As a teenage girl, I often wondered why my parents always asked me to dress ‘properly’, imposed curfew hours, sent my brother along wherever I went and gave me a whole list of dos & don’ts. I used to get really irritated and often wondered why women had to live with so many restrictions.
But now I know.
When you live in a society that seems to be infested with molesters, it is but natural that parents would be fearful for their daughters. In the same family, boys and girls are treated differently; but it is not just because of discrimination against the girl child, but also for her safety.
Molestation, or more bluntly- sexual assault, of a girl sometimes begins at her home. Often a growing-up girl finds, to her horror, her kin and relatives clawing at her womanhood. Many a times, it is family members like brothers, uncles or some other relatives who may try to assault her, as was most aptly filmed in Mira Nair’s Monsoon Wedding. Male sexual attacks don’t respect any line of control. If the girl is not safe in her own house, where does she go? Outside the ‘safe’ confines of her home, a girl encounters predators everywhere. She may face abuse when she travels and where she works.
Tragically, and to one’s utmost surprise, even after marriage women are abused and physically tortured. Such is the extent of these incidents, that separate laws have been made to fight post-marriage violence in our country and a debate is on as to what constitutes ‘rape’ after marriage.
Dr Akashi Deka, a government doctor who has extensively treated victims of marital rape, thinks ignorance is one of the reasons behind the prevalence of this crime. "In urban India, a woman is more independent and has sex with her husband only if she is ready. But in rural India, marital rape is quite prevalent and women accept it as a part of their married life. While the rural woman is still unaware of this torture the urban one tries to raise her voice against it but still a major percentage of females don’t know about marital rapes or can’t raise their voice due to their in-laws or because of their husband’s pressure," she says.
Today, though we often hear the phrase ‘men and women are equal’, our society has not been able to provide the same sense of security and peace of mind to our womenfolk as enjoyed by men from birth. Women continue to live in fear of losing their dignity in the most unexpected of circumstances.
Lack of education can explain sexual crime in rural and less educated areas. But the same set of exploiters prowl about the urban landscape too. Women in huge, educated and upwardly mobile metropolises are equally unsafe, if not more, than their rural counterparts.
Almost everyday, our newspapers and TV channels report of women being picked up from crowded or secluded places and raped. Despite stringent laws, sexual abuse of women has only become more rampant and nobody seems to be bothered about it anymore.
Though the physical injuries of a rape victim get healed with time, but the mental trauma remains life-long, says Dr Deka.
The recovery of a rape victim depends totally on acceptance in society and support from family members. Love can heal any amount of pain and torture. Doctors do their best to provide proper medical treatment as well as mental support to a rape victim so that the victim can overcome the trauma.
On top of this, we have the so called protectors of religion and culture who have taken it upon themselves to put right all the ‘wrong’ things in society. Their style of functioning reminds us of the Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan. They have decided the dos and don’ts, especially for women. And if women decide to do otherwise, they are molested and beaten up.
Talibanisation was seen in Mangalore as the activists of Shri Ram Sene beat up a few girls who had gone to a pub. Basically, these are the people who cannot see the growing independence of women. In a country where a woman has all the privileges, right from flying an airplane to running a Govt, does she have to obtain permission of a few insecure men before grabbing a drink at a pub and celebrating her success? The fact that she can do it all independently and in a gracious manner is hard to digest for these ‘saviours’ of culture.
I would like to suggest to men that don’t just say ‘I love you’, but look around and realize that the world just might not be a safe place for their love. In a country where Shakti, a female, is worshipped as a divine power of God, it is outright shameful to not respect women. When such a basic thing comes about, only then can we celebrate festivals like Valentine’s Day and only then the true meaning of love will be established.