Patriarchy is the least noticed yet the most significant structure of social inequality.

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Patriarchy is understood as a form of social organization in which cultural and institutional beliefs and patterns accept, support, and reproduce the domination of women and younger menby older and powerful men. Scholars of disciplines like sociology, view patriarchal system as a ‘primary mode of oppression’ that contributes to the social, cultural, and economic superiority or hegemony of men.

In India, patriarchy is embedded in the structure of the way we live. For years, women have stayed on the receiving end of the outcomes of social and gender inequality. It unequivocally erupts from the household itself, which traditionally has been touted as a ‘safe space’ for women. The tyranny of power and the escalating need of men to take control of women is often taken for ‘given’, and people do not question its legitimacy. Many proponents of patriarchy argue that it is a natural or inevitable form of social organization, while several arguments against it confirm the brutal and discriminatory facet of this delusionary form of power relation.

Often, women themselves affirm the legitimacy of the patriarchal system. “the oppressor would not be so strong if he did not have accomplices among the oppressed”
― Simone de Beauvoir, (The Ethics of Ambiguity)

Women, often, beaten with heinous circumstances bely and berate themselves of their own human rights and individual agency. They internalize their ordeal and support the subjugation inflicted on them. Many older women in rural and backward areas of India bolster patriarchal norms and hinder young women from obliterating the shackles of ‘enslavement’ and ‘foiled-customary household organization’.

According to acclaimed sociologist Michel Foucault,

Power is not an institution, and not a structure, neither it is a certain strength we are endowed with. It is the name that one attributes to a comples strategical situation in a particular society.

Power domination has always been thirsted by societal groups. In many villages of India, mostly Haryana, patriarchal cliques of socially upper caste older men with substantial property and political synergy coagulate to form locally institutional bodies, which function to maintain and look after the “social and hierarchical moral compass” of the area, called ‘Khap Panchayat’. Hailing the superiority of age-old norms and customs, these “forefathers” set the paradigms of social conduct. Many young couples, who defy the barriers of caste to fall in love are tortured and killed through the collective decisions of these ‘brutal institutions’. Even the law enforcement agencies do not rise to help the innocent men and women, who succumb to their ill-fate and ‘delusionary incoming of patriarchy’.

Women suffer the most, as their upbringing is centrally demarcated from that of men, and are essentially, from the first baby steps, made to believe that they are inferior to men.Cases of young girls minor being married to older men, sex-trafficking, domestic violence, rape and honour killing have heightened. During COVID- 19 lockdown, India recorded 2.5 times increase in cases of domestic violence against women. The lockdown dispossessed women of their ‘escape-route’ to evade violence, and made them live with their torturous partners.

Men in India, enjoy more rights and privileges. They are made to comply by the ego-standards set for them by societal guardians, who humiliate men, if they earn less than their female-partners, or when they are soft and subtle in nature. Dictums like-‘ Men don’t cry’ bolster the ideology, that- ideal men have to be emotionless beings who dominate women and ensure their supremacy over them. Patriarchy has melted into different forms of aggressive and periodt debates that preface statements like- ‘women are the sacrificing pillars of the society, who bear the cost of all privileges the men acquire’.

A woman is expected to leave their jobs to take care of the family, even though she belongs to a highly educated family. She is expected to learn cooking and cleaning, and most importantly, a women is eyed by the society if she raises her voice against such patriarchal norms. She is demonised and insulted for choosing to get education or pursue a job instead of getting married, she is looked down upon if doesn’t change her surname after marriage. A girl is rural area is even not allowed to own a mobile or wear jeans. It is stated that- such behaviours and demeanours of girls are provocative and invite ‘excited’ men to rape them.

In many religious societies, ‘Female Genital Mutilation’ is practised to control sexual urges of women. They are rendered the responsibility of quenching the sexual urges of men ,by objectifying and giving up their bodies.

India in 2021 has slipped 28 places, in ‘IMF Gender equality Index- 2021’, and has been ranked 140th among 156 nations participating in the rankings. This substantiates the miserable plight of women and underscores the extremely low participation of women in economic activities. They are engaged in care-economy or household chores, with no dividends of work, which derails their empowerment and ‘indentity-relevance’.

Patriarchy has chained women and cut their wings of emancipation for ages. It’s high time, that instead of pleading the governments to initiate steps to empower women, we , together as a social force try to change the anatomy of social constraints and make India a favourable place for women.

-Namrata Sinha

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