This is the nation where nine goddesses are worshiped for nine days during Navratri.! This is the land where the feast of the assumption of St. Mary is celebrated to honor a mother and a woman. And in another street corner, a woman is stripped naked and the waste from her womb paints the town red while the authorities responsible for protecting and upholding a citizen's rights are sleeping to glory under the effect of booze and a bum too careless to move from the crippled wooden chair.
While a few days ago, the facebook culture in the country was busy tagging friends in pictures of flags and wishing each other a happy independence day presuming that it will make them the most patriotic of the people around, I was wondering about the importance of independence in the life of an Indian woman.
Are Indian women really independent.? Are these the moral values we pride ourselves in, rapes, molestation and harassment of women on an hourly basis.? Where are the laws that boast of a fair and free democracy by the people, for the people and of the people.? After the Guwahati incident we have stooped down to the lowest possible of paradigms we could go to with a paltry promise of getting buried in the earth's crust being the most homely of inglorious belittlement we can go down to. Let's examine the Guwahati incident that exposed the laxity in the law and led to the celebration of modern day patriarchy.
A mob of 20 men mocking and outraging the modesty of an incapicated teenaged girl was a prime time show we all heartlessly saw on the tele tube. While no one in the crowd of more than 100 had the audacity to stop a mob of twenty, the show was filmed on camera to be sold later to news channels for the kind of TRP even Ekta Kapoor's serials might not have managed till this day. Sexual predators are by now confident that they need not fear the law enforcement agencies — the police and the courts, says Rashme Sehgal.
The police while failing in its duties by following a "prevention is better than cure" policy, brought one news journalist who spent the next thirty minutes filming this girl pleading with her assaulters till an elderly man played the saviour.
Guwahati-based Nandita Konwar, of Women Power Connect who has followed this assault case very closely is surprised at just how many counts the local cops played false. The local police chief, when asked why the police failed to rescue the teenager, said, “the police is not an ATM machine dispensing instant justice.”
The police on its part and from peaking pressure by the CM Tarun Gogoi (who thought that such incidents should not happen in public again while doing them behind closed doors would have made it easier for him to indulge in a Pontious Pilate act) did their job with a few arrests being made with the main accused guilelessly declaring it on national television that the young girl was drunk and needed a lesson in morality just shows how deeply the parasite of patriarchy has bitten the people of this nation. Much like it happens in the Taliban land, where women are killed for being disobedient and the crowd jeers and excitedly celebrates the weakness of a woman with applauding amusement. Women have no reason to celebrate Independence day in a country to where surveys rank its treatment of women as being better only than Pakistan and Afghanistan.
The result is there for everyone to see. The National Crimes Record Bureau informs us that rape is the fastest growing crime in India and has seen an exponential 600 per cent explosion from 1971 followed by kidnapping (again, largely women victims) which has seen an over 350 per cent increase.
Brinda Karat, member of the CPI(M) Politburo admits that crimes against women are on the rise and one of the main reasons for this is 'the low rates of conviction'.
“People seem to believe they can get away with these crimes. The appearance of women in public life is something that our patriarchal India is coming to terms with,” she said.
“Take the case of the recent khap panchayat in Asara village in Baghpat which had issued a diktat that women must cover their heads when they leave home, they have imposed a complete ban on love marriages and disallowed mobile phones for girls while only women above the age of 40 years should be allowed to venture out of house for work.”
Why has the political class declined to hit hard at this kind of a diktat.?
Rather, the Samajwadi party leader and minority affairs minister Azam Khan issued a statement saying there was nothing wrong if a 'group of villagers come together to express their opinion'.
Meanwhile, in a cliff hanger show of solidarity, women from three UP villages in Muzaffarnagar district have vowed to 'burn their jeans and tops and to dress much more judiciously'. The India where even women are themselves not aware of what their rights are and how thanklessly a patriarchal society is twisting these women to fit them into their whims and fancies is just too hard to accept.? I wonder whether I should call these women free.?
Khap panchayats have joined hands at a crucial juncture but for what.? To put young girls on display as show pieces in the arranged marriage market. But Naresh Tikait, president of the Bharatiya Kisan Union and chief of the Baliyan khap panchayat insists their diktats are not anti-woman.
“We also oppose the dowry system and female foeticide but that is not being highlighted. Instead the decision we take for orderliness in the society in accordance with our traditions are dubbed as ‘taliban’.”
Do they really oppose the female foeticide practice existing in their society that has prompted to smuggle and sell brides from places like Kerala to such hell holes with a slanted sex ratio flaunting the dominance of boys.
Akhila Shivdas of the Centre for Advocacy and Research believes the rumblings in these khap panchayats have been triggered by the release of a recent study of the Population Council of India that found that rate of premarital sex as higher amongst girls than boys.
Girls, according to the study, are also willing to indulge in risky sex without using contraceptives. Police believe the attitude of the younger generation of girls has undergone a sea change.
The collapsing of law and-order ( chain snatchings - seven within two hours one day in Mumbai apart from rape, molestation and its daughter called eve-teasing on the roads, buses and suburban trains) has seen some supporters of the hockey stick wielding controversial assistant commissioner of police Vasant Dhoble in his efforts to control drugs and prostitution in Mumbai’s parties and bars. Will moral policing of the order of the Taliban bring down the crime rates.?
Women activist Sujata Madhok attributes the increasing crime rate in the city to the migration of population coming from the villages.
“There are no social restraints (in our cities) and the obsession with national security and VIP security has forced the police to move away from their traditional duties of looking after law-and-order.”
India needs a separate law to deal with sexual harassment and assault. Bailable offences against sexual harassment and molestation and even heinous atrocities like rape have in no way tried to bring the perpetrator to book. Some of the archaic laws of the land that were exclusively designed to make the women weaker in case of a mishap have been made bailable with a bond of surety in cash that can free the culprit.
Introducing new laws (With no granting of bail) alone is not the answer, their implementation in reality is the key to a safer India. The streets of our cities need to be patrolled with greater strictness in order to secure the women both physically and emotionally, today and in the future, with deployment of women police to look into matters concerning the women and their safety. The helpline numbers should work at the drop of a hat to help women in need and not harass them further with speeding action for the disposal of a case (Special courts for hearing of rape and molestation cases can be an alternative), as opposed to the present times when it takes ages for a victim to get justice.
Numbers say it all
* 2,61,000 cases of crimes against women, including sexual harassment, cruelty by husband/his relatives, kidnapping, human trafficking last year.
* 42,968 cases of molestation of women last year.
* 873% rise in rape cases between 1953 and 2011.
* 22 minutes - A case of rape every 22 minutes
* 58 minutes - A case of bride burnt for dowry every 58 minutes
On second thoughts Rinzu says,
I don't think an Indian woman can call herself free, since there has been an 873 percent rise in rapes since 1953, that being the time we freed ourselves from the shackles of the British and weren't this educated and finacially sound . The numbers say that the society in those days was not this sexually repressed as it is now. While evils like sati are a thing of the past now, we have newer evils like sexual harassment and the lesser of the devil, eve teasing to hound on women like us.
After a case of harassment, most of the dodgy police men have the 8 pm rule and "no short skirt" law to pass with very little scope for speedy and fair justice to save the victim from being decried. Where are we heading towards.? To a new low that will make our culturally rich society as cut throat as the Taliban. I stopped celebrating "Independence day" since the time a gang of goons had tried to molest me while I was in my third year of graduation.
My wings just couldn't fly from that day and, on any day, I come home before 8 pm and wear modest clothing to avoid another eventuality dogging my destiny, for trusting the limping arm of the law to protect me would be an act of adventure I will always regret for.