Woman: the Mother of humanity
The recent gang rape of a 23 year old girl in New Delhi has created massive waves all across the region and even internationally on many social media networks and discussion forums, thereby giving rise to a need for a way out of this madness, especially in the third world. Many are the views and outrage of the general public who are now engaged in massive protests seeking the severest of punishments to the criminals.
An interesting view was expressed in an article sent to me by Skanda as follows:-
"Perhaps, we men can never understand what our women go through every single day. We can at best sympathize with them, but not empathize in the true sense. Imagine – those awkward whistles while walking on the pavements; the ‘oye mere bul bul’ comments by the street urchins; the intentional touches and nudges in crowded trains, buses; the cheap stares that they encounter on a minute to minute to basis at schools, colleges, work places, shopping malls; the apprehension with which they get into an auto rickshaw; the fear with which they go out for an evening walk; the trepidation that they face when out for dinner with a friend – well, the list is never ending. How can I not mention the frightful tension that parents of girls face every single day, every single minute when their kids are out? So, to sum it up in one line – we men have made lives a living hell for our women folk."
This, sadly is a very valid fact of life, even if we care to look back at our own youth and its multi faceted traits that we came through as teens. Although we, in our own innocence, passions, and emotions, would never have resorted to abuse, oppression, or crime, the need to chase women, be it for pleasure or for keeps, has always been a significant factor in the minds of men within all communities across the globe.
Sometime back I wrote a paper titled "The Hitter Syndrome" seeking to try and evaluate the many situations that arise when women are forced to face abuse, oppression, and sexual advances in public places, places of work, universities, schools, within public transportation etc. Having interviewed many women in their 20's, 30'sand 40's, from a mixed group of students,professionals and academics, what I found was absolutely shocking. Every single one of them had suffered some form of abuse, either in their own homes or outside at some point of time. Incest was also another significant feature that came up during this study. The incidence was way above what we would normally assume it to be under our own understanding and conclusions based on our experiences.
The fact that all this is done in a very subtle and crafty manner where the perpetrator always has a way out to seek his escape makes it even worse in that it appears to be more or less an output of some form of organized and methodical crime that should reap very harsh punishments. However, in the societies that we live in such acts are passed off as childish pranks, or "boys will be boys" cliche's and even parents and elders seem to turn a blind eye towards its hurting impact on the lives of many women.
The funny part is that we men still chase behind these very same women we choose to abuse in seeking life partners to care and comfort us in our youth and even old age. Thats certainly a massive paradox of our times.
The question one asks now is how to fix the problem. Do we impose stricter punishments, as chopping off heads, top and below, in order to prevent the rascals from carrying out such evil misdeeds again and also set an example to the onlookers?
I remember reading a case wherein a man forcefully pulled a girl towards a bush at twilight, undressed himself, mounted on the girl and tried to rape her. However, he was unsuccessful in the act as he failed to get an erection. Luckily, the girl was saved. But strangely and horrifyingly, he managed to walk free by convincing the court to believe that his act amounted to only preparation and not attempt. What acts amount to attempt and what amount to only preparation can be highly subjective and wholly depend on the facts and circumstances of each case. There are a large number of precedents available which manifestly show us that this vacuum in the statute has been abused repeatedly by offenders. In order to prevent this abuse, the Law Commission of England in its report on Inchoate Offences, recommended the British Parliament to make even ‘criminal preparation’ a punishable offence. We need to take a cue from them and make even ‘preparation’ to rape a punishable offence.
Yes, we need better preventive mechanisms, stricter laws, competent prosecution agencies and efficient courts. But do they suffice? Can we have a policeman at every street corner? Can the government place a constable in every bus or public transport at all times? These measures can at best, help to reduce the likelihood of the occurrence of such crimes to a certain extent and nothing more. A large responsibility rests on the society as well. People, in general, need to be more vigilant. Incidents like eve- teasing have to be condemned and immediately brought to the notice of the concerned authorities. Nothing can substitute a sound education in morals and values. Youngsters, right from high schools and colleges, need to be taught to respect women. Every college goer must understand that objectification of women is not ‘cool’. In addition to this, at the cost of sounding chauvinistic, I would say that a significant responsibility rests on women too. Though it is true that the government must put adequate security measures in place, it is always safe to take reasonable care and pre-caution.
Lastly, the society must stop stigmatizing the unfortunate victims of rape. While the perpetrator of the crime gets acquitted and struts around in the society freely, the victim suffers a life term punishment of trauma and shame. The responsibility is on the society to ensure that the victims come out of their trauma and join the mainstream again. It is also important for the family – be it the victim’s parents, relatives, boyfriend or friends to stand by them in those tough times. This will not only embolden the victims to fearlessly report such crimes to the police, but will also help them lead a peaceful and happy life, forgetting the unfortunate ordeal.
But are all these measures enough? My friend asked me last night – “You can make laws to prevent sexual harassment and rape, but of what help will they be when a cheap ass tailor touches you with base intentions when you go to get your dress stitched, or when some person makes a contemptuous comment at you while on the street, or when someone purposively nudges you in a crowded train or a bus? Can these tough laws come to our rescue then? Will they prevent us from facing such embarrassment and humiliation every single day?” Her questions were persuasive and pertinent. They were also hard to answer.
Later in the night, I sent her a text message – Yes, laws cannot help as they cannot cure a disease of the mind. But we need not lose hope. We see hope on the streets of our towns and cities where thousands of youngsters have poured onto to express their outrage against rape. We see hope in the hundreds of tweets and facebook statuses of our youngsters condemning the objectification of women. We need not worry, for this new generation is making the independence movement meet its true ends – don’t you remember the Mahatma’s words? “Our nation will have achieved true independence and freedom only when a woman can walk in the midnight all alone and feel safe”