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What kind of a nation fails to protect its women?

December 31, 2012 10:43 IST

'Good bye little Angel. Fly away from the dirt, din and mire of this Republic that neither could protect you in life nor allow you to breathe your last on your own soil.'

'Protecting their own hides,' says Sudarshana Dwivedi, 'has become more important to our protectors.'

The year 2012 ended for her early on 29th morning .The unnamed gutsy girl slipped away into another realm. She was 23, on the threshold of life, dreaming of the unlimited possibilities that life could offer her.

Twenty-three is a time when you are ready to conquer the world, when colours appear brighter, steps more carefree and there is music and romance in the air.

The drudgery of studies is gone and one is ready to live. But December 16 was to be the last fun-filled day for her, giving way to unimaginable horror, violation, rounds of surgery, fumes of anesthesia, the pain of sutures, tubes, medicines, tests and unwanted public attention.

This nightmare called life is now over for her. Forever.

This was not the first case of rape nor is it likely to be the last unless the mindset that has emerged time and again even during this nationwide stir changes dramatically.

That a woman has a right to her body and no one can do anything to it without her express consent, is a dictate that needs to be hammered into both the male and female psyche.

The sooner it starts the better it will be, because rape is not a crime of passion but conditioning which has been there since time immemorial and throughout the world (the rapes of Lucrece and Ahalya (external links))should suffice as examples). It occurs because a woman is perceived as a body created to please and serve the male as his property.

And therefore some men think they have a right to deride her, molest her, preach her, punch her, humiliate her or make laws or prescribe dos and don'ts for her. Mass scale rapes during wars or riots are primarily driven by this desire to humiliate the other side by violating their 'properties'.

In short, she is perceived as a second class citizen not only by most men, but women themselves.

That is why the girl child continues to be unwelcome and malnourished, uneducated and discriminated against throughout life.

That is why her worth has to be enhanced by dowry, the demands for which never cease.

That is why she has to prove her worth by producing a male heir for which she is as anxious if not more as her husband.

That is why her independence and actions are linked to the honour of the families of her father and her husband.

That is why she can be ostracised for marrying a boy of her choice by the Khap panchayats or killed by her own brother or father.

You put to sleep a dog that is rabid, you kill a daughter who does not obey you.

In this scenario, what better way to humiliate, subjugate or teach a lesson to a girl than rape her? Nothing deters these sick men so no place is safe.

You can be stalked on the roads, molested in hotels, in public or private transport, pursued and persecuted at parties and in colleges; remand homes and police stations are also unsafe.

Even homes with too many instances of fathers, grandfathers and brothers raping hapless victims are not the safe haven they may seem. Marital rape is a well known fact, which has started making news recently.

Age too is not a deterrent to these sick minds, so any female form from six months to eighty years is a potential victim.

Making MMS video clips of intimate relations and circulating them after estrangement, is also as much violation of a body as raping it.

Trying to kill or deface a woman if a relationship goes wrong also reflects this mentality of ownership where one does not want to let go of control.

All these need to go in the category of rape as they violate and scar the woman's psyche as much as physical assault.

This scene cannot change by making stringent laws alone. Serious thought has to be given to counseling wide sections of the masses about gender equality.

Respect for women in the minds of men as well as women has to be generated for weaning them from the obsession of a male child.

This particularly needs to be done with the uneducated masses away from the metros, at the grassroot levels. It is not about mouthing slogans or setting up camps, but through long, grueling work schedules with rural bases.

It needs people with passion, dedication and real love and empathy for women to bring about this change.

Can our leaders or government do it? I doubt.

Otherwise an incident so barbarous, so heinous, so shameful should have everybody at the helm of affairs come out jointly and apologise to the nation for this shameful state of affairs.

I doubt there was a single woman in this country whose eyes were not misty and heart without anguish at the plight of the poor child. Yet these out-of-touch netas kept clinging to their seats of power in their secure homes while our children were lathi-charged and soaked with water on a cold winter day for showing solidarity for her.

Such situations call for politicians from all parties assuring the young that we are here for you, we realise your anguish and we will certainly take steps to make amends. Isn't that how elders behave at home when children cry with justified anger?

But all we had here were worn-out platitudes, attempts at cashing in the situation or foot-in-mouth syndromes revealing archaic minds.

It must have been like this during the British Raj when helpless Satyagrahis faced the ire of the police baton. What kind of persons orders these atrocities? And what kind of people carry them out?

For God's sake, these are our children out of colleges and institutes, not some hardened criminals.

Good bye little Angel. Fly away from the dirt, din and mire of this Republic that neither could protect you in life nor allow you to breathe your last on your own soil.

Protecting their own hides, you see, has become more important to our protectors.

Sudarshana Dwivedi is a well-respected commentator on social issues.

Sudarshana Dwivedi