Have Women In India Learned To Live With The Violence Around Them?

One of my professors once remarked that every day of a woman’s life is planned in such a way so as to ultimately avoid getting raped.

Think about it – the lane you decide to walk in, the transport you choose to travel in, the time you leave the house and come back to it, the places you visit – what are we actually doing?

Trying to not be abducted by men and then get raped. But how correct is it to live in such a state of mind? To either ignore the violence around us or to live under the constant threat of it?

While India is witnessing a narrative of development, some problems seem to be out of its ambit. Despite the articulations on women’s empowerment by political leaders, gender-based violence seems to be a never-ending phenomenon.

If one goes by the latest statistics of National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), every day 93 women are being raped in the country.

The fact that Delhi is the rape capital of India doesn’t pop open eyes anymore. It’s normal now, isn’t it?

Most people think that development is synonymous to gender equality and therein lays the problem. But one needs to keep in mind the fact that as the state and the country are changing, even ‘developing’ if one believes in such a thing, then so are the different faces of violence.

Perpetrators are constantly finding loopholes in the legal system which has constantly proved to be an inadequate system to completely address the question of violence, especially gendered violence.

One cannot ignore the fact that the legal discourse is extremely important and a constant engagement with it is required to combat any type of violence solely because it has the power to render actions as legitimate or otherwise.

Yet, an engagement with it alone is not the solution.

A presence of a legal discourse does not equate to complete eradication of violence. Implementation of laws has continuously proven to be an issue.

For example, there is a law against Voyeurism (Section 354C), as well as, Stalking (Section 354D), but how many of us report such incidents? Even if such crimes are reported, punitive action is seldom taken against them.

We as a culture, have internalised violence to such an extent that till such time that it doesn’t reach us, and reach us physically, we tend to ignore it.

Along with this culture of violence that we live in, reporting of such cases comes with its own baggage of mental and physical threats from the perpetrator and sympathetic advice from close friends and family members to ‘let go’ of such incidents which haven’t really ‘violated’ you.

Therefore, the solution to counter such a multifaceted and complex form of gender-based violence requires a more nuanced approach.

Gender sensitization is necessary at all levels right now, especially when violence towards women is taking new forms and shapes and has permeated all spheres of life public, as well as, private.

Law alone cannot counter the different forms of violence that one witnesses. Therefore, as responsible and active citizens, the response to violence should come from us also.

Violence stems from within the society and hides behind the mask of relationships women and girls share with others- and therefore, action must stem from within as well.

State along with the legal system are external agencies that need to work along with the support and active participation of citizens.

Education of all types needs to be intermeshed with gender sensitization. Many organisations are working in this regard. WISCOMP (Women in Security, Conflict Management and Peace), for example, works towards sensitising the citizens, especially young people on the line.

WISCOMP, as an initiative, recognises the courage in each individual who works towards a violence-free world.

It simultaneously breaks the idea of the man who always rescues a ‘damsel in distress’- therefore, such an idea also combats the restricting, as well as. gendered notions of masculinity and power in our society.

We need such organisations and initiatives that believe in an egalitarian work process wherein they kindle all the institutions in their environment thereby adding up to their own final output to the society.

Organisations that aim at spreading gender sensitization must include youth in schools and colleges, educators, women’s rights activists, youth from displaced communities, young girls of marginalized sections from rural areas, civil society actors and policy makers as well, since all these forces together would help us create a more stable and strong idea of equality that appreciates diversity.

Recently, WISCOMP hosted a popular event wherein it acknowledged the courage of extraordinary women, men and transgender persons at the Saahas Awards Ceremony on March 16, 2017, at the India International Centre, New Delhi.

People from different walks of life came together and society as a whole celebrated their immutable and commendable work in the field as they combated and raised their voice against violence.

It was an extremely beautiful and soul-stirring evening wherein the idea of combating gender-based violence attracted diverse and multifarious intellectuals from distinct fields such as education, law and social work etc.

It was an event that was worth attending as India today needs such ground-breaking events and organisations that aim to bridge the gap between civilians and law, humanity and morality and the most monumental gap, that is, between the people themselves- an empathy and sympathy for a fellow human.

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