27 August 2013

The Curse of Being a Daughter of India

Voices crying out for justice
In the ages gone by she was shackled by tradition and kept away from education, married away in childhood, thrown on the pyre of her husband and had to suffer the degradation of being the person of lowest value in her family, clan and community.

Now it is 67 years since independence, she has a right to education, works shoulder to shoulder with men in every field having proven her worth in every way yet there still is a curse on her even today. There still are female infanticides, selective abortions of female foetuses, dowry deaths, domestic violence and human trafficking issues plaguing our Indian women. Add to that the misery that every girl or woman has to face – the lack of personal safety to walk on the streets, go to work or even at home. Eve-teasing, molestation, acid attacks and rape have grown to become a monster devouring whatever peace and security Indian women could dream of. 

The National Crime Records Bureau reports that there has been a shocking 873% rise in rape cases between 1953 and 2011. India’s report card for women’s safety states that one woman is raped every 22 minutes! [1]

A Reuters report states that 244,270 crimes against women were reported to the police in 2012 compared with 228,650 in 2011 according to the National Crimes Records Bureau (NCRB). They also stated that 98 percent of those who reported rapes last year named parents, relatives and neighbours as the accused. [2]

When we say this I wonder if this is a statement about the state of women in our country or is it actually a statement about the men in our country?  What is it about women that make them so vulnerable and what is it about men that make them behave like animals who have no self-control? Something is wrong with our upbringing of boys and girls and something is wrong with the way our social fabric and halls of justice have been allowing things to get this bad.

The cries of justice have become so loud and demanding that now it seems it would take the death of rapists to put fear into others who would do the same. We have allowed molesters and rapists to roam around freely for so long that they are breeding at a higher rate than we can deal with.

For many years we have read the news of tribal women or women of lower castes and those in helpless situations being raped by men with political power behind them. There were no convictions because these men were protected by powerful people. Those powerful people make the laws in this country, such men are used by them for their personal or political interests. Is it no wonder that our laws don’t have teeth and justice is not done?

Moreover, we also need to question the conscience of this nation. Why do we allow films that devalue and degrade women? Why don’t we question the vulgar worded item songs that degrade women and are aimed at generating lust in men? Why do our high profile ‘dignified’ actresses agree to do songs that cheapen women? Why is it that those who oppose Valentine’s Day do not do anything to stop eve-teasing, offenses against women or check the growth of prostitution and pornography among our youth?

We all have to accept responsibility for what is happening in our nation. Every common man who has witnessed eve-teasing and not done something about it. Every parent of a youth caught in the act who stood by him instead of correcting him and letting justice be done. Every parent of a young girl who didn’t stand with her when she spoke up about harassment. Every teacher, principal and community head who told women to shut up and bear the trauma to save their own faces and name have thus perpetrated the injustice done.

People who deal with power, information and media have more responsibility. Whenever we create ads, films, videos, songs or permit something that can have far reaching effects on the masses we have added fuel to the already raging fire. When the law makers, keepers and enforcers themselves have wrong attitudes about women, they fail to be instruments of justice for those who have been victimised in any way.

It seems we need to have a crash course to educate the people of India about the dignity of a woman, her right to personal space, self-respect, to be treated as a person and not an object and also her right to real and true justice. We need a cleansing and overhauling at every level. A commission of enquiry or a proposal for a new law is not going to change anything when the real dirt is inside the minds and hearts of people.

India has lost face internationally. The damage is done. Countries are warning their people, especially women not to travel to India and giving them precautions to follow if they have to make that journey. It sucks even more because we call our country ‘Bharat Mata.’ Have we made our ‘motherland’ India proud? We have allowed some low-life pathetic men to cause our nation to pay the heaviest price within and outside our country. So what are we going to do about it now?

The people of India have risen from their slumber and shown they mean business after the 16th December 2012 gang rape incident. Laws are slow to have an impact unless real punishment is meted out for crimes against women regardless of whether they are cases of eve-teasing, molestation, acid attacks or rape.

We need to weed out those law makers or keepers and police men whose wrong attitudes and behaviour come in the way of true justice to women. We need awareness campaigns and programmes that will instill good values among younger generations.

Moreover we need to train our girls and women in self-defense so that they can give their offenders a fitting response. Perhaps it is time the government considered making self defense training mandatory in all schools. Women in many cultures have come out to learn to fight and defend their country, sad that we have to teach women to defend themselves! We also need neighbourhood watchdog groups comprising of men and women who would deal with boys and men who have a tendency to misbehave with girls or women. It is a necessity now and we cannot expect the situation to change if something is not done now.

Our silence in this area has led to this dismal reality we are having to face today. Let every voice be raised up to support and get justice for the women who have been traumatized. Let every means of creating awareness, giving information and empowerment be used to ensure that this social disease of wrong mindsets towards women is eradicated.

Mera Bharat Mahaan’ should be the slogan of our hearts for our nation... but unfortunately Bharat has lost it ‘maan’ because of the continuous ‘apmaan’ our country men have been meting out to our women. May we turn around this story of apmaan into maan so that Bharat can truly be mahaan, is my prayer for India.