The nationwide outcry against the ugly act of rape in Delhi actually does not surprise anybody. On the contrary, given the overall situation in our society, everybody has taken the outcry as only a natural outburst of collective emotion of a society that has long endured rapes of various kinds — rape of women, rape of people’s faith in the system, rape of children’s innocence, rape of whistle-blowing, rape of honesty, rape of transparency. But the situation got overloaded with this one rape of a young college girl in a moving bus. This one rape proved to be a tipping point, a trigger, for a massive social protest that has cut across political spectrum and societal landscape. This one rape has also spawned a range of questions — simple to complex — that are crying for right answers, right responses from the people in power.
The Parliament some members of which had been campaigning for a total scrapping of death sentence, saw other members in good numbers to rise in unison and ask for hanging of the accused in the rape case. And to make matters more complex, two of the accused also demanded that they be hanged without the intricate process of law. And father of one accused asserted that his son be hanged to death.
Certainly, these are not the dimensions of a normal situation; these are the facets of an extra-ordinary social condition that was waiting for a moment to come to boil. The Delhi rape case seems to have afforded the larger Indian society that point of boil, that point of no return.
This one rape now has held, so to say, a mirror to our society suggesting that we look at ourselves from a fresher perspective so as to understand issues of morality and ethics more precisely, and evolve effective responses to the ugly events such as the Delhi rape case.
The most critical point that the rape case has thrown up is about how we run our social affairs, how we treat our women, how we tackle rowdy elements in the society, how we reconsider our legal procedures in such cases, how we bring rape accused to book not only in this one case but also in other cases. The larger Indian society had never seen any such moment in recent times. The larger Indian society had never confronted itself with a very big complex issue that involves not just the barbaric act of a few rotten minds but also the manner and method of how we bring up our younger generations.
One of the most critical points that the event has thrown up involves what kind of life we wish to give our younger generations. Is that going to be an insecure life due to the goons in the society whom we cannot control because of our inherent weaknesses — due to wrong values and wrong grooming in homes and in schools and colleges? Is that going to be a life without civilized culture? Is that going to be a life where women will be dominated and forced into submission to men under the spells of various fears?
Some smart-wits may even say that one rape case need not be treated as a signal that our society is becoming barbaric. But such statements can come only from the people in the establishment, and some fundamentalist male groups, not from common people who have had to face many problems on the ground of reality. In fact, common people do not take the Delhi rape case as an isolated example. They know that an enormous social evil is peaking now and it needs to be tackled forthwith. And that is why the protests to put pressure on the powers that be.
Thankfully, all the protests seem to work. For, had that not worked, the rulers would never have agreed to consider stringent changes in law. Reacting to the official response, common people also realise that a summary justice may not be possible, but some fast-track solution has to be found.
But beyond all these changes that will now take place for sure, what is needed at this point of time is a serious re-look at various negative habits of our society. We will also have to confess that the larger Indian society is yet to start respecting its women. And let us also define what we must mean by ‘respecting our women’. Respecting women is not a matter of just showmanship or fake chivalry; it is a matter of good feeling for women having been ingrained in one’s personality-core.
So far, this has been only a utopia.
For, the larger Indian society is habitually putting down women — it insults the woman at every step of the way; it creates stumbling blocks in the way of genuine empowerment of women; it hates women getting treatment of equality; it does not like to work under women bosses, unless those bosses are in the league of Mamata, Maya, Jayalalithaa who can make men kneel before them. Factually, the men in the larger Indian society and its various chauvinistic ghettos have been taught through a genetic transfer of idea of male dominance that women must be put down by the hook or by the crook.
Rape of women is one demonstration of this idea of male dominance at any cost, even at the cost of women’s sense of honor and dignity.
But then, how do we tackle this menace, this sin, this mauling of our women’s sense of self-worth? For, even though our women are proving their merit at every step of the way, even if they are making their special presence felt at all rungs of the societal ladder, even if they are empowering themselves, even if we send our daughters and sisters to schools and colleges and give them fine education, we actually do not believe in women’s genuine empowerment.
This social reality is visible in various acts of ours — of how we force our women into submission to male dominance even though men are without much substance in countless cases.
One does not seek to draw all such major inferences on the basis of just one rape case. Yet, one is tempted to use the trigger of the Delhi rape case and delve deep into the issue of women’s empowerment. For, upon this consideration will depend how to nurture our girls, and how we teach our men to behave.
Even though one admits that all men are not rapists and molesters, one cannot part with the case without recognizing the ugly reality that we do not groom our boys into fine men who have a total respect for women in the society.
But this will have to be changed. We will have to start changing our fundamental social values so that women get their due respect in the society. Another part of this effort will have to deal with making women physically stronger, mentally tougher, and spiritually more elevated. And this cannot happen only by wishing; we will have to evolve a far better educational system that will turn out more civilised men and more empowered women.
The process of empowerment of women is not as easy as it may seem. It would not be a blasphemy to suggest that instead of teaching our girls how to cook well, we may have to introduce them to tough physical training in martial arts and armed or unarmed self- defense. And if the current education system does not have the time slot available to impart such a training, then we may do well to scrap courses like knitting and origami and painting and dancing…. or even some curricular courses so that our girls get enough time to empower themselves in a true sense.
One does not want to suggest that we should take our girls away from fine arts and fine living. But what one suggests at this point is that we, as a society, must look at possibilities of making our girls take an educational detour to empower themselves so that they are in a position to defend themselves not only when a man or a few men assault them sexually, but also when life throws up tough challenges at them and they have to submit to those because they are the weaker part of the societal spectrum.