When you feel disgusted next at a piece of news detailing a violent crime against some woman ,stop for a moment and think. Before lamenting as a helpless bystander who had nothing to do with this heinous crime, stop for a moment & think. Before alienating yourself conveniently from the men (& women) who are perpetrators of such barbaric act towards a woman, stop for a moment and think.
Think: where do these men come from? The rapists & acid throwers & torturers of the “fairer sex” are born & formed in the midst of us. Almost every alternate girl I know , has been subjected to lewd behavior from an uncle or a cousin or a “bhaiya” as a child. She has learnt , even before learning what sex is, to cower in fear from a familiar figure around the house. What’s even more sinister is the number of times these incidents are ignored as the perpetrator is part of the family.
A country that apparently “prides” itself on worshipping goddesses & keeping women on a pedestal , has an alter ego that is so monstrous that as a nation we are in collective denial regarding its existence. But it exists. That ugly head we are in trepidation of, raises itself every now & then & before we can look away & pretend we didn’t see it, we are subjected to a soul-stirring moment of horror at what we have become. But that moment passes and we continue to feed that same ugly horrendous side with relish, every day every moment.
If I were to do a root cause analysis of why women are raped & tortured , a range of negative emotions would present itself as immediate reason; jealousy, rejection, lust, power, objectification etc etc. However, all these “reasons’ trace their root back to one common fact: lack of respect for women. We , as a country do not respect women. Respect goes against years of tradition.
When a daughter in born at home, amidst all the celebrations, there is that suppressed “if only” hanging in the air. There is the first germination of violence: I might not go kill my child now, because I am not such a “monster”, but if it was a son my life would have been easier. The daughter grows up in the midst of many dos and don’ts: what to wear, what places to go to, what time to come back home while her brother goes on enjoying a liberty she can only wish internally. When she questions, she is faced with the “for your own good’ dilemma.
We prepare her with meticulous precision for a violent life where no one will respect her. She grows up into a careful woman, who knows to carry a safety-pin in a bus & to head back to her place before sun goes down. We tell her that it is acceptable to be afraid, it is acceptable not to be respected. It is “just fine” to not have the liberty to climb down that pedestal when she wants to.
Furthermore, in the name of arranging her marriage, we create a multi million rupee business empire around her sale-ability. What’s even more curious about this system , is that even though its technically not the woman who gets sold, ( it’s the man), she somehow ends up being the object. In a nation wide recognised system, the woman pays a family to give her their name. Why do we then wonder when women are subjected to violence ? Isn’t that exactly what we are teaching all the boys : These “objects” need to pay you to get your respectable name. Her worth will be decided on how much her family can spend in your wedding. Period. It is here we snatch any amount of self-esteem , that she could have miraculously managed to keep for herself till now.
While we are busy writing a code of conduct for girls, the boys pick up a clear messages from based on our treatment of our girls:
If she cant pay me to buy me for life, why can I not have her just once?
If I am ready to marry her , even though she cant afford me, who the hell is she to reject me?
If she is out alone at 11 pm fully aware of consequences, why is it my fault if I attack her?
Why has she taken the top rank in class , even when at the end she has to pay a guy to marry him, while this rank could have fetched me so much more respect & money.
Systematically and methodically, in the most civilised circles of our society, we ensure that we do not fail to pass on the legacy of lack of respect for women, whether it is through patting our boy’s back when he boasts of a string of girlfriends, or by telling our daughters to live carefully “for her own good”. Watch out for the crimes you commit against your own women everyday: It could be as simple as giving her names as paraya dhan or lamenting to her about the FD you have in her name to marry her off respectably. Next time you advice your daughter to stay indoors after dark, look around: your son could be listening & concluding that all girls he sees out after dark, are okay for him to grope at.