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Geek by profession, thinker/writer/artist by passion. Part-time blogger,social media enthusiast and a tramp by nature :) A Man Of Mud

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Friday, December 21, 2012

What Makes Indian Women So Vulnerable ?

Woman in agony
Rancorous uproar for justice after every brutal crime  including and especially crime against women may represent popular sentiment but somewhere down the line they also reveal a hypocritical outlook. The demand for more stringent laws and strict enforcement being raised by people from across the spectrum; from the Parliament to the small town tea-stalls, is in essence retributive reflecting a mindset not much different from the mindset of the offenders. The shock, outrage and anger are genuine but it is not very clear if it arises entirely out of the wrong done to a young student or the fact that these offenders have glimpse of the monsters lurking within us. After all   these people must have been very much part of our society less than a week back. They might have taken part in anti-corruption movement and even joined the chorus denouncing rising rate of crime against women! One cannot really say.


 But what can be said is that while the desire for revenge and retribution is justifiable and sometimes even necessary from the individuals' perspective, the collective has no choice since even the victim and offender are part of it. Angry citizens demanding execution even before the investigation has properly begun is reminiscent of medieval Europe where prisoners were brought to public place and hanged,drawn,quartered and body parts put on display in prominent locations. Going by records of large public attendance during these executions, it would be reasonable to say that apart from punishment for alleged crime, these events were also seen as entertainment for the crowd.

While such methods are no longer used in civilized world, it is not uncommon to find people appearing on TV or posting on the Web demand public execution,lynching or something more than death! The worse part is that they confuse it with the concept of justice. Given the lethargic state of affairs in our agencies, public involvement is necessary to see that the investigation proceed but seeing the guilty punished isn't the only thing, a bigger responsibility lies with how the society helps the victim survive and overcome the trauma. It is not a mystery that rape victims are often ostracized by family,peers and society in general. If the rapists scar the psyche of the victim we,by our passive behavior perpetuate the trauma. This tendency is symptomatic of the ailment a lot of us suffer from and which, in worst cases, gives birth to monsters such as the ones who rape and brutalize the unfortunate victims.

 But the most important thing that the enraged public overlook is that exemplary punishment to the offenders and rehabilitation of victims are not the only responsibilities. The biggest responsibility is to investigate why crimes against women, sexual violence are so rampant in our society. Exemplary punishment may not really act as deterrence in future, as some women groups have pointed out, capital punishment may actually lead the rapists to kill the victim as the punishment would be same. The frequency of crime against women and sexual crimes reflects a malaise afflicting our society, the judicial system cannot cure. Like infrastructure development, measures taken for emancipation of women has been unequal. While women have been provided with opportunities and even encouraged to compete with men in nearly every sphere, the Indian society as a whole has not been able to get rid of the male-dominated medieval mindset that manifests in many ways.

It can start with as self-righteous a comment as women dress and behave more decently to avoid attention of lechers and psychopaths. As per my observation the majority of people while denouncing the ghastly act do not absolutely condone the role of the victim herself. Since very little is known about this case, there is a marginal scope of the victim having "provoked" the "men" !  It is mostly those belonging to the lower middle-class and right-wing politicians who publicly accuse "semi-clad girls or youngster's blindly aping western lifestyle" of provoking the men but this sentiment runs deep in our national psyche. This hypermasculine view has been echoed not only by the less educated and backward people but also by people in the highest echelon of administration. This is  a line that has been repeated by police officers, senior politicians including Chief Ministers and even the Chairperson of the Women Commission !

Gender-bias runs deep in our society, from practices such as dowry to forced marriages to sexual harassment at work place, patriarchal mindset can be seen in nearly all classes not just the lower classes. Not many people are disturbed to find instances of sexual harassment termed as "eve-teasing" a concept which exudes romanticism and even spiritualism when seen in certain contexts. Not surprisingly, it is mostly the law enforcement agencies, concerned bureaucrats and ministers who use this grossly inappropriate euphemism. Political compulsions may have forced our governments and its various departments and agencies to adopt and display a more gender-neutral outlook but if the outlook stems from their own convictions or the compulsion to be politically correct, remains questionable. From the police station to the Parliament political correctness seems to be the governing factor in gender-related issues, rather than the actual belief.

The Women's Reservation Bill is a perfect example of the political class caught between political correctness and vote-bank politics. Right now I am not saying anything for or against the bill, what I am try to point out is the reluctance of the leaders to take a clear stand. Most of the political parties, except one or two regional satraps, have not taken a very clear stand on it which indicates that it either goes against their conviction or their conviction is not strong enough to take on those who oppose it. Why was it introduced and passed by Rajya Sabha when it doesn't have the number of supporters in the Lok Sabha. Perhaps, like the statements they make on gender-equality, passing bill in Rajya Sabha was the politically correct thing to do. In a rapidly shrinking global arena it would a matter of great shame if India,which always projected itself as a progressive,secular democracy, was seen treating women this shabbily. But nearly all political parties are composed of members who still live in the man's world.

This year's biggest bollywood hits- Dabangg,Singham, Rowdy Rathore have themes glorifying male chauvinism
However, it is not just the politicians and police, we as a society must share the blame. If cinema reflect contemporary culture in any way then there are reasons to be worried. Most of the Hindi movies that have been huge hits within the last few years celebrate machismo. Movies such as Dabangg, Singham, Rowdy Rathore not only show the male lead as much larger than life hero but  they also reduce the lead actress as glamour prop on the set.  At the same time one of the most popular political leaders at the moment happens to be a person who project himself as a macho politician espousing muscular sub-nationalism.  Of course,no direct link can be ever made between these movies or politicians to the crime against women but they do prove that our contemporary culture continues to romanticize machoism or hypermasculinity even if it is now clear, machismo is not only antithetical to gender equality but also that the defining trait of a macho personality is sexual and physical aggressive behavior towards women1.

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