In Indian mythology female Goddesses have ambivalent attributes. Some Goddesses like Devi or Shakti are depicted as equal to the male Gods. Some female Goddesses like Durga are often depicted as benevolent, protectors of moral order and as the consort of particular male Gods, Other depictions show certain Goddess as powerful and destructive as in the case of Kali. This ambivalence influences men in India today and one sees the full array of male attitudes to women in India.
Indian mythology has deep roots in India and it does have an affect on the psyche of Indian men and their attitude to women in general. Hindu Goddesses do not serve as paradigms for present day social values, but they do reflect certain expectations and notions prevalent in large sections of Indian society.
Many men have idealized notions of what their wives and womenfolk should be – that is they expect their wives to be similar to the “morally upright, benevolent and mild consort”. The burden of upholding this ideal sadly rests on the women.
The reality however is that some Indian men and women are more forward thinking and are transitioning into the 21st century while a whole bunch of Indian men still live in the 19th and 20th century and have notions and expectations that are at best antiquated if not archaic.
The violence seen in India especially towards women arises due to a combination of patriarchal role models as well as unrealistic notions and expectations about women.
Many men in India grow up in male dominated surroundings. Based on a patriarchal society with socially and culturally accepted separation of genders, men have little contact with females in the post puberty phase. Due to the lack of if not limited natural interaction with young women they often grow up with false notions about manliness seeing sexual dominance as necessary to show their manliness. One predominant notion that prevails among young men is the concept of “asli admi” ( the Real man) which correlates with among other characteristics the need to be sexually aggressive in order to satisfy women. So the underlying contorted ideas about masculinity among many men in India influences the attitudes prevailing in the Indian social scene.
There are very few role models of manliness that don’t involve molesting a woman. Bollywood exacerbates the matter by often depicting its film heroes with stalking or related mannerisms. Lacking a role model of masculinity, Indian men often tend to view such mannerisms as worth emulating.
There are many underlying reasons behind the Delhi gang rape and the high occurrence of rape in India, all of which need to be addressed. But social organisations in India need to correct this distorted notion of masculinity by educating the masses on a broader base than done so far and breaking down the prevailing ‘culture of silence’. It is time that social institutions in India work towards developing a “youth culture” that promotes a healthy, open, positive approach to sexuality and a normal relationship between both genders.