by Neken Seram
The State Bank of India does not have gender bias in giving its services as it does not entertain separate queues for women. All customers irrespective of their gender are provided tokens in serial numbers and made to wait for their turn. No matter, you are a woman or a man; you have to be attentive to the computerised voice call for availing your turn. It is justice and it does not irk anyone – male or female. However, in the ever crowded ATM booths particularly in Imphal city, there is always grumbling among the men-folk that woman shall not take advantage of being a woman by overcoming all men in the long queue. The preciousness of time and energy is felt equally to both men and women. So, is the phrase “Ladies First’ still applicable to the queues in banks, ATMs, Petrol pumps, Gas distributors, Cinema halls and so on and so forth ? Many circles opine that empowering women has nothing to do with overtaking men in hectic queues. It is not women empowerment, but a tendency towards depowering the men.
Nowadays, the status of women in Manipuri society has been considerably improved. Earlier, ladies role in important seminars, workshops and functions was generally limited to badge-pinning of VIPs, bouquet presentations and tea distribution. Mandatory participation of women in discussions and deliberations were seldom seen. However, with the appearance of a number of women intellectuals, journalists, social workers, politicians and officials in present day Manipur, the number of women delegates, lecturers and resource persons in various intellectual exercises has increased considerably. Women obviously no longer remain backward and downtrodden. The status of women is almost at par with the opposite sex. In families, in workplaces, government offices, colleges, schools, universities etc., women play greater role and take greater responsibility than men.
In middle class families of Manipur, many men are doing domestic works as the women in order to harmoniously maintain the family. Today, both the parents are made to engage their time and energy at the maximum in upbringing children. No wonder, men have to cook food, wash clothes, clean the floors and teach the children to assist their better halves. Roles of men and women have almost become the same in family maintenance.
From intellectuals, scholars and teachers to doctors and engineers, from journalists, columnists and news anchors to security officers and administrators, from artists and poets to sport stars, from politicians and social workers to successful entrepreneurs; there is no dearth of Manipuri women occupying responsible positions. Present day Manipur has given birth to bright ladies – it is proud that Manipuri women have entered in the Indian Administrative service, other than the state civil services and state police services. Manipur University has innumerable number of women professors, associate professors and so on, besides a host of lecturers teaching in colleges and schools. In reputed private schools, lady teachers take a big share as compared to men counterparts. Responsible government posts such as Superintendent of Police in vigilance department, Directors of Social Welfare department, Art & Culture and SCERT, Deputy Superintendent of Police (Traffic) in Imphal city, many other officers at the rank of
Joint Secretaries, Deputy Secretaries, SDOs, SDPOs, Finance services, SDCs etc. are held by Manipuri women at present. A number of Manipuri ladies are also serving as medical officers in the RIMS, JNIMS and other private and outside hospitals. Young Manipuri ladies are also serving as responsible positions in multi-national companies outside the state and even abroad. There are also lady news reporters, sub-editors, news readers, anchors who are in media houses of the state. In politics and social service, we have enough number of women holding responsible positions – Chairpersons of various local bodies, commissions, boards etc. Manipuri women are also sitting as Judges and Magistrates, besides innumerable number of lady advocates and Lawyers in various Law courts of Manipur.
The picture, however, is not all rosy everywhere. There are still reports of domestic violence, coercion, rape and atrocities against women. Most Manipuri women face hardships in earning, feeding and serving families. Men who go for day’s job often spend the morning at public places and hotels and the night at vendors to entertainment themselves. However, women who go to market for earning a living have also to do lots of things from household cleansing, washing clothes, morning prayer to preparing meals, feeding the child and husband etc. Many women are still living under coercion of their husbands. Women are always victims, if their husbands indulge in immoral activities. There are also men who forcibly take money from their wives to use drugs and to have drinks and also men who live with second wives out side families.
It is also disheartening that there is often a woman involved in perpetrating violence against another woman. Almost all issues of domestic violence, coercion, mishandling etc. against women involve one or the other woman of the family. A woman looks down upon another woman more than a man does with a woman. A woman seldom praises a woman in the family, in locality or in society. Mothers, sisters, daughters, mothers-in-law, daughters-in-law, sisters-in-law etc. themselves mete out discourteous and disrespectful acts of vandalism against their own sex. Generally women perpetrate their own issues and degrade their own folks instead of praising themselves and working towards their uplift. It is surely agreed by all and sundry that only women can really empower women, even though men’s role in empowering their opposite sex is not wholly negligible.
When the son indulges in unwanted behaviour outside the family, no mother bothers seriously. But when the daughter-in-law does a tiny mistake in family, the mother-in-law scolds and even ostracise, as if the former has committed an irreparable mistake in life. The vice-versa also happens in many families. Instead of sustaining and forgiving her gender counterpart, a woman tries to suppress and depress a woman. Women issues are perpetrated mostly by women, against women. Women themselves should take greater role in empowering themselves than the men.
The gender divide in the society has been hampering progress of development in almost all fields. Both legs in same strength and speed will make strides in desired direction. Two legs, but different in strength and speed will not fit to compete others. Likewise, when men and women support and co-operate each other in any development activity, the family will grow fast. The children brought up in a family where both husband and wife take unanimous and collective decisions will naturally be bright in their career. No wonder, broken families produce delinquent boys and girls. Responsibilities of housekeeping, child upbringing, family planning etc. need to be equally shared between the male and female partners. At this juncture, it is also highly necessary that a woman has to morally and physically support another woman in any endeavour. Besides teaching lessons to the men-folk, women have to collaboratively and unanimously stand for their rights and fight against the atrocities. Whenever there is unison of thought and mutual support among women, they will be protected against all odds.
(The writer is a free lance journalist)