We say men and women are equal. They have equal rights; they are treated equally in the eyes of the law – this and many more such things are said to prove that we don't discriminate between the two genders.
However, I always pondered over the question, "How much of this is true?" Have we really attained gender equality as a society? Or is it just a myth? The aftermath of the December 16 Delhi gangrape incident reaffirmed these questions in my mind.
Now, don't misconstrue my statement as saying that rapes don't show the inherent gender inequality of our culture. No, what I mean is that the various statements you heard from insensitive politicians and self-styled ungodly godmen is the very reason rapes and atrocities against women are committed. Consider this:
"The protests for the gangrape victim are being held by dented and painted women"
– Abhijit Mukherjee, son of the First Citizen of India
"The victim should have begged her attackers for mercy and called them bhaiya (which means elder brother in Hindi)"
– Asaram Bapu, self-styled "godman"
"Rapes do not happen in Bharat, they only happen in India (meaning it is a purely urban phenomenon)"
"Women shouldn't go alone at night and should fully cover themselves"
"Girls should go out only with their fathers or brothers before marriage and their husbands after marriage"
And more recently
"It was the mistake of the girl's friend that all this happened, he fell for lust, the attackers did nothing wrong"
– The lawyer fighting for the accused in the case
All these statements smack of an inflated male ego and a desire to keep the women suppressed under their power. I have not made any of these statements up and you can check for yourselves as they have been widely covered by the media. It shows that in our society,
"Gender Equality Is Still A Big Fat Myth"
Looking down upon women is as much a psychological issue as a cultural one. If you look up the ancient (the very beginning of civilization) history of man, it is said that there was no discrimination between man and woman. Equal importance was given both to the male occupation of gathering food for the family and the female occupation of tending the house and the family. Even the Bible says that God created Eve from Adam's rib – not from his head, not from his foot – implying there is no difference between both.
However, somewhere along the line, man started to take advantage of this. And this is when crime started – not just crime against women, but crime in general. When ambition turned into greed and compassion turned into oppression, problems started. And women being the so-called weaker sex, they got subdued. They became objects of desire for men. It got worse as women began to be viewed as a servant of the house and as someone who exists just to satisfy man's carnal desires. Women became commodities for men. This very attitude is reflected in the quotes at the beginning of this post.
It is even reflected in our laws. Seven years is the maximum jail sentence for rape. That, if he is convicted in the first place. So many incidents go unreported because the victim is afraid to complain. There have been so many incidents where the victim who goes to the police station gets raped by the officer on duty. This is an extremely sad state of affairs.
The issue on hand is not just rape and molestation. It is one of a broader psychological problem. And, we need not one but a slew of measures in the short-term and long-term perspective.
And, it should start with laws. The present laws are just too lax. Heck, the Middle East – where women don't even have equal voting and legal rights – gives a death sentence to rapists. This shows why more rapes happen than anything else. People are simply not scared. The first step in changing such a rigid and primitive psychology is to plant the seeds of fear. Logic and rationale come later.
Yes, logic and rationale are important too. There are many influences in society which portray women in a bad light. If you take movies for example, almost every movie shows the heroine as a subordinate to the hero. People wrongly blame item songs for crime against women. It is not as if Katrina Kaif dancing to the tunes of Sheila ki Jawani wearing skimpy clothes converted everyone into rapists. When you return after a movie, it is the story and the behavior of the characters which sticks with you and not an item number which is not more than 5 minutes long. The heroine being subservient to the male hero throughout the movie in every movie is a big subconscious driver in attitudes as well.
Another very important factor is the kind of poisonous statements these politicians and "godmen" make. Many people, especially in the villages, look up to these people (more so to the godmen) and even take their statements as the gospel truth. All this affects the psyche of the people. Especially men start to believe that they can do anything with women and subdue them. It is shocking how much people can be influenced.
It is difficult to name measures and think of them as a silver bullet which will solve this problem. It is a long battle to get justice for women. More importantly, we as men should realize that women are not less than us. A huge task lies ahead of us and we should be up for it. Next time, you see someone making fun of the fairer sex, stop them and make them think. If things get out of hand, don't hesitate to use the laws' help.
It is time to get rid of stereotypes and swing into action.
Let's make gender equality a reality and way of life. Do let me know what you think about this in the comments.