How a Lack of Touch is Destroying Men |MAP

By Mark Greene on Saturday January 28th, 2017

Why Men Need More Platonic Touch in their Lives

In preparing to write about the lack of gentle touch in men’s lives, I right away thought, “I feel confident I can do platonic touch, but I don’t necessarily trust other men to do it. Some guy will do something creepy. They always do”. Quickly on the heels of that thought, I wondered, “Wait a minute, why do I distrust men in particular?” The little voice in my head didn’t say, “I don’t necessarily trust people to not be creepy”, it said, “I don’t trust men”.

In American culture, we believe that men can never be entirely trusted in the realm of the physical. We collectively suspect that, given the opportunity, men will revert to the sexual at a moment’s notice. That men don’t know how to physically connect otherwise. That men can’t control themselves. That men are dogs.

There is no corresponding narrative about women.

Men have a lack of platonic touch in their livesMen need gentle platonic touch in their lives just as much as women do.

Touch Isolation

Accordingly, it has become every man’s job to prove they can be trusted, in each and every interaction, day by day and case by case. In part, because so many men have behaved poorly. And so, we prove our trustworthiness by foregoing physical touch completely in any context in which even the slightest doubt about our intentions might arise. Which, sadly, is pretty much every context we encounter.

We crave touch. We are cut off from it. The result is touch isolation.

And where does this leave men? Physically and emotionally isolated. Cut off from the deeply human physical contact that is proven to reduce stress, encourage self esteem and create community. Instead, we walk in the vast crowds of our cities alone in a desert of disconnection. Starving for physical connection.

We crave touch. We are cut off from it. The result is touch isolation.

Men experience touch isolationMen crave touch but are cut off from it and experience touch isolation.

The Comfort of Contact

How often do men actually get the opportunity to express affection through lasting platonic touch? How often does it happen between men? Or between men and women? Not a hand shake or a hug, but lasting physical contact between two people that is comforting and personal, but not sexual. Between persons who are not lovers and never will be. Think holding hands. Or leaning on each other. Sitting together. That sort of thing. Just the comfort of contact. And if you are a man, imagine five minutes of contact with another man. How quickly does that idea raise the ugly specter of homophobia? And why?

While women are much freer to engage in physical contact with each other, men remain suspect when they touch others. There is only one space in our culture where long-term platonic physical contact is condoned for men, and that is between fathers and their very young children.

Physical contact that is not sexualHow often do men experience physical contact without it being sexual?

The Transformative Effect of Fatherhood

I found this kind of physical connection when my son was born. As a stay at home dad, I spent years with my son. Day after day, he sat in the crook of my arm, his little arm across my shoulder, his hand on the back of my neck. As he surveyed the world from on high, I came to know a level of contentment and calm that had previously been missing in my life.

The physical connection between us was so transformative that it changed my view of who I am and what my role is in the world. Yet it took having a child to bring this calming experience to me because so few other opportunities are possible to teach men the value and power of gentle loving touch.

Fatherhood transforms touch for menFatherhood has the potential to transform the way men think about touch.

A Lack of Physical Connection

As a young child and as a teenager, contact between myself and others simply didn’t happen unless it came in the form of rough housing or unwelcome bullying. My mother backed off from contact with me very early on, in part, I think, due to her upbringing. I can only guess that in her parent’s house physical touch was something for toddlers, but not for children past a certain age. Add to that, the fact that my father was absent due to my parent’s divorce and years of work overseas, and it meant I grew up without being held or touched.

This left me with huge insecurities about human contact. I was well into my twenties before I could put my arm around a girl I was dating without first getting drunk. To this day, I remain uncertain about where and how to approach contact with people, even those I consider close friends. It’s not that I can’t do it, it’s just that it remains awkward, odd. As if we all feel like we’re doing something slightly…off?

Contact with male friends is always brief; a handshake, or a pat on the back. Hugs with men or women are a ballet of the awkward, a comedic choreography in which we turn our groins this way or that. Shoulders in, butts out, seeking to broadcast to anyone within line of sight that we are most certainly not having a sexual moment. We’re working so hard to be seen as sexually neutral that we take no joy in these moments of physical connection.

Lack of physical contact from a young ageMen often experience a lack of gentle touch from others from a young age.

The Sexualising of Touch

Not only do we men distrust others in this muddled realm of physical touch, but years of shaming and judgement have left us distrusting ourselves. Did I enjoy that too much? Am I having taboo thoughts? This distrust leaves us uncertain about touching another human being unless we have established very clear rules of engagement. Often we give up and simply reduce those rules to being in a relationship. We allow ourselves long-lasting comforting touch with our girlfriends or boyfriends. The vast universe of platonic human touch is suddenly reduced to the exclusive domain of one person and is blended into the sexual. That’s a lot of need to put on one person, however loving and generous they might be.

Which leads to the question, how do we teach our sons to understand how touch works? How to parse out the sexual from the platonic? Is the pleasure of human contact inherently sexual to some degree? I doubt it’s a question the average Italian man would ever ask himself. But here in America, generations of puritanical sexual shaming have made it a central question. By putting the fear of the sexual first in all our interactions, we have thrown out the baby with the bathwater, avoiding all contact rather than risk even the hint of unwanted sexual touch.

The sexualising of touchThe sexualising of touch means that physical contact can be uncomfortable for men.

Giving up Human Contact

Many parents step back from physical contact with boys when their sons approach puberty. The contact these boys seek is often deemed confusing or even sexually suspect. And, most unbelievable of all, all opportunity for potential physical touch is abruptly handed over to young girls, who are suddenly expected to act as gatekeepers to touch, and who are no more prepared to take on this responsibility than boys are to hand it over.

And so boys are cast adrift with two unspoken lessons:

  1. All touch is sexually suspect
  2. Find a girlfriend or give up human contact

A particularly damning message to boys who are gay.

American culture leaves boys few options. While aggression on the basketball court or bullying in the locker room often results in sporadic moments of human contact, gentleness likely does not. And young men, whose need for touch is channeled into physically rough interactions with other boys or fumbling sexual contact with girls, lose conscious awareness of the gentle, platonic contact of their own childhoods. Sometimes it’s not until their children are born that they rediscover gentle platonic touch; the holding and caring contact that is free from the drumbeat of sex, sex, sex that pervades our culture, even as we simultaneously condemn it.

Gentle touch is not manlyThe message is that gentle touch is not part of being a man in our society.

Craving Real Connection

Is it any wonder that sexual relationships in our culture are so loaded with anger and fear? Boys are dumped on a desert island of physical isolation, and the only way they can find any comfort is to enter the blended space of sexual contact to get the connection they need.

This makes sexual relations a vastly more high stakes experience than it already should be. We encourage aggressive physical contact as an appropriate mode of contact for boys and turn a blind eye to bullying, even as we then expect them to work out some gentler mode of sexual contact in their romantic lives.

If men could diffuse their need for physical connection across a much wider set of platonic relationships, it would do wonders for our sense of connection in the world. As it is, we can’t even manage a proper hug because we can’t model what was never modeled for us.

Platonic relationship modelingThere needs to be more modeling for men of a range of platonic relationships.

The Value of Touch

We have seniors in retirement homes who are visited by dogs they can hold and pet. This helps to improve their health and emotional state of mind. It is due to the power of contact between living creatures. Why are good-hearted people driving around town, taking dogs to old folks homes? Because no one is touching these elderly people.

We know the value of touch, even as we do everything we can to shield ourselves from it.

They should have grandchildren in their laps every day, or a warm human hand to hold, not Pomeranians who come once a week. And yet, we put a dog in their laps instead of giving them human touch, because we remain a culture that holds human contact highly suspect. We know the value of touch, even as we do everything we can to shield ourselves from it.

Animals help to alleviate loneliness for old peopleOlder people are brought therapy animals to alleviate the lack of touch in their lives.

Fear of Judgement

We American men have a tragic laundry list of reasons why we are not comfortable with touch:

  1. We fear being labeled as sexually inappropriate by women.
  2. We live in a virulently homophobic culture so all contact between men is suspect.
  3. We don’t want to risk any hint of being sexual toward children.
  4. We don’t want to risk our status as macho or authoritative by being physically gentle.
  5. We don’t ever want to deal with rejection when we reach out.

But at the root of all these flawed rationalizations is the fact that most American men are never taught to do gentle non-sexual touch. We are not typically taught that we can touch and be touched as a platonic expression of joyful human contact. Accordingly, the very inappropriate over-sexualized touch our society fears runs rampant, reinforcing our culture’s self fulfilling prophecy against men and touch. Meanwhile, this inability to comfortably connect via touch has left men emotionally isolated, contributing to rampant rates of alcoholism, depression and abuse.

The fear around touch leads to isolationThe fear that surrounds physical connection results in men becoming isolated.

The Prohibition Against Platonic Touch

And what if the lack of platonic touch is causing some men to be far too aggressive toward women, who, as the exclusive gatekeepers for gentle touch are carrying a burden they could never hope to fully manage? Women, who are arguably both victims of and, in partnership with men, enforcers of the prohibition against platonic touch in American culture? The impact of our collective touch phobia is felt across our society by every single man, woman and child.

Brené Brown, in her ground breaking TED Talk titled The Power of Vulnerability talks at length about the limitations men face when attempting to express vulnerability in our culture. She notes the degree to which men are boxed in by our culture’s expectations about what a man is or is not allowed to do. I would suggest that the limitations placed on men extend to their physical expression though touch. And are just as damaging in that realm.

Men are unable to express their vulnerabilityMen are limited in their attempts to express their vulnerability.

The Awakening of Touch

But here’s the good news.

There are many reasons why full-time stay at home dads are proving to be such a transformative force in American culture. One powerful reason is the awakening of touch. As full-time dads, we are presented with the absolute necessity to hold our own wonderful children. We are learning about touch in the most powerful and life-affirming way. In ways that previous generations of men simply were not immersed in.

Once you have held your sleeping child night after night or walked for years with their hand in yours, you are a changed person. You gain a fluency and confidence in touch that you will never lose. It is a gift to us men from our children that literally has the capacity to transform American culture.

The awakening of touch is possibleThe awakening of touch is possible for men who let go of their fear and reach out.

How to Reach Out

Accordingly, now, when I am with a friend I do reach out. I do make contact. And I do so with confidence and joy. And I have my own clear path forward.

The patterns in my life may be somewhat set but I intend to do everything I can to remain in contact with my son in hopes that he will have a different view of touch in his life. I hug him and kiss him. We hold hands or I put my arm around him when we watch TV or walk on the street. I will not back off from him because someone somewhere might take issue with our physical connection. I will not back off because somehow there is an unspoken rule that I must cut him loose in the world to fend for himself. I hope we can hold hands even when he is a man. I hope we continue to hold hands until the day I die.

Ultimately, we will unlearn our fear of touch in the context of our personal lives and in our day-to-day interactions. Learning how to express platonic love and affection through touch is a vast and remarkable change that has to be lived. But it is so important that we do it. Because it is central to having a rich and full life.

Touch is life.

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Can Men Be Feminists? 9 FAQs We Often Get from Men

Here at Everyday Feminism, we’ve covered a wide range of topics exploring the nuances of patriarchal oppression. But once in a while, it’s nice to step back from the complexities of feminist thought to help people better access, understand, and hopefully embrace feminism.

As two people working in feminist movements for justice, we get a lot of questions from cisgendermen about what their place in feminism can and should be.

And considering that we find a lot of well-intentioned men are terribly confused about the basic tenets of feminist movements, we thought we’d take some time to answer a few of those questions.

Notably, though, we come to this analysis with very different places – a Black woman and a White man. Also, we think it’s important to note that we both are cisgender, and as such, our perspectives are limiting.

We worked hard to be inclusive of how feminism serves trans, non-binary, and gender non-conforming people, but we hope to demystify the feminist movement for cis men and make it easier to open up for a dialogue in your community about this and whatever we missed!

With that said, then, here’s our take on the questions we get so often from men.

1. What Is Feminism? And Can Men Be Feminists?

To understand whether or not men can be feminist, men really need to understand what feminism actually is.

But the tricky part is that feminism isn’t just one thing!

Depending on who you’re in community with, feminism can be totally and completely different.

Thus, it’s important to be clear what we’re talking about when we say “feminism.”

Though there are innumerable ways that people understand and express their feminism, we see the meaning of the term falling into two general concepts:

Option A: Feminism is a movement for and about women.

To some, feminists are women striving to better the lives of women. Feminism is a movement for gender equality socially, politically, and economically.

Each wave of feminism has expanded to include multiple groups of marginalized people in society, but its basis remains as a movement for and by women (including trans women).

Men can surely have a role in this understanding of feminism, but men’s relationship to feminism would be better understood as an ally/solidarity relationship built on accountable work.

Option B: Feminism is a movement about gender justice.

Patriarchy hurts everyone, even if it hurts women and non-binary people more and in profoundly different ways than cisgender men.

Feminism, then, is a movement to combat systemic and institutional oppression that disproportionately affects disenfranchised groups in our society with the main focus on women.

Thus, in this concept, feminism is a movement where people of all genders can be feminists if they’re willing to do the work to dismantle patriarchal oppression.

So where men fit in feminism depends a lot on who they’re in community with and how communities understand the role of feminism in working for justice!

2. Hold the Phone – What’s This Patriarchy Stuff You Keep Mentioning?

The term patriarchy generally is referring to systems and social norms that are, by in large, created by cisgender men for cisgender men and that, as a result, marginalize and oppress those who are not cis men (or those passing for cis men).

3. Okay, But Who Is Feminism For?

In some ways, it depends on who you ask.

To us, feminism is for everyone (so long as we’re all accountable to those marginalized people who ought to be in leadership).

There are different types of gender equality movements that also focus on intersections of race, ethnicity, and class, like womanism or Third World Feminism, but the current wave of feminism we participate in  is seen as an intersectional and inclusive umbrella movement.

To some people, feminism is an inclusive, intersectional movement for social justice that centers marginalized and oppressed people in the work for freedom.

To others, it’s strictly aims to serve cisgender women, particularly focusing on the issues that affect White women.

To those people, feminism isn’t meant to be inclusive at all.

For example, TERFs consider themselves feminists, but that’s not exactly an inclusive and intersectional anti-oppressive feminism when it seeks to actively advance the oppression of our transgender and gender non-conforming family.

At Everyday Feminism, we work to inform the wider struggle for intersectional feminist justice, so our feminism centers women, trans folks, and non-binary people, particularly those most marginalized and oppressed in our society because of race, class, ability, religion, sexual identity, citizenship experience, or body size.

4. But Isn’t Feminism About Hating Men?

Simple answer: No.

Feminists don’t hate men. We hate male privilege and the systems that create and reinscribe it. “Not all men” are awful, but all men benefit from male privilege.

Feminism is about dismantling the systems in which people are oppressed for their gender identity, those same systems that privilege cisgender men.

Thus, men can play a role in dismantling those systems so long as they are following the leadership of those who don’t share their gender identity!

Notably, though, many men think feminists and feminism hates them because men are not centered or made to feel comfortable in their privilege.

We need to be clear not to conflate men not being the center of a movement with that movement marginalizing or hating men.

5. Can I, As a Man, Call Myself Feminist?

This is the sticky part.

It’s not a man’s place to label themselves as a feminist since at its core, feminism is for gaining equality for women. A woman you are close to can assign that label to you, but you have to earn it!

And you have to keep earning it.

It’s important to incorporate feminist practice in your daily life – earning the label of feminist isn’t even half of the work. It’s a challenge to unlearn harmful patriarchal ideas, and it’s work you must do routinely in order to be a strong ally within feminist spaces.

In feminist spaces, it’s best for men to take the backseat and actively listen to women’s concerns while thinking of productive ways to challenge their own privilege while lending support to the movement.

Regardless of what you choose to call yourself, though, what really matters is how you act. Are you acting in ways that are accountable to people across difference and that advance and support feminist liberation?

Then don’t worry too much about the label and just do the work.

6. As a Man, Why Would I Want to Be a Feminist or Hold Feminist Ideals?

Why not?

As a man, you also benefit from feminist ideals!

Feminism is about getting rid of oppressive forces that hold women down and also make men adhere to restrictive norms and ideals.

Patriarchy wants you to be dominating, assertive, hyper-masculine, athletic, emotionless, and the breadwinner of a heteronormative family. That’s a lot of pressure!

Feminism seeks to eradicate patriarchal norms like these that have men bound and women perceived as inferior.

Perhaps more importantly, though, the people in our lives who don’t share our identity are hurt to greater and varying degrees by patriarchal oppression.

That should be enough for us to want to strive for an intersectional feminist understanding of justice.

What brings many men to feminism in the first place is realizing how much our current society hurts those we love. And that empathetic concern should inform our own values!

7. Why Is There a Need for Women-Only Spaces? Isn’t Segregation Bad?

You know what’s bad? State-sanctioned segregation meant to reinforce the oppression of already marginalized people.

You know what’s awesome? Allowing for, encouraging, and protecting spaces for those who are marginalized in our wider society to meet in a space that offers reprieve frommicroaggressions and other enactments of oppression.

Thus, let’s stop using “segregation is bad” to break up protected spaces for women, people of Color, and other marginalized and oppressed people.

In our society, there are very few spaces where cisgender men aren’t welcomed, centered, and safe. That’s not true for people of other genders, so those spaces have to be created.

Women-only spaces (and remember, when we say “women,” we are absolutely including trans women) are necessary because women can share their ideas and mobilize without the interference of someone who holds the privilege they are actively fighting against – and who may not fully understand how they benefit at the expense of women’s oppression.

It’s an uncomfortable experience to be confronted with your own privilege – and also your ignorance of oppressions others may face – so you must willing to let go of control and allow for spaces where you are not centered or welcome.

8. Should Feminist and Pro-Feminist Men Ever Meet or Do Work in Men-Only Spaces?

This one’s tricky because, in theory, yes, there should be spaces for men to do feminist work with other men where they can work through the hard stuff without relying on women to do this emotional labor for us.

However, in reality, men have not always proven trustworthy when meeting in all-male groups to talk about gender.

You know… because of those few thousand years in Western society where men ruled in all-male spaces and treated women as chattel while killing anyone who didn’t fit within those tiny gender constructs.

Thus, the trick is that men’s feminist groups need to exist in explicit accountability to people who don’t share their gender identity.

If you’re working in one of these spaces, be careful that the focus is on aiding and supporting women and not making your problems the center of discourse.

There are lots of examples of this working well. Check out the Oakland’s Men Project for just one example.

9. But Aren’t Men Oppressed, Too?

No… And yes.

Men are not oppressed as men, though transgender men do often experience gender oppression.

A woman being mean to you online or rejecting your romantic advances is not oppression. Butyou may experience oppression due to other aspects of identity – racist oppression, classist oppression, ableist oppression, religious oppression, and so on.

Feminism is all about working on the intersections of identities to challenge societal oppression. And men do suffer and struggle within our patriarchal systems.

The patriarchal pressures put on men do lead to higher rates of suicide, and men are expected to go fight wars for the oligarchy’s empire when that’s not necessarily expected of women.

But all of these things are rooted in violent patriarchy, which only furthers why men ought to strive to be in feminist solidarity and to live out feminist ideals.

10. So What Is My Role As a Man in Feminism?

We’re sure you’re sensing a theme here, but there’s no easy answer.

Simply put, your role is to listen to women’s concerns, challenge your male privilege, and hold other men accountable.

You can be an invaluable ally to the feminist movement because you can challenge yourself and others to acknowledge gender inequalities in our society, which will bring us one step closer to eradicating injustice.

Perhaps the best way to answer this question, though, is to ask the feminist people in your life!

Different people who are experiencing oppression want different things from those they consider allies.

Thus, perhaps the best thing that men can do in feminism is to listen to the feminist cis women, transgender people, and non-binary people in our lives and take cues from their leadership about working for justice!


We hoped to have made things clearer for you, and hopefully, it’s easier for you to approach feminists in your community!

So, can men be feminist? From our perspective, definitely, so long as you’re not simply self identifying as such without any accountability!

After all, labels aren’t as important as the actions behind them. We hope you’re willing and able to hold yourself and other men accountable and work to support and uplift the women around you while working to dismantle harmful patriarchal systems.

Yes, feminism is for you as well! You can be a powerful ally for fighting against patriarchal oppression – and eradicating injustices in our society will set you free as well.

Taken From: See the originaly published Content!

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Patriarchy Hurts Men Too!

While it is true the Patriarchy Hurts Men, Too, the fact of the matter is that the problems that men face that don’t stem from class, race, sexuality, or able-bodiedness issues tend to stem from socially ingrained misogyny. It is a systemic devaluation of femininity that creates the rigidly defined masculinity by which men must abide. If men have a problem with masculinity as it currently exists, perhaps they should consider increasing the social status and viability of femininity in all people. They could also address the notion that femininity and masculinity are not mutually exclusive.

Not only does feminism give woman a voice, but it also clears the way for men to free themselves from the stranglehold of traditional masculinity.

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“I was like his sex slave and not his wife” (Criminalize Marital Rape)

By — May 29, 2015

In India, it is legal to rape your wife. And as of last month, when a government minister explained why he thought the issue can’t be remedied in his country, marital rape is back in the news.

On April 29, Haribhai Parathibhai Chaudhary, minister of state for home affairs, said in a written statement: “It is considered that the concept of marital rape, as understood internationally, cannot be suitably applied in the Indian context due to various factors, e.g., level of education/illiteracy, poverty, myriad social customs and values, religious beliefs, mindset of the society to treat the marriage as a sacrament, etc.”

The media widely covered Chaudhary’s statement, and reporters and rights activists roundly condemned it.

As of April 2011, India was one of 127 countries—including China and Saudi Arabia—that had still not criminalized marital rape, according to a 2015 UN report. Only 52 states in the world had outlawed it, the report said. Thousands of women in India live under this lack of regulation, unable to speak up and unable to seek justice.

I spoke to a 27-year-old woman last week, who, after being abused, beaten, and raped by her husband in their first year of marriage, petitioned the courts to change the archaic law.

In India, where it is legal to rape your wife, one woman is trying to change the law.

“They say that the institution of marriage is sacred and that family life will be disturbed if a husband/wife relationship is questioned. But I want to know that if a woman is tortured under the bondage of marriage, will that not affect the family structure?

“Every night was a nightmare. I used to get jitters before going into my room at night. I would dread the thought of what was awaiting me. What happened in our bedroom every night was not what normally happens between a husband and wife. I felt like he had bought me. I was treated like a sex slave, like a sex toy. He would insert things inside me, slap me, and bite me. I had bite marks all over my breasts. He was like an animal. Even during my mensuration, he wouldn’t spare me.”

A similar brutal act perpetrated on a woman by a man other than her husband under Section 376 of the Indian penal code, which provides punishment for rape, would be punishable by between seven years and life in prison. But an exception inSection 375 of the code states: “Sexual intercourse by a man with his own wife, the wife not being under fifteen years of age, is not rape.”

“It was the 14th of February 2014, and it was his birthday. I had baked a cake. What he did to me that night is a disgrace to the institution of marriage. He hit me 17 to 18 times with a box and with a [flashlight], after which he inserted [the flashlight] into my vagina. I started bleeding but instead of taking me to the hospital he took me to my in-laws’ house and locked me up until late evening. When the bleeding didn’t stop, my in-laws took me to the hospital. I was in a semi-conscious state and had to be taken in an ambulance. My legs and my entire body had swollen up. I was bleeding profusely. I bled for 60 long days.

“The torture is not just limited to that one incident. My life changed completely after that day. I was thrown out of my house within 10 days. My husband told the landlord that he had nothing to do with me and that I should leave. I also lost my job of working as a human resources executive in a multi-national company because I wasn’t able to work. My manager told me to keep my personal life aside and work, but I wasn’t in a position to ignore my personal life.”

After almost a year of trying to get justice in lower courts, the woman—who is not being identified because Indian law forbids revealing the identity of sexual assault victims—with the help of lawyers from the New Delhi-based Human Rights Law Network (HRLN), a collective of lawyers and human rights activists, approached the Supreme Court of India in February, petitioning to declare marital rape a criminal offense. But the apex court said it wasn’t possible to change a law for one person, and dismissed her plea.

“No one cares about you if you are a married woman. If a girl is raped, then at least people come out to support her and the rapist is treated as an outcast. But if your husband rapes you, no one says or does anything. You are on your own.

“This marriage is not about sitting together and mutually deciding things. The Delhi Police [Crime Against Women] unit would summon us together, but I was even scared to face him.

“I’m in a bad financial condition today since I took a loan for my marriage, sold my car, and also withdrew my [pension fund] to give a dowry to my husband’s family. I am almost penniless now. One night, I was on the [streets] because I didn’t have a house to go to. There have been days when I had no money for food and survived on oats and milk. No one comes to help you.”

A 2014 study by the Washington-based women’s rights and anti-poverty organization the International Center for Research on Women highlighted some incredible numbers. Nearly a fourth of the male survey respondents in India reported perpetrating sexualized violence at some point, a majority of them against an intimate partner—a girlfriend or a wife.

“I’m not angry, but I’m sad. I’m sad at the condition of the women in my country who face this, day after day, night after night. If, as an educated and independent woman, I’m struggling for justice, think about the many women who endure the pain and torture in silence every day. Will there never be a law that upholds their rights?”

The woman continues to fight her case in a lower court in the National Capital Region. Her complaint has been registered under Section 498 A of the Indian penal code,  under which cruelty in the form of physical and mental harassment by a husband or family is punishable with up to three years in prison, and under the Domestic Violence Act 2005, which does not allow for criminal charges to be filed against a husband. Her lawyers at HRLN have decided to go back to the Supreme Court with new litigation, which will involve many women’s rights organizations as well as countrywide data on marital rape. But still, no matter what, no change in the law will mean justice for her, as the law is never retroactive.

“I don’t understand the law. I’m a layman. All I want to know is: Don’t married women have any right to approach the legal system? Are they only meant to suffer, commit suicide or die?”

Taken From: Women Under Siege

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Early men and women were equal, say scientists

Study shows that modern hunter-gatherer tribes operate on egalitarian basis, suggesting inequality was an aberration that came with the advent of agriculture.

 The authors of the study argue that sexual equality may have proved an evolutionary advantage for early human societies, as it would have fostered wider-ranging social network (probably not including gardening). Photograph: Everett Collection / Rex Features

The authors of the study argue that sexual equality may have proved an evolutionary advantage for early human societies, as it would have fostered wider-ranging social network (probably not including gardening). Photograph: Everett Collection / Rex Features

Our prehistoric forebears are often portrayed as spear-wielding savages, but the earliest human societies are likely to have been founded on enlightened egalitarian principles, according to scientists.

A study has shown that in contemporary hunter-gatherer tribes, men and women tend to have equal influence on where their group lives and who they live with. The findings challenge the idea that sexual equality is a recent invention, suggesting that it has been the norm for humans for most of our evolutionary history.

Mark Dyble, an anthropologist who led the study at University College London, said: “There is still this wider perception that hunter-gatherers are more macho or male-dominated. We’d argue it was only with the emergence of agriculture, when people could start to accumulate resources, that inequality emerged.”

Dyble says the latest findings suggest that equality between the sexes may have been a survival advantage and played an important role in shaping human society and evolution. “Sexual equality is one of a important suite of changes to social organisation, including things like pair-bonding, our big, social brains, and language, that distinguishes humans,” he said. “It’s an important one that hasn’t really been highlighted before.”

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The study, published in the journal Science, set out to investigate the apparent paradox that while people in hunter-gatherer societies show strong preferences for living with family members, in practice the groups they live in tend to comprise few closely related individuals.

The scientists collected genealogical data from two hunter-gatherer populations, one in the Congo and one in the Philippines, including kinship relations, movement between camps and residence patterns, through hundreds of interviews. In both cases, people tend to live in groups of around 20, moving roughly every 10 days and subsisting on hunted game, fish and gathered fruit, vegetables and honey.

The scientists constructed a computer model to simulate the process of camp assortment, based on the assumption that people would chose to populate an empty camp with their close kin: siblings, parents and children.

When only one sex had influence over the process, as is typically the case in male-dominated pastoral or horticultural societies, tight hubs of related individuals emerged. However, the average number of related individuals is predicted to be much lower when men and women have an equal influence – closely matching what was seen in the populations that were studied.

“When only men have influence over who they are living with, the core of any community is a dense network of closely related men with the spouses on the periphery,” said Dyble. “If men and women decide, you don’t get groups of four or five brothers living together.”

Sexual equality is one of the important changes that distinguishes humans. It hasn’t really been highlighted before
Mark Dyble, leader of the study
The authors argue that sexual equality may have proved an evolutionary advantage for early human societies, as it would have fostered wider-ranging social networks and closer cooperation between unrelated individuals. “It gives you a far more expansive social network with a wider choice of mates, so inbreeding would be less of an issue,” said Dyble. “And you come into contact with more people and you can share innovations, which is something that humans do par excellence.”

Dr Tamas David-Barrett, a behavioural scientist at the University of Oxford, agreed: “This is a very neat result,” he said. “If you’re able to track your kin further away, you’d be able to have a much broader network. All you’d need to do is get together every now and then for some kind of feast.”

The study suggests that it was only with the dawn of agriculture, when people were able to accumulate resources for the first time, that an imbalance emerged. “Men can start to have several wives and they can have more children than women,” said Dyble. “It pays more for men to start accumulating resources and becomes favourable to form alliances with male kin.”

Dyble said that egalitarianism may even have been one of the important factors that distinguished our ancestors from our primate cousins. “Chimpanzees live in quite aggressive, male-dominated societies with clear hierarchies,” he said. “As a result, they just don’t see enough adults in their lifetime for technologies to be sustained.”

The findings appear to be supported by qualitative observations of the hunter-gatherer groups in the study. In the Philippines population, women are involved in hunting and honey collecting and while there is still a division of labour, overall men and women contribute a similar number of calories to the camp. In both groups, monogamy is the norm and men are active in childcare.

Andrea Migliano, of University College London and the paper’s senior author, said: “Sex equality suggests a scenario where unique human traits, such as cooperation with unrelated individuals, could have emerged in our evolutionary past.”

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