Reams of papers haven already been written about the rampant crimes against women, lots of noisy debates have been held on the so-called news channels, innumerable videos have been seen and exchanged on social media about the same. Then there have been candlelight marches, protests, against the increasing cases of heinous acts of rapes. Recent ones are the Hyderabad case and Unnao case. But are these actions enough? Is it going to change the way women’s security and safety is dealt with in our country? Are we doing enough to ensure that a woman's dignity is upheld? The problem is multidimensional, which starts from our home and ends with the state, police and judiciary system. The solution too can’t be uni dimensional.
Recently got to hear Deepa Narayan, a renowned social scientist and author, besides wearing so many other caps, in a TED Talk episode and she couldn’t have made more sense. She brought out the point with much conviction that in a society that’s highly misogynous, we raise our girls to be anything but self-assured, confident and independent. Interestingly, she pointed out that even women who outwardly looked free and independent, carried misogynistic notions.
She spoke of the term adjustment, which is not just a word for women but almost a bible. 'Good women' adjust- to make a bad, violent marriage work, to keep themselves last- for meals, for enjoyment, for everything. 'Good women' adjust for family’s sake, to keep up the façade that everything is hunky dory in her world.
Also women are taught to keep quiet, for family honour, for society and for the simple reason that good women don’t talk, do not hold strong opinions, abide by what’s told to them, to keep quiet even when they are molested because ‘this happens’!
Desires are something a 'good woman' should not have, especially any kinds that asserts her sexuality! She is brought up with the ‘value’ that its always ‘duty’ over her own desires.
Girls are raised believing that good women are the ones who please others, keeping her own happiness at the back burner. In our culture, they are raised to value loyalty towards men and family secrecy, over their own dreams. After all this was the way for boys to claim power and authority. Even today, in so many subtle ways we succumb to these notions. Women carried these misguided senses of moralities for so long that these got institutionalized and internalized to the extent that we thought of them as the absolute truth and fact.
Often, within these frameworks only women find their ‘freedom’- to work and earn, to dress as they want, to go out; to consume alcohol; all giving the notion of liberation but in reality, far from it.
Kavita Krishnan, a women’s activist and author of Fearless Freedom, rightly asserted in an interview that patriarchy tells women that they will be safe only if they don’t seek full freedom and mobility.
We keep getting told that sexual violence in public spaces is a given, women can be kept ‘safe’ only if their freedom, autonomy and mobility is restricted. Socially, we are tuned to blame the victim for her failure to keep herself safe. We, which has an overwhelming number of women, question victims’ choice of clothing, her choice of timing to go out, her free behaviour. If she chooses to be free in true sense, she is named and shamed not only by the men but also by the women who after generations of conditioning, have learnt to look at their own gender through the lenses of men’s perspective. The point is, while we are more forgiving towards a man faltering, it’s not the case with woman.
It’s time that we redefine what constitutes a good woman, breaking the mould of centuries’ old ideas and ideals. Let’s stand not only for ourselves but also for other women. Let’s not judge our own gender through a man’s eyes. Let’s raise our daughters to be fierce, teach them to embrace and celebrate their sexuality and most importantly tell them to unlearn all that they had learnt about being a 'good woman'!
Besides at social level, sadly, women are let down by the state as well. Pretty much we all know how the encounter of four rapists in Hyderabad, but should this be the solution? Is this how we are going to guarantee security to half of our population? The roads are not safe, the workplace is not safe, homes have perverts lurking in the shadows in the guise of uncles, cousins, neighbours and even fathers. There are people who exploit young gals in the shelter homes. We need much more than Hyderabad like ‘encounters’. By the way the encounter was conducted by the very police who refused to act in time. Sadder and ironical still was the fact that People across all walks, cheered that encounter, patted the back of the police. And this act does call upon some introspection by our system which has failed people. Perhaps somewhere they have lost faith in the judicial process. Delayed justice/ high rate of acquittals of convicts because of lack of evidence, (result of faulty investigation), are few of the reasons invoking such a reaction!
We need a multidimensional structural reform to provide women, what’s rightfully theirs. Union Ministry is planning to set up 1000 special* courts to fast-track nearly 1.67 lakh* rape cases, of which a whopping 1.6 lakh* are of child rape! Now the onus lies on the State Govts to respond proactively along with the centre.
Besides, we also need to fix our police investigation system. Even when a case goes to the court and fought, the rate of conviction is mere 32 percent*. It’s kind of manifestation of the fact that every arm of our criminal justice delivery system is falling short; police are failing to investigate cases properly; prosecution is unable to win trials; and lastly, a shortage of judges results in cases piling up. And I haven’t even mentioned, witnesses turning hostile!
The ever-increasing number of cases brings us to the question as to what happened to the vacant posts of HC judges; staggering 38 percent* of these posts are vacant which makes 410 of 1,079* judges in absolute terms! Now isn't it reprehensible? Also, if the state continues with this stand, what’s the point of having 1000 more fast-track courts!
To make true changes and make a woman feel safe- in her home, city, state and in her country, all these stakeholders- family, community, center, state govt, police, judiciary and most importantly we ourselves; will have to be serious about reforms and work in earnestness to bring about holistic changes in the way we look at things vis a vis women’s liberty with security !
Copyright © Aradhana Mishra
*Data source- TOI editorial
Content Inspiration- TED talk by Deepa Narayan, Kavita Krishnan, author of Fearless Freedom!