The topic in question today is one that has been buzzing across the country for decades now; yet seems to go unheard. India today, a land growing developmentally in fields of economy and other aspects, but regressing or simply not progressing in important spheres of life. The number of women who get raped and undergo some form of sexual harassment is just astounding, as India saw a twofold rise in rape cases between 1998 and 2008. In 2012 alone, there were around 706 cases reported in the state of Delhi alone. Put together the figures the news channels throw at you, then put together the hundreds of assaults and rapes that go unreported or not dealt with and you are dealing with a country in serious predicament.
Yes, women do seem to have more ground to speak these days, and have more freedom and luxury and wealth comparatively, but even if you take an average woman from a well off area, living in a upscale community in Delhi far from the water, electricity and other problems, probably owning her own car and having a good job; yet the question arises, is this Indian woman really empowered? And moreover, is she really free?
It has become a walk of fear for a woman to step out of their homes and walk a few 100 feet or so after 8:00 pm, especially in apparently developed states of India. A woman cannot stand on a road crossing and call a taxi without hunching her shoulders so her chest is less obvious. And whilst in a public bus, invisible antennae must go up all over her body to sense the slightest unwanted touch or sign of harassment. Leaving the privileged woman in our example above aside, how about the tens of thousands of women who have to use this public transport every single day? How about the women who don’t even have to leave their homes to feel mistreated, unsafe and disempowered?
The actress Mallika Sherawat recently went public internationally and claimed to the press that India is regressive and depressing nation for women while she was in Cannes. Her comment created a fiasco as Bollywood stars inclusive of Priyanka Chopra spoke against her use of such descriptions and degradation of India on the international front. Now, I am not a fan of Ms. Sherawat and yes, patriotism does count and matter, but if we really consider and look at the situation at present times, you can’t help but admit that there is definitely a substantial amount of truth in the words she spoke.
This problem is not new, in fact we have become so used to hearing and listening to such incidences and cases, that we have now stopped questioning the unfairness of the situation on our counterparts in gender. People have become desensitized to the issue due to the increased happenings and stop talking, protesting or caring at a point. Even the Governments and Judiciary systems seem to have let down the situation and stopped questioning this heinous act. Up until an eye opening act occurs, something huge, different, appalling and completely inhumane, like the fate of the young woman heading back from the movies in Delhi, and everyone wakes up for a while, protest, make posters and monuments, the Government adjusts its policies and plays some of its politics, and within a month, the country falls back into its slumber.
The crux of the problem lies deep rooted in the moral standards and upbringing of men, especially in the boarding schools and rowdy neighborhoods of India. From an adolescent age to full grown adults, women are spoken about as objects, viewed in different parts and considered trophies and the measure of a man’s respect and caliber. This patriarchal dominant thinking does not vary from the illiterate and uneducated to the ones studying in medical and engineering colleges, and I would say may even be more in the latter.
It is high time for people to change their mentalities, for surely what good is a growing economy or the world’s second largest military if half of the population can’t venture past their own doorstep without complete confidence? We must learn to respect the mothers, sisters and daughters of others, and alter our mindsets and speak up. This means not just saying something when a bright young woman is gang raped and her innards torn out using an iron rod, but each and every time a girl or woman is treated unfairly in our homes, colleges and offices.
And as for the women, by contributing to this fight, and speaking up instead of just accepting prejudice, you have a chance of finding greater empowerment and freedom, so stand up and hopefully someday India will rise up to be the equal and fair nation it set out to be.