A Woman’s Plight: The Unfortunate

A Woman's Plight: The Unfortunate Indians

 

“This article is not directed towards the central theme of the blog. It is just something that needed to be said”

 

We live in a society. Over the course of development, we believe we have earned the right to be called a civilized society. A civilized society works as an organism, where each member is expected to perform his or her duty for the betterment of the society. The society in turn offers its members with the security and resources generated buy its constituent population. This simple philosophy can be extended to the idea behind any nation. Citizens are expected to perform their duties in exchange of their rights. With a utopian mindset, all these aspects would fulfil all requirements of a great nation. But enough of fantasy, we have seen this is far from the truth.

We come from ancestors who idolized the female form, intellect, and abilities. We have enthralled by tales of courage and forethought of many great female stalwarts of our history. But somewhere along the line, we started singling out and highlighting the more homely aspects of these stories. The courage that we used to associate with the female mind gradually transferred to stories of adherence to duty. There have been many roads and bylanes that have bought us to the present. Somewhere we, as a society, changed our opinion of what is ‘expected’ of the women in our world. The society effectively chose a set of characteristics and traits that it deemed ‘ideal’ and ‘modest’ for its women members. The women who incidentally had these traits were termed as virtuous and the rest were ignored as less worthy. It again seems relevant to point out that our ancestors celebrated the women of their age as individuals, as they were. They even associated the sexual union of the men and women with beauty and divinity. One can study the early literature to find direct instances of mutual consent in all sexual encounters. The Kamasutra is an ideal example, as it shows, not just mutual consent, but also a respect for the female desires. Now if we bring ourselves to the world around us and the various acts of molestation, harassment, and rape that we come across, we can see that the collective mindset has turned very hostile towards women.

The laws within a society always reflect the mindset of its members. The judiciary and parliament are interrelated in their creation and amendment of laws. The ministers in the parliament who suggest the bills and amendments are members of the same society that we exist in. They bear the same mindset that many of us carry with ourselves. The same might be said about the judiciary. It is not wise to suggest that education would eliminate all prejudices that the society has put in the minds of the lawyers and judges in the courts. Even if we believe that the law and the constitution are strictly adhered to in our courts, these laws aren’t created by these esteemed individuals. There have been many instances where certain judges have suggested amendments in the constitution but to no avail. The citizens are bound by these laws by the virtue of being a ‘citizen’.

As of now we have seen three defining elements within a society; its mindset, its law, and its judiciary. Let’s assume for our discussion that the judiciary follows the constitution to the fullest. The constitution in itself offers women equal rights and adequate representation. It offers them protection under The Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013, The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (PREVENTION, PROHIBITION and REDRESSAL) Act, 2013, Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005, The Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961 (28 of 1961) (Amended in 1986), and others. {Ref: http://ncw.nic.in/frmllawsrelatedtowomen.aspx}.

Let’s assume that we exist in a civilized society. To think that a civilized society would require so many laws to protect its female members is astounding. The counter point would be that a utopian civilized society wouldn’t require any laws whatsoever. So even if we drop the civilized part from our society, still the laws seem to assume that, left alone, the society would instances of harassment, dowry, domestic violence, rape, etc. against women. The counter point again would be that even other crimes exist in society. If we consider all crime to be based on some or the other motive we can attempt to categorize them. If we consider murder or harm to any individual, we are inclined to find some motive there. This is not to suggest that this crime is not heinous. It is simply to point out that there ideally would be a motive. What a motive does is that it essentially isolates the victim as the intended victim. This means that the danger associated with murder, including the motive, subsided with the act itself. In case where the murder is random and without any motive, it can be categorized as serial killing. Here the danger doesn’t end with the victim. The danger, in itself, is that any person can be a victim. The safe zone for everyone in the society goes down. If we make a motive scale and put premeditated murder on one side, the other side would definitely have terrorism and serial killing where there is no real motive other than causing harm to random people. Crime against women like rape, harassment, and molestation fall in the same category. The act of rape is not directed towards the individual; rather it just uses the victim to fulfil the perpetrators’ desire. This essentially means that, without motive, this is random selection, and anyone could fall victim to this. The ‘safe zone’ diminishes across society. Each violent crime against women makes the society less safe.

Let’s revisit the concept of society. The society is made up of its members. The perpetrators of such violent crimes against women come from the society as of the victim. This stems from a collective devaluation of the status of women in our society. As stated before, the society has degraded its mindset to a point that we associate a few virtues to be ideal for women. Anyone digressing from this is deemed immoral. Many such violent crimes are often blamed on the attire and the personal characteristics of the female victim. What is more worrying is that women are then further restricted in the name of protection. This turns into vicious cycle where women are reduced to objects that can de directed to function as the society pleases. The society places their beauty and ‘approved’ abilities to showcase its inclusiveness, and then places them back in seclusion. This takes us back to the earlier discussion about the correlation of rights and duties in a ‘civilized’ society. Women are expected to perform their duties, which the society dictates appropriate, but are not given the proportional rights. The same vicious cycle which we saw before ends up with women suffering within their houses. There are many instances of dowry, domestic violence, and marital rape prevalent in the average households.

If we add all up the instances of injustice, harassment, and violence against women, we would come to figure that only a fraction of them are ever reported to the authorities. There might not be any statistic to suggest the truth behind the previous statement, but we should ask ourselves how long we want to live in denial. It is true.

Up till now we have established that there are many instances of crimes against women. Let’s get back to the efforts of the society to protect its female members. In the recent past, there have been many fast track courts set up to settle issues relating to such crimes. This has come with success and relief to the liberals of the society. But it sadly is too little. There is another factor that determines the efficacy of the judiciary; the investigators. Most of the investigation and collection of proof is done by the local police. The police again have the same flaw as any other; they come from the same societal mindset. They might have their own bias towards what they consider as the ideal representation of women. This might affect their judgement while performing the investigation. Further, for some reason any kind of sexual activity in society has become ethical for its own good. It is true that marriage is a wonderful union, but it is not a necessary union. It is a union for love and companionship, not a prerequisite for sexual activity. The constitution has come to even recognize live in relationship but society has still not caught up. Sexual activity is still seen as something exclusive to marriage, and any such activity outside marriage is instantly rejected and shamed as impure. So strong are these biases that at many times innocent victims of violent crimes like rape have to live with a stigma. This apparent social stigma might affect the following of proper medical and investigative procedures by the local authorities. So in the end, even the courts of law might be left inept without proper proof, and the victims might have to live without proper justice.

Tighter legislation is not enough to protect women. We need a collective shift in our mindset as a society.

The intended point of this article is not to assign blame to any single entity. Every single person in the society has to share equal blame. We are all guilty of ‘tolerating’ all injustice against women. Somewhere we have come to accept the unsaid social laws of our society which compels us to ask ourselves, “What would the society say?” We should accept our own inadequacies and initiate a change within ourselves. We should ask ourselves, “I am the society. What would I say?” This might not seem much, but gradually enough people would believe in it and give rise to a new generation of law makers and enforces with the ‘right’ mindset.

Alas! We all have a tendency to get riled up about an issue and vow to do something about it, but to eventually let it go and get on with the daily ignorant grind of our lives. The writer of the article is as guilty of this as any reader. Here is hoping we find someone who would prove to be a difference. The only simple way to do this is to share your own opinion about this topic with at least one other person. Who knows, that one person might end up making the difference in some person’s life.

Best of Luck!

 

Image credit for central image: Unknown. Unassumingly appropriate, it seems.

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