“8 year old child raped by neighbour.” “Techie gang raped in a bus.” “Newlywed murdered for dowry.” These and many more such headlines shock us every morning and leave us perplexed making us think if this world is a safe place for women.
Woman, she has been praised for what she is: being a mother, a wife, a sister. She has loved and cared all of us unconditionally. God has sculpted her beautifully, but amidst all this, she is still considered an object by society. Civilisations flourished in every corner of the world but even after so many years, the so-called civilised society can’t guarantee the safety of women. Indian mythology scripted in Rig-Veda, Ramayana etc. discouraged violence against women. There were many strong women during those times. the example of Gargi, Maitreyi etc. shows that. Gargi was invited to a conference on philosophy, held by King Janaka of Videha, and she challenged the highly learned sage Yajnavalkya to a public debate. But nowadays, be it the workplace or the home, gender discrimination is deeply rooted in both urban and rural India.
Gender based violence is inherent in many cultures because of gender preference where the birth of a son is preferred. According to the United Nations, in 2015, the sex ratio of the world was 101.70. That means 101.70 males for every 100 females. This indicates a preference for sons over daughters, thus risking the lives of infants and young women. The way to stop this is by preventing sex-selective abortion, or infanticide.
After a rape case, the whole world unites and the people pour their anguish out and protest against it. And one month down the line there’s another case. In these cases, the victim can be a three-year-old or a seventy-five-year-old lady. These cases force us to think about the psychological state of the rapist. Some come from backgrounds where women have always been objectified and a patriarchal system is followed. For an instance, in India, khap panchayats order gang rape as a punishment for women suspected of inappropriate relationships. But that isn’t always the case.
Stories of every household vary. The question is, are moral values and ethics taught to children, do the children respect their mother, does a boy respect his sister. A child grows up to be the way he is groomed. Most countries’ legal system discriminates to a greater or lesser degree against women, so the laws and policies should be reframed favouring women. The laws should be amended giving a high degree of punishment to rapists.
Another thing which seems to feed into sexual violence is the depiction of women in movies and the entertainment industry. For a long time now, cinema has been the primary source of entertainment in every Indian household. Usually, in the movies, the male is the ‘hero’, while the female characters are fragile and submissive. The sad part is the way the society accepts these notions. Cinema reflects an orthodox mentality and society’s prejudicial approach towards women where they either dance to tracks with raunchy lyrics, or portray submissive housewives or girlfriends to their male counterparts. Why can’t a movie be hit because of Padukone or Ranaut and must always require the presence of the ‘Khans’. The very portrayal of women in celluloid should be changed thereby helping to change mindsets. This will impact generations to come.
When I see a girl of my age at my village getting pregnant after being married at an early age against her wish, a 25 year old widow who is not allowed to work or go outside alone, the feminist in me is stirred to revolt.
An increasing number of women have now begun raising their voice against discrimination, violence, intolerance. Now that we understand the causes of women’s oppression and the solutions to it, it’s our duty to make this world a safer and freer place for women. A place where every woman can exercise her right to freedom of speech and expression, and move freely throughout the territory of India, or practice any profession.