Women – the Ignored Half of Human Life
There has been a lot said and done about the position of women in the Indian society. A single, barbaric act has bought unprecedented attention towards a centuries old practice of treating the female version of the human species as a personal entity, majorly as a sex object, irrespective of her willingness or not. We have witnessed it in Mahabharat where Yudhishtir’s desire to win a game leads to what can be called ‘sexual molestation’ in the modern world, at the hands of Kauravas, or more specifically, Dushasana. More recently, it is evident in every nook and corner of the world in what is called ‘rape’, as was the case of the 23 year old student in New Delhi.
By now, many of you must be getting disconcerted about the fact that I refer to the highly respected character of Yudhishtir, the wise one in the same treble and tone as the assailants of the girl in New Delhi. But in my humble opinion, it is one and the same. At the point where I am referring to, both groups stand in the same line of stand-ups. Why I am referring to what is, in all probability, the oldest incident of the nature is for a simple reason: The idea of western culture, of women wearing revealing outfits or stepping out of their homes, is not the reason behind this crime. Just as the lack of poor policing, deficiencies in governance, cannot be entirely held to blame. Yes, better policing would lower the rate, faster convictions and greater punishments would be a strong deterrent. However, none of these can get rid of this evil in its entirety which is what the need of the society is.
Here begins the blame game. If the law or the government is not to blame entirely, then who is? We all want an answer to this. A few of us want it because we really want to change things and by knowing what is wrong, we can try to fix it, but most of us want it because it gives us a target to aim for in such a situation. It gives us a person or an entity to blame and feel safe for our own conduct when such a felony takes place. This is consistent with the human temperament. If we fail, circumstances were not right. If we succeed, it was our ability or hard work. Very rarely does it happen that a successful person attributes his (or her) success to someone else. The same is the situation in our country today. We have gotten so accustomed to blaming the system for everything that we never do an introspection of ourselves in the face of failure. Is not the tendency of a man feeling superior to a woman, a failure of the society? The complete lack of emotion by the people who saw the girl lying by the road and refused to help; is that not a failure of our society? Yes, it is. In addition to the poor law and order situation which failed to prevent this incident in the first place, it is an even bigger failure of our society.
The feeling of failure by the society should not be treated with skepticism or a frantic need to revolutionize everything. What is to be blamed mostly here, and what needs to be changed is the manner in which men treat women in our society. Having said that, it does not mean forming yet another women’s welfare faction, signing petitions, taking oaths, proclaiming a Women’s day or even just according them more respect; it refers more to treating them as human beings. Yes, they are also human beings. There is nothing different about them from men. If men feel they are superior, having a different form of body, then what is so special about a man’s body? The human species is defined and consists of both: the male and the female. Nowhere is it written that one form of human species is superior to the other one. If physical strength was to be considered as a factor to decide on who leads the society, then an elephant or a shark would have been chosen ahead of men.
What I am trying to put across here is a simple fact: men and women are equal. So, why do we find such a strong divide among them in our society? It starts right from before life of a new born begins: Most parents want a boy as their child; the curbs of a restrained social life are imposed way earlier on a girl child than a boy; the girls are handed delicate subjects and games in school; if the number of girls is higher in the merit list, it makes the front page story; if a girl becomes the chief of a company, it is another news; if a girl wears a revealing outfit, she gets branded ‘spoiled’ whereas if a guy roams about in shorts, it becomes okay; in a marriage, the ‘baraati’ or the groom’s party take the upper-hand; post marriage, the final decision-making authority rests with the husband; and even in the final rites of the death of that husband, the woman ranks behind strangers, not being allowed to be part of his last journey. All these demonstrate the mindset of the society to treat women as the weaker link of the human race. And I dare any man to deny these conventions somewhere in his family. They are so deep-rooted in our society that most of us don’t even realize that they exist.
I saw all those youngsters assembled at India Gate and all over the nation, asking for justice. On a personal note, I completely agree with them raising their voice to be heard by a system which has been lax for too long. But outside the campaign for justice for that one girl, I have a question for them all along: I understand that the current system does not provide a strong support for anyone who tries to prevent mistreatment of a girl and this deters most of them from objecting when they see such incidents in day to day life, but what do they do when they see the same in their own houses? Do they object and stand up for their mothers when an otherwise rational father, belittles her efforts, criticizes her skills, or even fails to inform her while making an important financial decision, a decision which impacts her just as much as every other member of the family? Do they behave the same with their wives as they did when they were just their girlfriends and were trying to woo them, hoping they would fall in love with them? I would expect a lot of no’s and silences to these. The day when we can answer small questions like this with a yes, that would be the day the society starts changing for good. And when the society becomes better, we wouldn’t need a mini-war to root out evils like rape, sexual assault, physical abuse, etc. Till that day, I am going to pray for it and hope that if the need arises, I have what it takes to protect the female human being and treat her like my equal.
“The question isn’t who’s going to let me; it’s who is going to stop me.”
By Ayn Rand