Where are we going?

By Ritesh K Srivastava | Last Updated: Monday, August 3, 2009 - 17:37
Ritesh K Srivastava
The Observer

Just recently, a 21-year-old youth was lynched by a mob in a village in Jind district of Haryana, after his marriage to a girl of the same sub-caste was not validated by a khap panchayat (caste council). The council also issued a decree which said that the couple were 'brother and sister' since they were from the same sub-caste.

The youth was then killed by the villagers in the presence of 15 police officers and one court official. This shocking incident took place in Haryana, which is one of India’s most progressive and prosperous states.

This is just one of the thousands of cases where a girl or a woman is tortured, assaulted, raped, abused, stripped and finally killed over minimal things, sometimes for malicious pleasure and sometimes in the name of restoring family’s honour.

All these incidents clearly reflect the evils that still exist in our society, and the direction in which we are heading, despite our country’s progress in the fields of science and technology.

The unabashed, senseless and unjustified violence against a woman also indicates that we are still ‘conservative’ and ‘barbaric’ in our attitude towards women. The ‘gender war’ and our ‘bias’ towards them have made the condition of woman truly pathetic.

Millions of households across India have a sinister side to reveal about how an ordinary woman is still treated as a second-class citizen - more precisely as an ‘object’ only.

In India’s patriarchal society, a woman is forced to respect the wishes of her family and expected to follow the societal norms strictly without uttering a word against it.

Today, an educated and working woman fears roaming freely on the streets alone at night. She is at the risk of being assaulted, raped, exploited or even killed.

We are so insensitive towards these incidents that we don’t feel ashamed when a school teacher disrobes eight teenage girl students of fifth standard in Madhya Pradesh’s Tyonda district on the pretext of taking measurements for their uniforms?

This was followed by another incident where two female school teachers strip-searched two girls accused of stealing Rs 50 in Nimta of North 24-Parganas.

Just recently, four men stripped a young woman in full public glare in Bihar when she fled from their captivity to save herself from being pushed into flesh trade. Our brave policemen watched the whole incident silently and did nothing to protect the dignity of the poor woman.

It seems that cold-blooded murder of model Jessica Lal and TV reporter Soumya Vishwanathan have failed to shake our inner conscience, as we have become mere spectators and chosen to keep mum.

An assessment done by United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) has revealed that over 5,000 dowry deaths take place in India every year. In most of the cases, a bride is set ablaze, tortured or mercilessly killed because her family fails to fulfil the illegitimate dowry demands.

India is no different from countries like Bangladesh, UK, Brazil, Ecuador, Egypt, Israel, Italy, Jordan, Pakistan, Morocco, Sweden, Turkey, and Uganda where girls are slayed in the name of honour killing. Taliban militia’s barbaric treatment of women in Afghanistan is well-known and widely condemned.

What is more tragic is to see how the female members of a family support the honour killings just in the name of restoring family’s pride. The sacred book Koran also censures honour killings.

In many ancient and medieval civilizations women slaves were brought and sold like commodities. In the modern world also, the accent is too much on looks, which has forced women to shed extra flab and adhere to strict diet regime in order to maintain their size-zero figure.

The unending thirst to remain beautiful and young forever is having serious consequences, as more and more women are now anorexic to remain slim. The West has, no doubt, commodified women in this sense.

Although, the government has created several bodies to fight for the causes of women, a remarkable change in their condition will come only when women take bold initiatives to fight for their rights. Women should be educated, allowed to live freely, choose a life partner and there should be no intervention from anyone in personal matters like these. The youth of today urgently need to come forward to oppose the prevalent societal evils.

First Published: Monday, August 3, 2009 - 17:37

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