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Our Women And Their Problem
From the deluge of the ear-scorching verbiage from an increasing number of Indian men reported by the Media in the recent past, it would seem that the female population of the country has become an unsuspecting target of a totally uncalled for and entirely unwarranted onslaught. Nearly one half of the population has been generously and mindlessly doled out oodles of an awful earful of indignities and obscenities instead of understanding and consideration which is rightfully theirs. Motormouths of otherwise-unheard-of politicians and ignominious fringe groups of socio-political outfits, most of which have a religious slant, have been working overtime, breathing fire and brimstone on the female population, in a brazen display of utter insensitivity and shame-faced misogynism. The perpetrators of the onslaught have succeeded, in the process, in giving a graphic account of their medieval mindset regarding what women should do and, what is worse, what they should not! All this wanton ranting and rabble-rousing has contributed to making the peace-loving and law-abiding people, men included, of the country who have a progressive outlook, extremely sad and upset about the abysmal state of affairs.
Adding Insult To Injury
There has been a highly alarming trend of an increase in incidents of gender violence in India in recent times. Apart from making polite noises and expressions of sympathy, besides twiddling their thumbs, precious little has been done by those in positions of authority, like people's elected representatives, police, community elders and 'khap panchayats' of villages (read kangaroo courts). To make matters worse, sections of these groups of people themselves have been making highly irresponsible and objectionable statements and homilies to make the hapless victims and survivors of gender violence cringe in abject terror and shame - not over the indignities heaped on them by the perpetrators of violence but over the subsequent irresponsible and insensitive response of those whom they look up to for understanding and help.
Heaping Of Indignities
To think that in a country like India known for a rich diversity of cultural beliefs and practices, small time politicians and men of their ilk crawl out of the woodwork from time to time and tell women that they have only themselves to blame for what happens to them! For instance, women are told they should not wear jeans, how much the length of their dress should be, they should not freely mingle with menfolk even if the latter are their friends, they should not celebrate Lovers' Day, they should not have free access to cell phones, they should not stay outdoors late, ....why the list is endless and truly disgusting! In crucial matters of education and marriage, girls are not allowed a say! Of course, we are not trying to paint all men with the same brush. In India where the society is notoriously patriarchal, we have islands and pockets of communities, like in the southern and north eastern parts, where reason, good sense and sanity prevail; in such communities women are proud compatriots of the menfolk, enjoy freedom of expression and movement thanks, besides the Constitution of the country, to the rich traditions and cultural practices of their own communities and are, in short, no different from men in determing the course of their own lives. But such sections of society are few and far between. There are still vast swathes of the Indian society where women's lives continue to be chartered and lorded over by myopic and misogynistic men. All the half-hearted attempts initiated, in an ostrich-like fashion, by successive governments in the form of social and welfare schemes for the upliftment of the female section of the society have been not more than cosmetic in nature and effect, in classic cases of being too little too late.
Smriti Irani, Human Resource Development Minister
As if the plight of women is not sickening enough for its own faultlines, sizeable numbers of parents lay more premium on a male child than on a female child for reasons ranging from socio-economic pressures experienced in bringing up a girl child and providing her with a dowry, to taking the additional responsibility of looking after her safety and security in the face of the law and order situation, worsening by the day, etc. Recenrly, in an interaction with a group of school children, Human Resource Development Minister Ms.Smriti Irani sent her young audience into a spin by recounting a tale of horror that dated back to her birth. A good lady who was aghast at the prospects of Smriti's mother having a female child who was evidently a 'burden' to the family, suggested to the mother that the accursed baby be put to death. Obviously, good sense prevailed and the kind mother killed the idea and not the baby who grew up into a multi-talented young woman who has excelled in all her chosen fields of activities, and became the youngest female Indian minister of full-fledged Cabinet rank and did every Indian woman, and right thinking man, proud. How many parents take pride in their daughters as much as in their sons is a moot point. A male child is openly welcomed with glee and is mollycoddled and spoilt with male chauvnistic pride. Young men who are products of such a retrograde system grow up with indifference, if not downright contempt, for the women who fall prey to the evil designs of criminals. There is no gainsaying the fact that such are the young men who go astray and become juvenile offenders and commit acts of gender violence.
Narrow Political Agenda
In such a stifling environment, along come politicians with a narrow agenda. Whenever their own or their parties' political survival faces an existential crisis, they shoot off their mouths to create a sensation with a view to diverting the attention of the public, fast becoming disillusioned with the performance or activities of the self-serving politicians. Women's position in the society is an all time favourite topic of theirs! For days on end, the focus of the Media remains on their latest shocker statement to the exclusion of their failure on the governance front!
Apathy Of Political Leadership
Every Indian political party, without exception, seems to have its fair share of practitioners of the fine art of misogynysm. Sadly, apart from dubbing the extremely insensitive and outrageous statements against women by their party members as unfortunate and irresponsible, no party has come forward to take serious action against any of them including serial offenders. Obviously, the parties lack the political will and are least bothered about the need to uphold decency and decorum in public life. Furthermore, politicians who are in power for the sole purpose of feathering their own nests become increasingly paranoid with the passage of time over their own dubious performance to the extent of suspecting the motives of those who level criticism, albeit sound and valid, and accuse the very same Media which had catapulted them to power in the first instance, of trying to subvert the stability of the system by sowing seeds of discord.
Policing Blues And Judicial Logjam
Policing in India is a state government subject, riddled with common faultlines in states across the country, irrespective of which party is in power, like shortage of personnel and equipment, flagrant practice of chauvnism in appointments, corruption permeating all levels and kowtowing to the political leadership etc. All of these weaknesses and shortcomings debilitate the morale of the over-worked and under-paid police force in the face of rising crime rates, especially against women, in a society where the process of urbanization and consequent economic transformation from an agrarian to an industry-and-service-based one gives cause to restlessness and discontent among a primarily rural population which finds it difficult to keep pace with the unstoppable development. To make matters further worse, speedy trials of perpetrators of crimes against women and conviction rates are woefully low in number. Judiciary is hamstrung by lack of efficacy of an archaic system, the origin of which dates back to pre-colonial past and infrastructural deficiencies like non-availability of enough number of judges, court rooms etc.
Glimmerings of Hope
In such a seemingly hopeless situation, active women's rights groups and a vigilant and alert Media offer faint glimmerings of hope for the cause of the women. While they cannot solve women's problems on their own, they can certainly highlight the problems and draw the attention of the authorities who would otherwise be sitting pretty in their ivory towers unconcerned and untouched by the plight of women. What is more, they can generate and spread awareness among women, of the rights bestowed on them by the Constitution of the country as well as the inalienable ones inherited by their mothers in the name of decency and moral uprightness in the course of evolution of humanity and bequeathed to them. Most importantly, the good work carried out by a responsible Media and determined women's rights groups would grab the eyeballs of the well-meaning citizens at large, whose ire and righteous indignation over the plight of women, currently lying dormant, would be ignited before it is too late, to grow into a blazing torch capable of banishing the darkness of ignorance and indifference and showing the way to true liberation and emancipation of OUR WOMEN!
© 2014 Kalyanaraman Raman