Some five years back, when I was shopping with my mother in the streets of Darya Ganj, a fine young black boy gathers the courage to pinch my rear, not once, not twice but three times. I was daring enough to gather equal courage to pull him back from the collar and paste a slap on his face and surrender him to the mob, leaving him at their mercy.
The question, however, is whether all this was really required? Why did he have to do a pitiful deed as such to be only humiliated at the end? Probably he hadn’t anticipated the consequence. And that’s thanks to the social structure – a patriarchy that condones and exalts sexual harassment, an administration that has no stringent laws for the protection of the fairer sex and above all a matriarchy that celebrates manhood and embraces suppression under its so-called ‘valour’ in the name of culture and religion.
“Being a woman is terribly difficult task, since it consists principally in dealing with men.” – Joseph Conrad. A statement that Conrad wrote in his novel Chance in 1913 seems to provide answer to one of the most haunting questions a century later in 2013 – “Why sexual harassment?”
Science declares that the desire for sexual activity has biological components, androgen in men and androgen and estrogen in women are believed to affect libido. Every individual gets a sexual drive that can be satisfied by ‘making love’ to a body and not having libido at the right time might well be a reason of concern, something not normal. But the question is whether biological determinism is such powerful that it supersedes psychological and social components affecting one’s sexual appetite? Has libido so much to do with the body that the soul is no determinant in controlling it?
Aren’t females as human as males are? Or are their genitals functional only when the penis wants to invade them? When I write humans get a biologically sane sexual drive, do i take away the females’ right to be called human? I clearly do not. Why is it then that females are mostly victimized in cases of sexual harassment? An obvious explanation would refer to the fragile female body but that does not imply that she is meant to satisfy the male lust. It’s true that there have been cases where males have been sexually exploited but in those cases too, the wrong doers are the males themselves. I do not defend feminism nor do I uphold a feminist approach in writing this but speaking from an analyst’s point of view, the male superiority has been such well-fed into the minds of men that their psyche and their conscious perceives it normal to dominate and exploit the female frame.
In cultures across the world, the female subordination has assumed a universal; a universal that places woman such close to nature that it becomes easy for the man to transcend her into his built culture; a culture that such engrosses woman in it, she accepts her subordinate role and finds it easier to continue and survive in order to gain acceptance rather than struggle, fight for her right and grace dismissal.
The SlutWalk protest marches began when Constable Michael Sanguinetti, a Toronto Police officer, suggested that to remain safe, “women should avoid dressing like sluts.” Despite that on the murder of journalist Soumya Vishwanathan, Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit made comments that ‘one should not be adventurous.’ And in an attempt to counteract this hate of women against women, One Billion Rising, a global campaign by women, for women that calls for an end to violence, and for justice and gender equality is held each year on February 14 marking it as the new V(vagina)-day. However, mere talking of bringing about institutional revolutions, change in legal frameworks, and reservation for women won’t help till the time a revolution in the mindsets is brought about.
Many opine that capital punishment is a deterrent for sexual harassment but surveys show that the 57 countries which give capital punishment for crimes pertaining to sexual harassment do not show any fall in its rate. Rather chances of cases of wrong convictions might rise and many innocent people may stand a chance of being wrongly executed due to planned conspiracy of the actual wrong-doer(s). Chances are also that capital punishment instead of condemning cases of sexual harassment will aggravate corruption in the society and rather elevate the rape cases behind bars, literally, with increased chances of involvement of the office bearers – further staining the social framework. The biggest argument against capital punishment is that it is the ultimate denial of one’s human rights; it takes away the convict’s chance of reforming himself/herself. After all, what the world wants is not the execution of criminals but the elimination of crime. There is a reason why 97 countries have prohibited capital punishment, it is irrevocable. In the fear of being encountered and executed, the culprit might try to remove all evidence against him and even go to the extent of killing his victim. Can we afford that? Not only this, imposing capital punishment will also lead to less cases being reported and continuation of these heinous crimes within four-walls. We all know that cases of rapes are least in Saudi Arabia because of capital punishment meted out to the rapists, but how many of us know that one reason for this is also that many cases of rapes are not even reported in Saudi Arabia because the survivor fears of being stoned and fogged to death by the society. Therefore, the best solution is that the cases of sexual harassment be dealt with rapidly and no case be left pending. What will be effective is the certainty of a punishment and not its degree.
However, the other school of thought believes that the punishment sentenced must be as severe as the crime committed so that no one dares to even think of doing as shameful a crime as sexual harassment. And how can we expect a person accused of rape to reform himself? We argue abolition of capital punishment on the grounds that it curtails human right to life, but shouldn’t we question ourselves that are the culprits of rapes and gang rapes even worthy of being called ‘human’? Isn’t giving them the right to life unfair to the survivor who is left stigmatized for the rest of her/his life, unaccepted by the society, as good as dead? How can we allow these sinners to continue to live behind bars in a secured shelter, enjoying three meals per day, clean clothes, health amenities and all this at no expense? Above all, how can we let free a sinner once (s)he is sentenced imprisonment? Haven’t we learnt by now from the cases where the rapists after freeing from jail repeat the same offense, victimizing another human? The rule of law states that any and all wrong doer(s) must be punished. Weren’t we all punishment in school when we used to tease a classmate? Then how can we be lenient towards a criminal for molesting and ruining some individual’s life?
I condone that social reform can be brought only once moral reforms are brought about. Going by the adage that prevention is better than cure, I believe what is important to be thought about is not the punishment for but prevention of sexual harassment. We need to tame our rowdy horse, air a consciousness to protect our women and create education systems that strengthen this thought. It’s high time that men and women too stood up against woman’s subjugation. Crime against women will continue till the time mothers at home keep telling their sons, “Study hard. You’re not a girl whom we can just marry off”, till the time a sister keeps telling her brother, “Don’t cry like a girl!” or till the time a father keeps telling his daughter, “Learn some household chores. We can still tolerate, your in-laws won’t.” One has to become conscious of these little things, speak against small jokes against women, only then will the prevailing conditions change, change for the good.