The Knee-Jerk Reaction

On 6 December 2019, a rather peculiar incident took place in Telangana. Cyberabad Police Commissioner VC Sajjanar was welcomed amongst drum rolls and cheers of “Telangana Police Ki Jai” He had shot four suspects of a recent case in an encounter, in which according to the police they tried to flee. The local populace cheered and hailed that justice was delivered and that the rapists deserve this.

On a calmer analysis, outside fierce exchanges and outrage, there is sufficient possibility that the killed may or may not be rapists and VC Sajjanar could have been an extrajudicial killer in a uniform. Yet, there has been a trend to jump to conclusions that most of the time are backed by emotions and prejudice. In this case, the notion that no law courts were required to declare them guilty and so-called on the spot justice is right is a very good example of what we can refer to as the "knee-jerk" reaction.

Impromptu reactions and judgments on important issues and incidents usually outrage filled emotions rather than logic and lawfulness is what I call the knee-jerk reaction.

Now we will try to understand the knee-jerk reaction by society and its effect on gender sensitization.

It is a fact that women have been subject to violence and discrimination for a very long period of time. In the historical context, it can be said they were and are victims of systematic violence. As a civilized society, it is our onus to contribute towards a gender-equal society.

Currently, we strive to achieve a society that we always have been longing for. However, in the process, we often get consumed by rage and emotions and tend to make judgments that leave behind rationality, logic, and lawfulness.

This has a far-reaching consequence not only on the person accused but also normalizes a practice in the society which is fundamentally flawed. For instance, Manav Singh, a student of class 12 was accused of sexual abuse on social media by a girl. These accusations had no proof for the same. Manav also received threat calls and messages after her story went viral on social media. This was followed by large scale public shaming, disrepute and mental stigma. Later Manav committed suicide.

The question of the hour is who is responsible for Manav’s death and many more ‘Manav’s who don’t receive public attention. On the opposite side of the coin, the blazing outrage and emotions towards women safety take to the freezer when it comes to the issue of male harassment. The outrage and vehemence of the public are somewhere lost in the lines “Mard ko Dard Nahin Hota ” (Translation: "Real men feel no pain."). I think it’s also because of the belief that men are insensitive and more privileged than women. Hence they cannot be harassed like women are. However, the reality is that men have to bear the burden of expectations, stereotypes, societal pressures as well as having fewer resources to deal with the same.

Many such cases go unreported because they are afraid of being mocked by not only their co-workers but also their very own family, friends and most importantly the so-called progressive society. They may believe that men can’t truly be sexually harassed by a woman, or that being harassed by another man implicates their sexuality. A big fear is always being framed in a false case by the aggressor women, which is likely to get acceptance.

In the end, I would leave it to the readers if we need an aggressive emotion filled response or sweep issues like male harassment under the carpet. But, I think we do not need both.

-Inshal Abbas

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