“Protection and empowerment are really different things and perhaps don’t always go together.”

Carvaka shared this link and message.

‘Put curbs on Facebook, mobiles to protect girls’

Note the headline saying ‘protect’. You know that these traditionalists have sunk low when even TOI commenters can call their bluff.

Apparently our authority figures cannot tell the difference between protecting and restricting. I actually wonder if there is much difference. I wonder if there can be freedom when you need body guards and guidelines. Protection and empowerment are really different things and perhaps don’t always go together.

I don’t know what level this repot is at but I think some will like this better than the Justice Verma report.”

‘Put curbs on Facebook, mobiles to protect girls’

MUMBAI: The Dharmadhikari panel, in its third interim report to the state government, has suggested placing restrictions on social networking sites as they “corrupt adolescents”.

What do you think? Is it possible to be empowered when you are being restricted and/or ‘protected’? Is it possible to be really safe when you are not empowered?


42 thoughts on ““Protection and empowerment are really different things and perhaps don’t always go together.”

  1. I’ve stopped reading these articles in the papers! I mean – WTF?!!
    Of course there’s no safety without empowerment…
    restrictions dont help anyone and we have plenty of examples in history!
    how does putting restrictions on Facebook of all things, help not “corrupt adolescents”?!! sheesh!


  2. This article (TOI one) has me confused.
    It soes put forth some goo points:
    1. Make stalking and blackmailing serious offences in line with that done in US, and certain states like Tamil Nadu and Orissa.
    2. It also felt political parties should not give tickets to candidates involved in offences against women.
    3. Publish and upload on websites the names and details of people convicted by courts for atrocities on women.
    It seems harsh I know but some sort of measures of this variety are required. I mean, a person who has caused deaths of multiple partners should be made know to public so that no other person/ family might suffer. See I said person, not men. Saat Khoon Maaf any one?

    Though : “being a mute spectator is a crime” does seem harsh, it is fundamentally right since that does imply allowing the criminal to get away, though it should be judged according to risks involved in attept to interfere, no risk in calling the police right? Although, it doesn’t seem so hash when applied to police who are supposed to help the victim and not le the culprit get away!

    Now for the confusing ones:
    1. Also suggested was a ban on advertisements depicting women indecently.
    Define indecent: Since baring navel in t-shirt is indecent but doing the same in Indian wear is not. Similarly, man in jockeys is indecent, but man in lungi is not. Also given that some men get ‘turned on’ by just about anything, even burkha might not be decent enough.

    May be, humans should be banned from adverts altogether? (sniggers)

    2. Publish and upload on websites the names and details of people convicted by courts for atrocities on women.

    It suggested putting up such details on an independent website and social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter. “This is mainly to create awareness and prohibit such crimes,” the panel said.

    And yet also says:

    There should be restrictions on “networking, Facebook, mobile phone and vulgar and indecent conversations and exchange of pictures”.

    How exactly do we spread awareness through facebook while also restricting (by which they obviously mean banning) it?

    3. The panel, interestingly, has recommended enlisting men who train at akhadas and gymnasiums for protection of women.

    No harm, may be. If only someone could explain what the police are going to be doing if these trained security guards are going to do protection of people! Also, who is going to pay them? People/ government? If government if going to pay them, is the money coming out of the budget for security of our er… beloved leaders? Another one, who will protect us from them (bodyguards)?

    What do you think? Is it possible to be empowered when you are being restricted and/or ‘protected’? Is it possible to be really safe when you are not empowered?


    Because eventually, we will also be restricted from protecting ourself!
    Since all this does is it EMPOWERS goons to harrsess people but RESTRICTS people from defending themself!


    • Well said.

      I was confused by this too. I think to get where they are coming from, one has to ignore the inconvenient fact that women are also people who want freedom. If I wanted to keep my pet safe, I might tie it to a tree inside my house. Protection and restriction become the same thing.

      Also, “How exactly do we spread awareness through facebook while also restricting (by which they obviously mean banning) it?”, awesome and made me chuckle. 😀


  3. There is a thin line separating protection and control. It is difficult to know when you are crossing over. And this boundary issue has to do not just with suggestions made by a panel, but also with how people behave in everyday life. So the next time you feel like protecting someone, please question your own motives, and you may realize that rather than protect your aim is control someone to your own benefit.


    • very true.. tis is wat i feel.. in name of protection, ppl actually want to control!! safety doesnt have anything to do with it.. there have been rapes and murders wen women were SAFELY INSIDE HOME…


  4. I wonder why the women in the countries that are the best for women never need ‘protection’. Indian women aren’t glass vessels that need to be ‘protected’ from breaking or something insane like that.
    Oh if only our ever-so-wonderfully-caring traditionalist countrymen could see that social media, phones etc don’t lead to violence against women. It’s their misogyny that does that and it’s their narrow mindedness that actually exacerbates that kind of behaviour. Sick people.


  5. Every day, we break new grounds of empowerment.

    Simultaneously, some parts of our society refuse to break out of their regressive mindsets.

    The same people who think these ridiculous suggestions are a good idea, also tend to believe that Saudi Arabia is a safe haven for women, while the West is rife with rape and assault. It’s not just men either. My own mother was very impressed by IIT-M’s plan to provide a chaperone style service to female students, in order to avoid harassment after dark.

    Empowered people do not need to be protected. However, since not all of us are truly empowered, some degree of protection is necessary. My own problem is not with protection itself, but the fact that ‘protection’ so often devolves into easy solutions such as simply sequestering away victims. Rather than expend effort and money on reducing crime, the authorities prefer to create artificial barriers and then guard those barriers effectively.

    What does this result in? It results in the disappearance of women from public spaces. It results in a legitimization of the very crimes that women are sought to be protected against. It results in the broadcast of a message of complete helplessness from law enforcement. It results in additional controls upon the very people the legislation is meant to benefit.

    My only response is one of contempt and disappointment. We can do much better than this.


    • Agree completely. I’ve just returned from a month-long stay in Mumbai for a new project.
      I stayed with family on Carter Road and had gotten used to seeing women in shorts jogging or walking along the road or in Jogger’s Park.

      While visiting family in Shivaji Park, Dadar, I was reminded just how big a difference cultural attitudes make to women’s everyday freedom.

      While I could see many women walking in shorts on Carter Road, in Shivaji Park, I could see women wearing salwar kameez or jeans, none in shorts.

      Same city, two areas a few kms apart; but a yawning chasm in what was considered acceptable female attire.

      Why do women feel its safe to wear shorts on Carter Road but not Dadar? It’s patrolled by the same police force; is in the same city; yet it could be in two different eras culturally.


      • We visit India frequently for work and family – I can feel this difference too – I like to go for a run in the mornings and my hubby hates waking up early – I can do this easily in certain areas. In others, I don’t. You can’t run in jeans or salwar kameez, it’s gotta be shorts.


  6. How about a ban on TV, and Movies? Aren’t they also contributing to corruption of adolescents? What about malls, cyber cafes? When will they be banned? Just imprison an adolescent at home for the entire time period of their adolescence to ‘protect’ them.That should work, right? Facebook and Cell phones won’t suffice.


  7. “tend to believe that Saudi Arabia is a safe haven for women”
    I also frequently come across TOI comments saying sharia law is great for women and Saudi Arabia is very safe and we should emulate them. I don’t think they actually read anything that comes of Saudi about their sexual violence laws and ‘policing’. For example:

    Rape victim sentenced to lashes and jail http://www.today.com/id/15836746/#.USiPOKWby0U

    Father rapes and kills 5 year old, let off with a few months in jail and blood money. Husbands and fathers cannot be executed for killing their wife or children. http://www.aljazeera.com/news/middleeast/2013/02/201323223618362435.html

    Girls fatally prevented from escaping fire in school by the religious police because they were not wearing full islamic clothing. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/1874471.stm.

    The difference between the suggested ‘bodyguards’ and these religious police is just the thin line between ‘protecting’ and controlling. If the guards are more empowered than the women they are guarding, protection will simply merge into control. A great way for the authorities to ensure the women aren’t stepping out of line and using facebook or mobile phones. For their own good of course!


    • The Dharmadhikari panel is recommending a ‘solution’ that has already been implemented in countries like UAE and Saudi that had/have banned social networking sites on ‘morality’ grounds.
      I think it’s highly distressing to me, as an Indian citizen, when
      government-appointed panels in my DEMOCRATIC country, are speaking the same language as officials in those autocratic states which have questionable attitudes towards women’s (make that human) rights.
      Surely we are better than this!


  8. Nothing but a thinly veiled attempt to ban women from another sphere of public life, i.e. the internet and mobile communication. After all, if they are allowed to use Facebook etc., they might actually dare and team up against outrageous politicians/gurus/assaulters! The horror!

    //sarcasm off


  9. Social media is connecting people in a very powerful way. We had a vigil for the girl in Delhi who was gang raped on a bus. One person posted the suggestion and within 20 minutes, 250 people signed up. They brought their friends and spouses along and the park got so crowded. Without social media we would all have been sitting at home wondering how people can get away with such things, we would be feeling frustrated, helpless, cynical. Instead it was nice to see people discuss this issue in public. People of many different cultures talked about empowerment and felt empowered. They felt connected. We realized we are not alone – that there are other thinking people out there who want to change things in a positive way.

    BTW we live nowhere near India. Why should we be affected by this incident in faraway Delhi? Once again, the power of social media. Makes you care, makes you think, makes you want to do something about it. Makes you recognize the same patterns everywhere, regardless of where you live. Even those that don’t see these problems with our culture, even those who grew up never questioning anything – it gets them thinking for the first time in their lives.

    This is what they’re afraid of. Free speech and expression are threatening. What’s more, now we have a powerful medium to aid free expression of thoughts and ideas. This directly threatens an archaic system that discourages questioning, conflict, and self-determination.
    I agree with others’ comments that this is another thinly guised attempt to seize control in the name of protection.


  10. But this is a continuing battle. Many bloggers themselves are divided as to whether women should be “protected” or empowered. Here are a few examples:

    1. Criminalizing breach of promise of marriage instead of letting women make mistakes
    2. Giving women a mandatory 50% share of assets during divorce – even those inherited by the man as ancestral property.

    Both of these measures “protect” women at the cost of dis-empowering them. If I’m not mistaken, you yourself were in favor of measures like this a while ago?

    Personally I’m of the opinion that we have to stop “protecting women” and let them be adults. Let them make mistakes and take control of their lives.


    • What I said was – whatever is earned during the marriage (Not what either of them inherits) should be jointly owned. I had blogged about this here,
      1. Should couples’ assets be treated as joint property?

      2. Cabinet clears bill: Equal rights in Marital property, Easier divorce.

      Why? Because like you read in this email, it is common for wives to give up their careers, even when they don’t wish to. Would it empower women if societal norms (as good as unwritten rules/More powerful than the law of the land) are allowed to let in laws, families and husbands keep women financially dependent?

      An email: “She is considering having an abortion without telling her husband about it.”

      And, then here, https://indianhomemaker.wordpress.com/2013/02/17/an-update-my-friend-is-having-the-baby-because-her-mother-absolutely-refused-to-support-her-decision-to-abort/

      Knowing the wife has equal right on whatever they make during the marriage (specially, in case of a divorce) would make an Indian man and his family think many times before demanding she gives up her career.

      It would also be fair because most of the times, the daughters in law are made to hand over whatever they earn (and dowry) to the in laws/husband.

      An email from a Mother in law.

      And they are not compensated for the work they do.
      Society benefits immensely from childbearing, childrearing, and caregiving work that currently goes unpaid.

      How (do you think) can the society ensure that marriage (and homemaking) does not result in women becoming financially dependent on their husbands?


      • “Would it empower women if societal norms (as good as unwritten rules/More powerful than the law of the land) are allowed to let in laws, families and husbands keep women financially dependent?”

        I think this is the core question. And my view is that as long as it’s only “societal norms” and not the threat of violence, then yes – it should be allowed.

        Again – if there is even the implicit threat of violence, then I have a problem with that. Otherwise, it’s a question of empowerment that we’re telling women “You have the ability to say ‘No’. We’re not going to tell you what to do and ‘protect’ you. It’s your choice”.


    • In a social socio-economic scenario which already disempowers women (and minorities, and the less well-off, and various other groups), it is necessary to provide certain protections in order to safeguard individual rights. If the playing field was level, none of this would be necessary; as it happens, some of us believe that a helping hand is required.

      That said, I don’t think most feminists are in favor of the first protection. It is not really a form of protection at all, but rather a manifestation of a deeply patriarchal view of human relationships. It is a ridiculous perversion of the law which trivializes rape, and detracts from the real issues that women (and men) face in a society such as ours.

      As for the second, I believe IHM’s support was towards dividing marital (not ancestral or otherwise non-marital) property.

      I do not see how a division in marital property can be termed dis-empowerment. There can be other objections to such a measure, resting, for example, on the idea of fairness to each party.
      But granting a woman a share in the tangible financial assets that she almost certainly helped create is a far cry from the sort of ‘protection’ touted by the people who would rather ban cellular phones and social networking. Comparing the two is, in my view, quite disingenuous.


      • I don’t recall complaining that a woman gets a share in the tangible marital assets. If you can show me where I said that, it would be helpful…

        I’m complaining that the share is set in stone at 50% regardless of the actual state of the marital relationship. Regardless of the fact that the wife may have been earning more than the husband.

        The share should be decided after looking at the situation in question and making a fair judgement. Gender should be irrelevant. In fact, the words “husband”, “wife”, “man”, “woman” should not be used at all!

        And that is my complaint. Not that the woman is getting a share of the assets.


        • Regardless, your objection, like the law itself, seems to be predicated on fairness, not empowerment.

          It’s a rather long stretch to call a fixed 50% share in marital assets dis-empowering, even if it is (in some scenarios) not very fair.

          Like I said, one may raise objections based on the ethics of dividing tangible assets according to a certain predefined formula. I am not denying the validity of objections of this sort.

          I am merely pointing out that this is rather irrelevant to the subject at hand. It is nonsensical to compare such a law to a report which suggests that banning or controlling social networking and other forms of communication might be a good solution to sexual harassment/assault. I, for one, do not see how support for the former must relate in any way to one’s opinions on the latter.


        • The number of women who earn more than their husbands in a middle-class or upper-class setting is quite miniscule.

          I am using a middle-class or upper-class context here because people in the lower classes just leave their spouses and remarry without ever divorcing them.


      • @biwo

        “The number of women who earn more than their husbands in a middle-class or upper-class setting is quite miniscule.”

        Middle class or upper middle class people are citizens of the country as well. They deserve the fair treatment of the law just like everyone. You can’t just throw them under the bus in the name of helping the poor.


      • I would call a fixed 50% disempowering because it’s the government essentially saying “You can’t take care of yourself because you’re a woman. In fact, because you’re a woman, it is IMPOSSIBLE that you will ever earn more than your husband and have more assets than him”.

        This is the official stand by the government. You don’t think that such an attitude formally instituted into law is disempowering?


        • Actually, that is not the official stand of the government, but rather your personal interpretation of the law. It’s not even a particularly useful interpretation, because by that logic, the law dis-empowers men too.

          As it happens, the original law fixed a 50% formula, because it was considered impractical to go into the details of every marriage and come out with a formula specific to each. I know this, because I took an intimate interest in the bill while it was being drafted, and in fact, read the minutes of almost every meeting where it was discussed.

          While intangibles are valued on an everyday basis during corporate mergers and such, it was felt that the sheer volume of cases before Indian courts would make it very difficult indeed for any judge to find the time and wherewithal to come up with unique formula for each case; a decision that would, in any case be too subjective to hold much value. In such a scenario, 50% was felt to be a fair split, regardless of the actual incomes of the protagonists.

          You may take issue with such reasoning, but you cannot invent your own rationales for laws that were drafted a certain way for different reasons. That’s nothing short of intellectual dishonesty.


        • But even if she makes more money than him, they split it 50:50 right? So how is this assuming that she can never make more money than him? I would interpret it more to mean that no matter who makes the money, it belongs to both. I think this is based on the assumption that marriage is a partnership and one’s success is also owed to other contributions from the partner. I’m not saying that’s accurate for every marriage, but that is how the law reads to me.


      • I’m sorry, but countries all over the world are able to have a fair divorce process. There are ways to have a framework that is much fairer. I used to write for a law firm for several years and I know for a fact what is possible and what’s not. Saying that “it’s too complex” is criminal incompetence. I’m a bit shocked that such a reason could hold any water whatsoever. It deserves contempt and outrage.

        Also, I’m pretty sure the 50% extending to the ancestral property of a man was a deliberate decision to “protect” women regardless of the actual circumstances.

        You say that I’m reading my own reasoning into the law. But since this interpretation is so glaringly obvious, the onus is on the government and/or the defenders of the law to prove otherwise.

        Also, while you accuse me of putting my own interpretations into the motives for this absurd law, you yourself are putting your own interpretations on my objections and accusing me of dishonesty.

        Let’s not get personal here. I’m not interested in your personal motivations, and I expect that you respect the same with me.


    • I was also ambivalent about that ad too. Should men be told to look after women more than vice versa? The ad seems to say that men should fulfil responsibilities without making a big deal about it. Don’t women have as much responsibility towards their partners as men do? It’s a well made ad but the concept doesn’t sit well with me.

      Just like women on my facebook posting messages about how the right man treats his woman like a queen. What does that mean? It suggests being a kept woman and I detest that.


      • For the longest time when we went out, my husband would walk on my side where the cars/traffic was whizzing by 🙂 nowadays he walk ont he pavement side, apparently I’m quite safe from traffic crashing into me but need to be protected from roadside fuzzy hands !!!
        trust me I’m no spring chicken , although i have a decent figure ( after much effort in the weights/aerobics department) and constant nagging from my husband about not wanting to spend his twilight years alone.
        anyway inspite of my fine figure i can safely say i’m in the aunty category and dress in india to indian aunty standards 🙂 ( just joking) i have had multiple instances of teens? 20’s ish men rubbing me, pinching my waist and my non-existant butt. are indian men really so desperate??? I’ve crossed beyond the being embarassed stage to the really annoyed aunty part and i yell , and if i catch then settle for a long long lecture on morals and personal space and dignity,
        to avoid the hassle my poor spouse now walks next to me and keeps switching to the side of most danger — really really irritating when one is trying to hold a conversation, walk without stepping on unmentionables on our roads and keep from bumping the janta…. sad


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