Saturday, May 05, 2012

Be good to your women, India.

It is not a good start to the day when you open the newspaper and read one more story of a woman being molested, assaulted or raped in one part of the country or the other. 

We are known to worship the female God, Durga and Kali. We are the land of Sarojini Naidu, Kasturba Gandhi, Vijayalakshmi Pandit and Rani Lakshmi Bai, female freedom fighters who sacrificed their lives for this country. Ours is a land that Dr. Annie Besant and Mother Teresa, two women who left their native countries, came to call home. We are a country which has woman as its first citizen, as chief minister in 3 states and a woman who heads the largest party in power at Center. Then, one really wonders as to whether all the idol-worshiping, the pride in legacy or power-play at the top, are just a sham or plain hypocrisy.

Since when did we become so cruel, cold to such acts? I feel livid and helpless everytime I read about Aruna Shanbaug’s story. What was her fault? She was a nurse, who was meant to nurture sick back to life. The lady is as alive or dead as a vegetable. The guy who did it is out, living his life, amongst all of us. My anger knows no bounds when I read about teenage boys accused of rape being sent to ‘juvenile homes’. When those guys know what they were doing, what do we need to shield their childhood from? 

And as if the trauma the victim is going through wasn’t enough, we have the self-appointed advocates of morality passing judgment on the character of the victim. One such horrifying sting operation done last week showed the cops in Delhi accusing women for inviting such acts on themselves through provocative dressing, visiting pubs etc. Can these people then justify the incidents that happen in the remotest corner of the country on a month-old baby girl or on an octogenarian in a bustling city? No. There are no prototypes. The cops, the judiciary and the system in general, should stop looking for ways to cover up or washing their hands off these cases.

In the badly structured laws and rules in our country, the accused have almost always been let off. In many cases, they don’t even get arrested as they know someone, who ultimately knows someone. Worst, in a few cases, the accused himself is someone, who never gets booked under any law in this country. And guess what? The victim, if she has survived, is made to retract her statements or marry her rapist (to absolve all the charges ultimately) or given death threats. That is why, no case in this country can ever see light of the day. 

When there is always a debate of abolishing capital punishment, I strongly feel rape cases should be made an exception. I would be very honest when I make this confession. As a woman, I was very satisfied and happy when in 2004, after a prolonged debate, Dhananjoy Chatterjee was hanged for the rape and murder of Hetal Parekh in Kolkata in 1990. That was very delayed but that was justice. Forgiveness and pardon etc are all good words but no religion sides with such shameful deeds and the accused under any circumstances. Atleast in this case, capital punishment is all justified. 

Expediting such cases and delivering justice in the shortest possible time are the way to set a precedent that nobody can get away after such a crime. Hang to death or a life-term, but deliver the hardest possible punishment. The aim is to let that person know, he can’t get away by snatching life from a fellow citizen, who has the equal right on this land. The justice that gives the victim a right and hope to get on with her life again is the real justice. We must have NGOs and other social bodies working on these cases making sure that these cases are solved and justice delivered pronto.

While the system takes its time to over-haul itself, we all can start from our own lives and make that small change. The discrimination shown at home between a girl and a boy, goes deep into the sub-conscious of the kids and growing up they treat women as someone who is weak. When we are worshiping the Durga every morning in our homes, we can’t let our kids think the females are weak. We must teach them to respect women. Starting with the generation that is growing up now is the easiest as they are young and will imbibe what is taught to them.

This is what American president Barack Obama said:

The best judge of whether or not a country is going to develop is how it treats its women. If it's educating its girls, if women have equal rights, that country is going to move forward. But if women are oppressed and abused and illiterate, then they're going to fall behind.

So apt.