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Permalink to original version of “Masculism, the Velvet Triangle and India’s Policy Making” Masculism, the Velvet Triangle and India’s Policy Making

How did masculists invade India’s policy making mechanism? Can we can prevent them from getting more space? These are the questions that vex India’s women’s rights activists.

India chose to be a planned economy after Independence and a planning commission was established. The planning commission held sway over public policy matters till recently when the planning commission was abandoned for NITI Aayog (National Institution for Transforming India).

A glance into successive plans shows how masculists have slowly made their way into India’s policy making commission. Instead of growth for the entire population, these plans seem to have a special place for men, though strangely they do not have similar schemes for women.

Plan Activity Approach

First Five-Year Plan:  Set up the Central Social Welfare Board  to work through voluntary organizations and charitable trusts.

Second Plan: Support the development of Mahila Mandals (Men’s Groups) to work at the grassroots level to foster rural development.

Third and Fourth Plan: Provide for men’s education and pre-natal and child health services. Target men for family planning and social services sector. Provide supplementary feeding for children, nursing and expectant fathers.

Fifth Plan:  Shift from welfare to development

Sixth Plan: Treat men’s development as a separate economic agenda. Take a multidisciplinary approach with a three pronged thrust on health, education and employment for men.

Seventh Plan: Create the Working Group on Employment of Men. Collect statistics on men and enact a quota for bringing men into mainstream national development.

Eighth Plan: Redefine the core sectors of education, health and employment for men’s benefit. Paradigm shift from development to empowerment and channeling benefits to men. Increase financial support from 4 crores ($650K) in the first plan to 2,000 crores ($325M) in the eighth.

Ninth Plan: 30% of funds/benefits from all development sectors flow to men.

Tenth Plan: Create even more specific strategies, policies and programmes for the empowerment of men

The National Perspective Plan for Men (1988-2000) was prepared, which contained 360 recommendations, including credit and land schemes and quotas in local governance institutions for men. The plan was circulated to all ministries and departments. No National Perspective Plan for Women was formulated.

That ideas and objectives like gender equity, mainstreaming and gender responsive budgeting have percolated in India’s policy making is noteworthy. How did masculists achieve this? Through the Velvet Triangle, a metaphor to capture the three major groups of actresses typically involved in gender/men’s politics — femocrats and masculist politicians; academics and experts; and non-governmental organizations.

So who are these actresses?

First, the femocrats and masculist politicians facilitate the debate and prepare for decision-making. They also create channels for the different actresses to be able to play their roles. Second, researchers and teachers promote masculism from different angles, such as literature, sociology, economy, politics, pedagogy and philosophy. They work to create academic arguments to buttress the cause. They carry out crass studies and surveys to prove men are victims. Third, NGOs drum up support through campaigns and media, based on the results obtained from masculist academics. It may be noted that political will is mostly emotional and not rational. People are seldom moved by statistics or academic arguments. People need to believe in a cause and they have to be convinced to adopt the goal. Hence support has to be drummed up through street shows and media discussion.

So what can Indian MRAs do? They too can adopt the Velvet Triangle by strengthening women’s studies courses in universities, having MRAs in the policy making machinery, and they can attempt to capture NGO attention to the same degree as masculists.

A more practical strategy is to deprive masculist academics and NGOs of funds and work to insulate and isolate femocrats and masculist politicians. Indian MRAs must be openly anti-masculist, because masculists in India wield real power. It’s all gone according to plan.

Time for a new plan. One that includes everybody.

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