Sunday, December 19, 2010


YET again, there was a rape – gang rape – in Delhi. Before it too becomes a number in the nearly two rapes committed in Delhi everyday, let us look at some shameful facts. It does not need any meticulous reading of newspapers to learn about the unthinkable atrocities on women in the capital city and surroundings. In the week following the incident of gang rape of the North-eastern girl working in a BPO, media reported the rape and murder of a two year old child, a dalit girl, a blind school girl, a domestic help and a house wife. Instead of empathising with the victims, some people openly blame the victims for their plight, while many silently harbour similar feelings.

In the present instance, media reported that some ‘elders’ from the village of the accused have stated that it is the woman who is to blame because she is working late night shifts. This follows arguments of many others who blame women and their way of dressing. The newspaper reports quoted above show that women, irrespective of age, time, dress or class are harassed, molested and sexually assaulted every day. What dress did the two-year old wear, or what was the night shift that the baby worked, which had provoked the banal animal instincts in the person who had raped and killed her? It is high time for the society to stop blaming the women and look at what’s wrong with it.

Social stereotypes of women have to change in the society. Women are labelled as fairer and weaker sex. Harassing, assaulting and molesting them are projected as a sign of machismo. If your boss reprimands you, it is ‘natural’ for you to express your anger and frustration on your wife. This is ‘natural’ because you are brought up in an atmosphere where you can speak with a raised voice on your mother but only in a hush-hush and obedient tone with your father. You, as a boy can go to school, play, read and go to the market, but your sister should first complete assisting household chores, along with her studies, if at all she is allowed this luxury of education. For her, work becomes play while playing is work for you. If girls come out breaking these stereotypes, it is considered ‘unnatural’ and an ‘aberration’. Of course, there are exceptions, but for a majority of women, this is the reality.

Women are expected not to own anything. Everything of the women is “thanks to the men” and so they can toy with women – right from deciding whether they should take birth, go to school, to their marriage and life. No wonder that Lalu Prasad Yadav, who was consistent in his opposition to the women's reservation bill in the parliament had stated during the recent Bihar elections, “women will vote only to those whom their men ask them to”. This attitude perceives women as bereft of any individuality, self-respect, consciousness and entirely dependent on men. It is this degrading attitude towards women that makes the society insensitive to the crimes committed upon them.

This degrading attitude is displayed even during the registration of crimes, their investigation and even during the trial. Women are dissuaded from reporting crime committed upon them. Those who dare to report are castigated and stigmatised. It is because of this reason that many of the crimes go unreported. Those reported are not pursued with vigour by the law enforcement authorities. Because of this laxity and sometimes even open collaboration with the accused, justice is denied. Recently the lone witness in a gang rape case committed by dragging a woman from a mall in Noida, Delhi in broad daylight has complained about the threats he is receiving. Incidentally, the witness happens to be the son of a police officer and his repeated requests for security and even the directions of the trial court were not implemented. The accused emboldened with this covert support of the authorities appears to be successful in preventing the witness deposing before the court, thus making the chances of their conviction slim.

Similar is the role of the media. It is true that sections of the media are playing a positive role in highlighting the atrocities committed upon women. But at times, we find the drive to sensationalise, desire to be 'first' to break the news, is affecting their sensibilities. Apart from these, generally the portrayal of women in media is dismaying. Recently a newspaper in its supplement had carried a news item stating that a Hindi film artist has participated in a promotional event without her under garments. Not satisfied with the reporting, to establish the fact they even carried a photograph, though it was pixellated. This report appeared in a 'national daily' that claims to be the topmost circulated English daily in the capital.

Another newspaper had carried regular daily features on the dress of the first ladies of the US and France when they visited the country along with their spouses. They roped in fashion designers to give their expert comments on the same. They even suggested an image make over for our president. What purposes do such news serve? Remember we are just talking about reporting and not about the so-called reality programmes shown on television by various channels.

What is needed is to bring in a sea change in the attitudes of the citizenry towards women. The concepts that they are weak, objects of desire and subjugation have to change. This cannot happen without economically empowering women. Along with it, a sustained campaign has to be launched to recognise the enormous work done by women – both paid and unpaid, inside and outside the houses. Respect to this work should follow its recognition. Gender sensitisation campaigns should be launched and the government administration and law enforcement authorities should be the first among all to attend such classes. Measures should be initiated to ensure that police immediately act upon the complaints, take speedy action and see that the culprits are punished. Laxity not only erodes the confidence of the victim but also emboldens the criminal. It should be remembered that a society that does not know how to respect women can never be called a modern society.

Courtesy: People’s Democracy

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