After the Nirbhaya rape case most people of India were outraged and triggered protests demanding tougher laws to punish rapists. The parliament quickly passed the necessary laws, but mere bringing in of legislative changes will not likely to have an impact on the social causes of such incidents.
As recommended by Justice Verma Committee, the executive, the legislature as well as the judiciary -all must respect women’s rights and must treat them in a non-discriminatory manner. In India, sexism begins at conception with parents’ preference for male children, especially if their first child was a girl. Girls suffer for the sake of their brothers. Boys tend to get more food, a better education, and more of the family estate. This has resulted in a skewed male to female ratio – Kerala having 1000 males to 1084 females the best and Delhi having 1000 males to 866 females the worst – among all Indian states as per 2011 census. So the reasons for such actions by Delhi men are obivious.
To compound the matters, we have our political leaders, rather than condemning such atrocities against women, make immature and uncalled for statements, supporting the miscreants. We have religious and spiritual leaders who exploit women and commit rape on their submissive devotes, and some even do not spare young boys.
The Indian society does not allow communication and inter-mingling of both sexes even in schools and at religious places. The boys and girls even in many co-educational schools are made to sit separately. In places of worship they are segregated and some religions do not believe in allowing the females into their places of worship. Even in North America, many places of worship of people of Indian origin follow this very strictly – as if to protect their cultural values. If these people have their way, they will never hesitate to pull a curtain to separate the sexes. Even in front of the Gods, the sexes are not treated equally. The godmen and their cronies ensure this.
Due to this segregation, many young boys conceive that a mere touch or a caress or a pinch or a poke would give them immense pleasure (mental orgasms). The pity is that some grownup men also feel the same, despite being married with children. This has resulted in the kind of ‘street harassment’ of women in India receive and the terror women face when commuting between their homes and their universities or jobs, threatening women for daring to leave their private spheres. Its a form of control over women’s ambitions and lives and such a culture is widespread and gets encouragement with tacit approval by the religions. This gives men permission to use women as the target for any excess anger or frustrations they might have.
In cities like Mumbai and Bangaluru, where boys and girls study, work, play and commute together, the incidents of ‘street harassment’ and incidence of terrorising women are the least. In the developed nations, there exist police forces which will swing into action the moment any such incidences are reported. There are systems in place to provide social support, shelter, counseling and care for the victim. India needs to develop such social security infrastructure to ensure that the women are safe on the streets or any public place.
India has a long history of treating women as property. Sati, an extinct tradition of wives being burned alive on their husbands’ funeral pyres and dowry killings are a few examples. All these because the women are not treated equally in the society.
The offerings from the temples or the Holy Communion are given first to men and then to the women. In the Syrian Orthodox Churches, prior to giving the communion, the priest says “…വിശ്വാസികളായ ദാസീ ദാസന്മാർക്ക് നൽകപ്പെടുന്നു (…visvasikalaya dasee dasanmarkku nalkappedunnu)” (being given to female and male devotees) and gives the holy communion first to all the male devotees.
Some political leaders and holy men are blaming the recent Delhi rape on women not wearing overcoats or sarees, women riding the bus, women using mobile phones, women wearing skirts, women going out with men who are not relatives, co-educational schools, moral character, being out late, fast food, the poison of western culture, and the stars being in adverse positions – the list goes on and on..
The only Indian society that treats women with respect is the Armed Forces. The General or any senior officer will always rise from their seats to receive a lady walking in – the lady may be a Sepoy’s wife of a Lieutenant’s wife. The only place in India where the ladies are served first – whether at formal or informal or at-home functions – is in the armed forces. Even in the military’s religious places of worship, women are offered ‘prasad’ or holy communion first. Officer on duty or the Captain of the Indian Navy ships will salute all ladies entering or leaving the ship irrespective of their social or military hierarchy. The ladies are always respected at home and outside by the defence service personal and the sexual discrimination is minimal in this society. That may be reason why we have defence service officers’ daughters performing extremely well in the society like Moushumi Chatterji, Sushmita Sen, Preity Zinta, Anushka Sharma, Celina Jaitly (Bollywood), Revathy (Malayalam/Tamil Film), Renuka Chowdhary (Member of Parliament) – the list is endless.
In many Indian homes, women are expected to remain indoors and are never permitted to participate in any discussions or decision making process at home. They hardly have any say in their lives, their marriage, their education and their careers. Every aspect of the woman’s life is dictated by the males.
Sexual harassment of women – especially children (both boys and girls)– in Indian homes is well known. Many are afraid to even tell their mothers about the harassment they were subjected to, fearing social rebuttal. Many families hide such incidents fearing that no prospective groom will ever turn up for their daughter. To further complicate the situation, its a well known fact that the perpetrators of such sexual harassment are close relatives of the victim. There is an urgent need to educate children about sexual harassment and the steps to be taken to avoid it and actions to be taken in case one is subjected to it.
It must be made legally binding on school teachers, medical professionals and others who interact with the children to report cases of sexual abuse. Suppressing or hiding such facts must be made a criminal offence as is prevalent in many developed countries like Canada and US. The police must be mandated to register an FIR and the cases must be investigated as being recommended by the Justice Verma committee.
Until stricter laws are passed in the parliament, we will continue to hear of rape, sexual harassment and ill-treatment of women in India. Merely referring to India as “Bharat Mata (Mother India)” does not ensure respect to the women. The need of the hour is for a social and religious awakening to ensure equal status for women.