MUMBAI, SEP 29: In the sprawling slums of Mumbai, a group of street
toughs are being taught they do not need to make women cry during sex
to prove their masculinity.
"Before this workshop I used to think that a real man should have a
big penis. He should be able to have sex many times in one night and
should make the woman cry in pain during sex," said 20-year-old Nitin
"Now I know that what I have seen in adult films is not reality.
It's all an act," he said.
A woman is raped every hour in India. Some 5,000 Indian women die
each year in murders or suicides over dowry. Gender equality activist
Sujata Khandekar and her team of volunteers are on a mission to
explore and explode age-old beliefs about sex and male domination.
For two months, the campaigners have criss-crossed the meandering
bylanes of Mumbai. In Chembur, macho men loaf around crammed one-room
houses and shops lined by open drains as Bollywood pop blares from
radios and TVs.
"We went out and talked to these men about sex. It was a daunting
task but the results were startling," said Khandekar, who heads a
non-government organisation called Committee of Resource Organisation
"The general male population in these squatters believes that a
real man is dominant, aggressive, sexually powerful and potent and
controls women whereas a real woman is submissive, both sexually and
otherwise, and cares for the home, children and family," she said.
"They feel that if a girl wears makeup, she is 'easy' and
'deserves' to be teased," she said. The workshops found that
chauvinistic attitudes are deeply entrenched.
"So you tell me -- yes, you Vilas -- what did we discuss in the
last class?" Sandeep Kamble, 30, an ex-gangster turned workshop
supervisor, asked a shy boy squatting with 15 others in a dimly-lit
"We discussed why we should use condoms," Vilas Bhaisode replied.
"No, first tell us what we discussed about how a woman feels about
"A woman feels that a man should not use a condom as it prevents
her from having babies. She also feels that it takes time to wear a
condom which is risky as someone could walk into the room," Bhaisode
said, triggering a burst of laughter.
"Who told you that a woman thinks like this?" "Everybody," came the
chorus from the group. Khandekar said such reinforcement of views from
peers was an important factor in building a male psyche that leads to
"Most of them are jobless. They hang out with the slum dons and
regard them as their ideologues. They are hooked to adult films which
are easily available and they also peep through window slits and watch
others having sex, which is then related to friends the next day in
"They think that coercive activities like verbal comments,
whistling, jostling, touching and harassing in public places
demonstrate sexual power," she said.
However, a distinction is made between 'good girls' suitable for
marriage and those 'deserving teasing'. "According to them, if a boy
teases a girl and the girl passes by, without saying a word, then it
shows that she is a good girl," she said.
"If she retorts back then it means she is proving herself smart
deserving coercion and teasing." Slowly, the workshops are beginning
to show a difference.
Before he started attending the classes, 19-year-old Anil Jogdonde
used to be petrified about masturbation. "I used to think all my
strength has gone. I would worry all day and stop eating. But now that
I have been told that it's just fun and will not affect my health, I
feel much better," Jogdonde said.
But what about adult films? "Of course we watch them. But now we
know that the girls are crying just for the effect," he said. (AFP)