One just needs to read the newspapers to feel physically sick. As if the brutal gang rape of the young Delhi girl was not enough, almost every page carries some report of shocking abuse and cruelty against women, age no bar. Little girls are being rescued from brothels, teenage girls are being stabbed or attacked in broad daylight outside crowded railway stations during peak hours or college campuses, in full view. With the latest report of a mentally challenged girl being raped inside a bus, in Kolkata, it’s obvious that even regular travel by public transport can turn into a horrendous nightmare for women. Earlier, such incidents used to be an exception. Now, they are happening with such regularity that women are at their vulnerable worst. With the crime graph rising, the law enforcement machinery failing them and a society that just couldn’t be bothered and which is known to look the other way, when a crime or an offence is being committed, the safety of women is under great threat.
What is it that ails us? What is it that is making women the target of male savagery with such appalling intensity? What is it that makes men so brazen and nonchalant about committing these atrocities? What assures them that they have immunity from punishment? Apart from the usual—tame laws, an apathetic police force, its callousness which makes even filing a complaint an onerous and almost impossible task, the lethargy of the judiciary, very few convictions, corruption that facilitates the release of some convicts before they complete their sentence or their escape under the guise of parole, and the general chalta hai attitude (when such incidents happen on an almost everyday basis, desensitization is the most common ramification)—there is something far sicker and more alarming.
Where does this violence rise from? What makes men think of women as commodities and make them objects of their lust and subjugation? Why is there no internal censorship when it comes to the right conduct towards them? Obviously, patriarchy still rules. While tame laws abet such acts, the mindset is where it all originates. It is not a coincidence that the rise of crime against women is parallel to the rise in female literacy and greater awareness among women of their rights. With more and more women rebelling against the servitude imposed on them and asserting themselves, men used to being served hand and foot by the women in their homes, are being left to fend for themselves. A large number of women are now part of the workforce that was once a male bastion. Slowly, the Indian male is being dislodged from his pedestal.
Ironically, on the other hand, the obsession with the male child still rules, because a son is still thought of as the rightful heir to the family’s legacy: the one in whose name they can procure a fat dowry when he is auctioned in the marriage market and the one who assures them ‘moksha’ when he lights their funeral pyre. The blue-eyed boy also grants them immortality by carrying forward their lineage, which includes their ‘illustrious’ name. So, junior gets preferential treatment at home, the juiciest piece of meat at the dining table, an education and the privilege to lord it over his female siblings. In rich households, the father gives sonny boy his car keys with a prematurely procured driving licence, money to blow up and protection from the law, if well connected. What more does he need to go on a rampage? Imagine a society that has dozens of such spoilt brats, walking about with their chests puffed up, used to having their way, never having been denied anything or ever having heard the word “No”! Add to it a callous and corrupt administration, a troubled and apathetic populace and we have the perfect setting for crime to fester.
But, when we talk of lawlessness, we cannot ignore the fact that most of us are a lawless lot. We have scant respect, even contempt for it. We resent the fact that the rich and powerful can get away with blue murder and are convinced that therefore we too have the right to get away with minor misdemeanours The trouble is that small unruly acts collectively burgeon into something that we lose control over. The ‘you-do-it’ so ‘I-can-do-it-too attitude’ is contagious and lethal. With neither internal censure nor external strictures, what can we expect but feral crimes?
So, what we do when we think no one is looking and when we are sure we won’t be detected, is as much a contributor to the state of affairs today, as what seasoned criminals do. It all boils down to the violation of simple set of basic values. If we have to stop rape, we have to stop spitting on the roads first.