Reject the culture of Misogyny and democratize our socio-cultural spaces

– Vidya Bhushan Rawat

The horrendous rape and murder of Hyderabad’s vet doctor Priyanka Reddy has again brought into light the dirty realities of our life that women remain the most vulnerable in India. The incidents of brutal rapes are fact of life here where leaders never get tired of sermonizing us of our ‘glorious’ past when women were regarded as ‘goddess’ and what not.

Somehow it has become routine for media and society to ‘express’ their ‘outrage’ but the fact is these become their TRP events and nothing happen. Political parties open mouth according to their conveniences. In the Kathua case, the entire lawyer community was against the ‘death penalty’ and claimed that it was a ‘conspiracy’ against the Hindus since the girl was a Muslim or from the nomadic community, in Unnao, there was no binary as the girl who was oppressed belong to the Rajput community and the accused the BJP MLA Kuldeep Sengar too was a Rajput. For many secular too it was not a fit case to be commented upon as they were busy with Kathua which too was important but just listen to the terror of Kuldeep Singh and how politically he was protected by the power in Uttar Pradesh.

Every day there are rapes and murders happening and each passing day we find new modes of brutality. Now, girls are not merely being raped but being brutalized and burnt alive. Have you heard a single statement from those in power? Where is the PM and HM ? During the Nirbhaya’s case, when the crowd swelled in the streets of Delhi, people blamed Prime Minister Dr Man Mohan Singh and Congress President Sonia Gandhi for not responding or keeping silent. The big movement that we witnessed in the streets of Delhi was against their ‘silence’ but there is nothing happening today. All the ‘passed-out’ from ‘Nagpur’ are silent. Those who were tweeting and speaking at every moment are silent today. The only ‘crusader’ is Madhu Kishwar and other trolls of the “Parivar’ who picked up a Muslim name and start demanding ‘culprits’ must be hanged to death.

The question is how to deal with this issue. Can we handle it with merely ‘law enforcement’ and ‘new set of laws’ or hanging of the ‘culprits’. Or should we as a society need to seriously think about our ownself that as a society we have completely failed in educating our wards about equality and fraternity. We imbibe so much from the past that we are unable to reject the dirt of the past. In our narratives, festivities, stories take so much pride in the past that we ‘re-interpret’ them according to our suitability and political ideology.

The fact is, burning is not new to this country. Women are burnt for not bringing dowry. They are burnt for not able to bear a son. Some of burnt for being ‘witch’. Some are ‘burnt’ for ‘honor’ while many others for ‘alleged’ ‘relationship’. We have examples of Tadka and Holika not being burnt alone but their burning celebrated all over the country. Somehow, our society has been intoxicated to the idea of revenge and woman’s ‘sexuality’ relate to ‘purity’ mostly to maintain caste supremacy and brahmanical patriarchy. In the last ten years, this revenge and violence has been normalised. Initially, we used to blame to the popular cinema for spreading superstition and misogyny and then our stars and their gurus would counter that suggesting why the positive of the cinema are not talked about and now we have whatsapp universities spreading lies and distortions.

The worst part is how selective outrage is being carried out by the trolls who felt that people are outraged because the Kathua girl was a Muslim so they blamed the ‘secular’ for deliberately targeting the Hindus while now since one accused is a Muslim, they are blaming ‘Islam’ for all the evils. This is dangerous and deviate from the real issue of women security and our societal value system.

We have laws and after Nirbhaya, the government showed ‘extraordinary’ speed in making a law related to protection of women but nothing happened. None remember that law now and the violence against women have grown manifold how. It is not merely violence but we have crossed all the limits of barbarity as far as violence against women is concern. I don’t know how these ideas are emerging and whether we as a society have a psychological disorder which needs ‘treatment’.  Every time these horrific things are reported, some catch our attention while a huge lot don’t, but we all come out with one demand, hang the culprits. Well, I will not speak on that as my only demand would be fast track court and speedy trial and ensure that all public platform remain not merely easily accessible but also comfortable for women. We can ask this question, what is happing to the brave Unnao girl who dared to fight against the goons of the ruling party? What is happening to the law student of Shahjahanpur, who spoke against a powerful Swamy Chinmayananda ? What kind of message does it send to others that don’t open your mouth against the powerful?

Telangana Chief Minister KCR remained silent for first few days and ordered fast track court for fast conviction. He also spoke against the night shift of the women employees and like any other, there will be more argument now that women should be home before the dawn. His son has woken up just before him suggesting that this extraordinary crisis as protest emerged in Telangana and people are deeply distressed. Politicians know well that these things may spread widely and violently. Most of them have started to jump on the same bandwagon as capital punishment for the rapists. There was a fear during Nirbhaya debate that with more focus on death penalty will only convert rapists into murderers too. There is a need to make an analysis whether the violence and brutality against women in the post Nirbhaya incident has increased or not. It also needs to be seen whether the brutality and the kind of barbarism, we are seeing has increased.

Many friends are suggesting how women can keep safe. Many are asking for new laws but it look India need many things together if we have to address the issue of inequality and violence. We have a constitution and it is time for all of us to ensure that all those who join our services and have the duty to implement laws must be made absolutely committed to uphold the rule of law and constitution. If they are found violating the constitutional spirit, then the only way should be to dismiss them from services with harsher penalty.

The second important thing is to make our public places safer and involvement of women in them. Community- policing and inclusion of the diverse section of women the forces including parking spaces which are actually one of the most dangerous zones as far as women’s security is concern. It would be better for urban planner to ensure fix zones for pick up, parking or cabs and these places must have enough women safety measures.

Also important to make police emergency center for women in distress so that issues of jurisdiction of a certain police station does not become an obstacle in immediate support to the needy as happened in the case of the Hyderabad girl.

Will our children and then youngsters ever learn the lesson on gender and caste in our schools? Teaching about our ‘great’ culture like a parrot but not educating them that boys and girls have equal rights and all individuals in India of whatever caste and communities are equal citizens. Will we not educate our children about untouchability a crime and that women are no inferior.

Can our cinema take a lead and stop stereotyping people on the basis of their caste, religion, region and gender ? When will we stop glamorizing past and remain quiet on the wrongs of the past. Our present can not be happier with our silence on the wrongs of the past and therefore we must speak up.

At home, will we educate our children of equality of sexes and citizenship. Will we stop telling our children how great our ‘caste’ is and how some work is meant for boys and other for girls ? Will we tell our boys and girls not to make comment on everything and accept people what they are ?

Will our advertising companies stop marketing the ‘gorepan kee cream’ and all the rubbish they show when advertising on soap, cooking stuff and even cars. Will our actors stop doing such films which justify the wrongs of the past, stereotype people on the basis of their caste, gender and religion?  Will our media stop broadcasting sermons of the fake babas engaged in so-many sexual scandals? Will our families stop sending their children to these Babas in the name of ‘satsangs’ ?

It is also important for all of us as a society not to fall prey to right wing propaganda and celebration of ‘rapes’ and brutalization of ‘other’. We cant be selective and that is why it is important for all of us to understand that conflict, riots, ethnic, communal violence, war etc affect women the most as it is they who suffer whether at the hands of ‘enemy’ or our ‘own’. We must feel the agony of those who are not getting justice even today when political leaders call for ‘rape’ as tool to humiliate the ‘opponents’. Such degrading speeches must get total and uncompromising rejection from us otherwise it will be just a fad and confining the whole issue as a ‘law and order’ one. The women in Mujjaffarnagar, who were violated in 2013 planned riots, in Manipur, in Gujarat, in Kashmir and in Bastar or anywhere else, they are human being and citizens of our country. We must stand for them. That is why, I say, the issue of caste and gender are not merely law and order but deeply related to our social crisis which need to be addressed seriously otherwise it will destroy all of us.

Ours is a deeply dissatisfied society, which is sexually hungry and perhaps need psychological treatment now as far as its understanding and thought of gender question is concern. It need strong treatment and that is not merely death penalty and harsh punishment which are there but also changing our value system. How does a woman feel when the ‘dukandaars’ of the Janpath stare her ? What is the attitude of the cab driver when he deals with women customers? There are certain things which come naturally to us. You ask any autowallah about the stories of women and they will start narrating how women particularly young girls are bad. They will drink, they have sex, they smoke, he would say. And if you tell him that men do that, then they become sheepish. Every autowallah actually feel that it is his right to comment on woman. The other things which take for granted is commenting on the color of our skin, size of a man or woman.

In the past ten years, we have seen the online dirt spilling over with threat of rape and murder against the political opponents or those who we differ with. Twitter seems to be the worst in all this and need to be reined in. How can you have anonymous twitter handle to abuse people? Online abuse, threats to any one must be taken seriously and cases must be filed against those handles promoting this. It is also important for all of us not to become party in pushing forward buttons of our whatsapp or other social media platform when a crime video is sent to you. Most of the time, these videos are not meant to support people but to deliberately humiliate the individual. Is it not important for anyone who push such videos to write about the place and date of the incident and why he or she is sending it or forwarding it.

Yesterday, the RSS Pramukh Mohan Bhagwat said that ‘men’ have to be taught about respecting women. My question is the Sangh and all other celebrate our ‘culture’ but the fact is these kinds of attitudinal issues are emerging for those culture where woman’s independent and autonomy is considered to be a direct threat to man. The brahmanical patriarchy in India ensures that no woman should stand up and speak up for her. The same is true about those who are oppressed and ostracized because of their caste and untouchability widely prevailing even today.

And at the end, it is also essential for us to reject all forms of violence. Don’t just allow yourself to be swayed by the violent videos and children celebrating the violence. Important to democratize the spaces which are your own areas and encourage your male wards to do ‘homely’ things ‘reserved’ for girls or women. Don’t celebrate festivals which degrade women and make them dependable. It look wonderful to have Karwachauth, Bhaiduj, Rakhi, Chhath and so many others but the fact is that they somehow ensure that women must remain under the protection of men and whenever this is ‘violated’,  the woman face violence. It is important to educate our men and women both that women can’t carry the burden of this culture forever at the cost of her dignity and freedom. Once we realize the woman too have their minds and they can take a decision, they know what is good or bad or even if they don’t know, they will face it, our children will start respecting their autonomy. It is time to educate boys and men about their limitations and respecting the rights of woman. It will never happen as long as we celebrate those festivals where women are projected ‘dependent’ on men, whether it is her father, husband or son. India needs to wake up and accept that women are independent human being apart from being some body’s wife, daughter and mother and they can think for themselves.

The education for an equal society and autonomous individuals with their duties to protect our lonely planet and public spaces, must start from homes, from our schools and public institutions. If India does not respond to growing changes, we will be among the most dangerous places for women to live in. The time has come when we will have to think beyond one particular incident of violence against woman and remember it should not become a woman’s issue alone as women’s rights are human rights too. Let us stand up for freedom, equality and fraternity  to create a society free from fear and violence.