By Shreeya Arora:
The high-handedness of those in power over the weak ,since times immemorial, has been the order of the day.One is able to understand this kind of orthodoxy during days of imperialism and colonialism,when social reforms were slow and tardy,but it is difficult to digest the same in today’s democratic world;where issues like patriarchy continue to thrive on popular cultural and human consciousness.
Malevolent patriarchy has off late emerged in the most deplorable and excruciating sense. Right from gender bias to sexual immorality,patriarchal norms have entrenched themselves, their roots laid in religious mythology. For instance,in the epic Ramayana ,the concepts of patriarchy and chastity can be seen in the extreme sense,where a single blemish on a woman’s reputation is unforgivable. The annotations of ‘sati‘ and ‘purdah‘ are branches of the same roots of patriarchy. Traces of patriarchy and the way it impinged on the lives of the west are also visible in the history of literature. The fact that many literary aces like Eliot veiled themselves by using a man’s name is reflective of the fact that patriarchy and women oppression not only breed in some parts of the world ,but are issues women across the globe are still grappling with.
A woman, however righteous and upfront, shall find herself bound by chains of patriarchy and bear the brunt every time she tries to resist. Notions such as “sati-savitri” continue to trigger mindsets of both the sexes. Femininity is constructed by the society,wherein a woman’s body is not her own. It is the property of her parents,her kins and the society at large. Her family’s honor lies in her chastity. Her character shall be defined by her sexuality and she is deemed to be “character-less” (characterless is no word in the English dictionary .It simply means anybody without character which is not possible.) if she goes beyond the territory demarcated for her by the society.
Bell Hooks is right when she says,”Patriarchy has no gender” and that it is not synonymous with men in particular, but the society at large, a society wherein male dominance is not only accepted ,but valued. However, the dimension today that has emerged of patriarchy is male dominance through women oppression,thus making patriarchy a gender based phenomenon. It has merely become a medium for glorifying “masculinity” in common parlance with objectivity of women. The brutality of the recent rape of the 23 year old is a manifestation of the extent and magnanimity of the problem. The thousands who came on the streets were not mere protesters ushering sporadic outbursts, they personified the idea that women are not ‘commodities‘ or objects to be used and thrown away. They rooted seeds of change ,change not only within the functioning of the political fabric but within themselves .However this outrage was not like any other movement or plain show of dissent, it thrust a voice, a voice demanding ‘respect‘ for women, a voice in unison yearning for ‘freedom from fear‘.
For homage to the woman martyr, many demanded death penalty for the rapists, systematic hearing in fast-track courts to expedite the process of justice for theÂ brave-heart.Â But what about the rapist that resides within each person who is a sexist, who opines “women should dress accordingly so as not to provoke men“? What about those ushers of democracy who call women ‘dented and painted’?Women are relentlessly told to ‘dress properly‘,discouraged to get out of homes late in the nights. The khaps proclaim that women wearing jeans or eating noodles invite rapes. It is not only absurd but painful that these so-called ‘gatekeepers of democracy‘ have parochial mindsets,ones that demeans humanity.
I have always tried interpreting the mindsets of these people, who are formally termed rapists but, to me are inhuman. They aren’t born rapists, then what is it that urges them to resort to acts as horrendous and barbaric as this. Is it the social conditioning deep seated with patriarchy that graduates to gory and sex-saturated mindsets? or is it a psychological disorder? According to a 2003 report by UNDF for women, 1 in 3 women across the world have suffered some form of gender-based violence- verbal,physical and sexual. Right from the stage a woman is born to the stage she leaves the world, she is subject to a plethora of prejudices. I feel what is more disheartening is the latent gender-bias that the so called ‘modernists‘ possess, disguised under the mask of rationality, modernity and egalitarianism; a dubious mindset. They may not be explicit about their chauvinistic views so as to append themselves with ideals of modernity,but shall covertly give a hand to discrimination. They may have supported the ‘Nirabhaya‘ cause, would have even signed e-petitions, liked and shared status updates of others on Facebook, but when asked about letting their own daughters, mothers or wives out late at nights, the answers shall remain walled with prejudices, imposed under the pretext of “precautionary measures” for women.
Whatever it is,we, as women, are not responsible and will not tolerate these actions. Women are custodians of the republic and deserve an equivalent position in the society as men. Where on one hand we take pride in achievements of women in the public domain, encourage women like Mary Kom to bag Olympic medals and bring national pride, then why do we flinch from our responsibility to provide the space and freedom that women are entitled to? Its time people take the wake-up call, understand once and for ever that a woman’s dress is not a visa for her dignity to be defiled. It only signifies freedom, freedom to dress in whatever manner that appeals to her, freedom to rove wherever and whenever she wants without being told to be ‘careful‘ of predators and deserve to be treated as equal to men because a nations’s prosperity lies in the prosperity of its men and women, not the number of arms it trades in or the GDP growth it achieves.