeticide or female infanticide, but questions still remain why giving birth to a son seems to be the preferred choice of not only the parents in question but also the ‘concerned’ extended family members and the leikai ines and indonchas. This is a fact which cannot be dismissed.
Any inputs to the draft gender policy should be guided by the fact that a big change in the mentality of the people should  be the prelude. The mindset of placing women on a pedestal in the public domain but reducing them to something of a punching bag within the four walls of one’s home needs a radical remedial process. The change or the willingness to place women on an equal footing with the men should start from one’s home and this may start by questioning why a son seems to be the preferred choice amongst many in society. It is also not uncommon to see that ‘curfew hours’ for sons and daughters are vastly different in all the families here and while thoughts of safety for the young daughters is understandable one need to question why  there is this uncertainty when women step out of their house late in the evening. This is where the mindset of society needs some radical change and this should bring one back to the family. Teach the sons and the young boys to respect girls and women and this will clearly be reflected on how men behave on the roads and streets of Imphal and elsewhere. There are so many points which can be referred to while working out the gender policy and while the draft proposal must have touched on all the significant and important points, the key point is a change in the mindset of the people. And the starting block for this should be the family, the primary unit in any society. Teach the boys to respect women and the first and most important step would have been taken towards gender equality.  After this the social hypocrisy can be addressed more effectively.