Women say ‘no’ to discrimination

Source: The Hitavada      Date: 09 Nov 2018 09:08:53


By Rashmi Saksena,

FOR Hindus (the majority in India), it is the season to bow their heads in reverence to women...sorry not to ordinary women… but to female gods. Worship of Durga is just over and now adorned idols of Lakshmi are out for Diwali puja. Worship of goddesses is major component of the statement of the superiority of Indian culture and civilisation. Proudly it is pointed out that India is a land where the Hindu religion calls for veneration of goddesses (thereby indirectly accepting gender equality). How ardently Hindu men revere and adore the goddesses! Yet when it comes to their women they treat them as inferior to deal with as they deem fit. They rape, burn, abduct, kill, maim, beat and molest their women with stunning frequency in a paradox difficult to comprehend.

Two recent movements spearheaded by women reflect that women in India have decided to say a big NO to discrimination, exploitation and sexual violence. The battle is against an attitude of men that is no longer acceptable in the name of religion, culture, social norm or a wrongly perceived male superiority. The #Me Too and the Kerala Sabarimala temple campaign that is challenging the priests and centuries old practice, is a testimony to young women in India deciding to fight for more space and pushing the boundaries that have kept them hemmed in for ages.

Before getting into what the Indian woman of today aspires for let us take a look at what they are reacting to and protesting about via social media and in the streets. The International Men and Gender Equality Survey (IMAGES) reveals that 24% of Indian men have indulged in sexual violence against women at some point in their lives. It also shows that 65% of men in India believe that women should tolerate violence to keep the family together and women deserve to be beaten sometime. The National Crime Records Bureau statistics and media headlines reflect the sordid and tragic way women are treated in India. According to NCRB data a crime against women is committed every three minutes.

The majority of crime against women (32.6%) is made up of cruelty by husband and his relatives. Assault with intent to outrage her modesty accounts for 25% of the crime against women. Kidnapping and abduction make up 19% and rape 11.5%. The capital city of Delhi has the dubious distinction of the worst national record with Bengalure and Pune following with higher incidence of crime against women than other metro cities. The situation appears to be getting worse in modern India. In the last few years reported cases of rape have jumped up by 12-15% and other crimes by 3-5%. The highest number of rapes reported are in Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra.

Two deplorable incidents, the rape and killing of a eight year old child in Kathua (J&K) and the prolonged sexual exploitation of a 18 year old girl in Unnao (UP) are the most recent that expose the unholy nexus between the political elite, administrators and the perpetrators of heinous crimes against women. This mirrors the decay in a society that prides in worshipping goddesses. While they worship Durga and Lakshmi (and many others) there appears to be little let-up in dowry deaths, honour killings, female infanticide, rape, insult to modesty, forcing women into prostitution, domestic violence, acid throwing, abduction and even child marriage. While there is a law against all these crimes the male psyche leaves a lot more to be desired. A society has to correct and heal itself. The law can only play enabler.

The voices of women in #Me Too and at the Lord Ayyappa Sabarimala temple gate in Kerala are screaming for a deal which is theirs by right. The fact that the Me Too spark turned into a fire to engulf a junior minister at the Centre and that five women lawyers challenged the Kerala High Court order leading to the Supreme Court ruling that the centuries old practice of not allowing women into the Sabarimala temple violates right of the Hindu women and is gender discrimination is an indication of the changing attitude of women in India. It is time for men to hear their voices. It is time for them to do much more than worshipping goddesses. It is time to start looking at their women as equals and respecting them as such.