By Arati Nair:
As children, we’ve all heard tales of birds once trapped in a cage, set free to fly high, and the underlying moral of the glorious significance of freedom for all. Sadly, freeing birds everywhere would be too hard a task, and someplace else another group remains trapped within the miserable confines of another cage.
This bizarre analogy uncannily resembles one that is playing out in real life, a macabre recreation of a long forgotten fable. Over the last couple of years, when the expected apocalypse of 2012 failed to befall humanity, an insanity of the most violent order instead took root in our psyche. The burgeoning cases of crimes against women attest to this fact. Apparently, pitching vacation tents in Mars is a much easier task than addressing the blatant disregard for half of the world’s teeming population. While indignation has steadfastly grown, the practical aspects of legislation that can bring about accountability in such cases remain low.
Women, though a neglected race, have always been the driving forces of any developed country. Development and empowerment are twin peas in a pod. The spate of killings and abductions in Abuja, Nigeria, the attack on Malala Yousafzai, the ancient Kunan-Poshpora incident brushed under the rug, and more recently the rape and lynching of two cousins in Uttar Pradesh, followed by similar horrifying incidents in different parts of the state and the country point not only to the callous insensitivity that has pervaded the worldly law and order system, but put our own self-proclaimed morals and tradition to shame.
The social media is flooded with analyses, debates and even theses on the causes and effects of such human-made tragedies, of how women are ill-treated and their voices muffled. These incidents are deliberately overlooked as commonplace in a society segregated by a zillion castes or as manifestations of the perverse cleansing ritual undertaken by the preservers of a religious order. While the obtuse explanations continue, it is high time we realized that social discord against one particular gender clearly portrays the glaring disparities present between the sexes. I sympathize with the advocates of equality for women; bridging the gulf is no small task, it is nearly impossible in today’s society.
Worldwide, rapes and other crimes against women are banished from mainstream discussions after an initial upsurge of sympathy and moral affront. The conviction rate for rape in India was a mere 24.2% in 2012, which indicates that more than three-fourth of the cases are either not reported or the perpetrators not convicted. Though conditions with regard to registering cases have improved over the last decade, this is in no way a panacea to the problem.
The initiative for a conducive environment that does not immediately dismiss rape statistics as unreliable, criminalises marital rape and openly discusses problems faced by women will come about only through strong legislation. However, an awareness among men to educate them of the forgotten role of women and the benevolence expected from members of the same species could be the breeze that turns the tide. Of course, sex education at the school level can be pivotal, but equally pertinent is the role of upbringing of boys at home. Women should be respected for being themselves, not idolised for the sacrifices that their part as mother or wife or sister entails or lusted after for their salacious portrayal in various entertainment media
In light of the Badaun incident, improved sanitation facilities are to be ensured in all villages and places of remote access in India. A commendable first step – one that came too late. Framing laws relevant to the socio-politico-economic circumstances should be introduced well before disasters of such mammoth proportions come to be. The legislative and administrative machinery must have the political wherewithal to draft unyielding laws when crimes of human rights violation are involved. A stringent judiciary for speedy redressal of cases concerning the same must work in tandem to slow down, if not halt, the swelling growth of such violent crimes.
These proclamations may sound in tune with the wild musings of a rabid feminist. The hollow promises of vote-seekers, the contemptible use of women empowerment as a tool to reap greater political dividends, empathy and sympathy showered in heaps over victims of abominable crimes and a quick amnesia when it comes to deliverance and accountability, spell out the writing on the wall. The only solution can be a quiet introspection to gauge the magnitude of the havoc wreaked. Let us hope that the gilded cage of even the modern and empowered woman holds strong against the atrocities of a free world. Freedom for them might be sweet, but that is how all forbidden fruits seem.
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