Just when I sat down to write a tribute to women, with my mind brimming with pleasant thoughts on celebrating the grandeur and grace of being a woman; the nasty TV set by my side marred the mood, which I had manufactured with much effort.
Flashing next to me in an intolerable repetition, was a very disturbing video footage of few men in khaki roughing up a girl very brutally, with one slapping her and another brandishing the baton at her lean frame, with his entire force. Her old and frail father too, wasn`t spared and cops were seen manhandling him.
The annoying scene was that of a roadside in Tarn Taran district of Punjab where the girl had dared to report against sexual harassment by a few truck drivers. Every time the footage was being played, the sheer barbarism of the way the two cops were beating the girl, reminded me of how wrong I was to have woven an improved and pleasant picture of women empowerment, just to set a positive tone and radiate a feel-good factor.
One has to be blindfolded and unrealistically optimistic to ignore the dark picture that actually exists behind the translucent glittering veil of a changing India.
Sexual harassment, rapes, abductions, human trafficking, domestic violence, torture and murder for dowry, female infanticide and female foeticide - these are shadows, dark and long enough to eclipse all those baby steps taken by the government to paint a satisfying sketch of women emancipation. Be it the latest 1000 cr Nirbhaya fund or an all-women bank, or the Justice Verma Committee report, or the pending Women’s Reservation Bill – nothing compensates for the cruel reality of women living this awful life of untold horrors in India.
While the appalling incident of December 16 gang-rape buttressed why Delhi is called the rape capital of India, other states are not far behind with Bhandara rape case from Maharashtra and Suryanelli case of Kerala hopping in the headlines every now and then.
No wonder, India was declared the fourth most dangerous place for women in 2011. For a country that worships Durga and Kali and is epitomised by the likes of Indira Gandhi and Kalpana Chawala, it is a disgrace to be tagged as ‘dangerous for women’ and placed just behind Afghanistan, Democratic Republic of Congo and Pakistan on the shameful list.
Statistics by the National Crime Records Bureau have put the tally of crimes against women at 2, 28, 650 in 2011, but given that most of the cases go unreported, it’s a no-brainer to imagine that the actual count would stand at a whopping figure.
Come March 8, and the chants of women empowerment and women’s emancipation start ringing loud. The deafening decibels of pro-women sloganeering seem to drown out the faint inner voice and we don’t even question as to why it is kosher to use ‘empowerment’ for women only. Why is it so acceptable a fact that women need to be ‘protected’ and ‘taken care of’? Are we born weak? Are women inferior to men on the evolutionary hierarchy? Do we come with an inborn tag of ‘please save me’?
The answer to all these questions is a loud NO. And the explanation to why these questions still exist, lies in the way sons are brought up to be men with the ‘men-will-be-men’ thinking.
From the very beginning, a son is made aware of his superiority and a girl child of her feeble delicacy. Though the picture is changing slowly, with women occupying higher echelons in every sphere, be it politics or corporate world, the mindsets – are they changing at all?
Yes, we saw the entire nation coming forth to protest and mourn for the Delhi gang-rape victim, but the real change almost every parent made after the incident was making sure their daughters didn’t go out alone after 6 pm or take the wrong bus.
Yes, Justice Verma did a commendable job. Legal lacunae might be on their way to being plugged. Fast track courts have mushroomed. PCR vans have filled the roads and the women’s helpline number did start saying ‘Hello’ after few glitches. The honourable Finance Minister didn’t forget to cash in on the sympathy factor while presenting the budget and pat came the Nirbhaya fund: and we now have all that it takes to ‘emancipate’ us – the thousand crores! Wow.
The real problem, that is sadly not going to die in immediate or later future is – the mindset. The general male gaze that looks at women through a lens of delusion, thinking of them as either an object or a weakling; a species who is designed differently, with a brain that is 8 percent smaller than theirs.
What they forget is that as per a study, women are more efficient, and with higher emotional intelligence and calibre to tackle situations when things fall apart.
To all those, who still nurse a pathological thought process about women, I would like to say, dear poor men, what would you be without women! So, all the best for getting your mindsets mended. Get well soon.