In Delhi, around December 2012, there happened a brutal incident. Six men gang raped a girl on a bus; but that wasn’t really all. They didn’t stop at inflicting violence with merely male organs, they had to reach into her insides and rip open her intestines. When her gut was spilling out of her, they still hadn’t stopped raping her. After they were done, they threw her limp body out unceremoniously from the speeding bus onto the street. She battled for her life as long as she could but it finally slipped out her wrecked body in a hospital far away from home.
In the Indian subcontinent, mostly the relentless canvassing and campaigning by male leaders have achieved women’s liberation. Men have fought to abolish sati, for women to step out of the home and hearth and get educated, have professionsand having suffrage against a largely patriarchal society.
Having said that, the number of men with such intentions and understanding come to a mere handful. While it is true that some men have indeed helped in somewhat scaling the immense wall of impediments in the way of women’s freedom, it also remains true that most men pushed womenkind back a few centuries, and unfortunately, the number of such men has always been far higher.
I have been looking at India closely for the past few years because I have been residing here; I am residing here because my democratic right of being a resident in any other part of this subcontinent has been undercut by ostensible democracies. And this nation, the oldest democracy in the subcontinent, which is far ahead of its neighbours in terms of education, resources and equivalence, wakes me up each day with its news dailies describing horrific crimes against women. Rapes of minors, murder, physical assault, strangulation, shootings, hacking, burning, stoning — strange, myriad ways of doing away with women are revealed every single day.
I am even more amazed by the fact that they meet with little or no protest. A slight increase in the prices of petroleum or onions is enough, usually, to get a few thousands on the street marching, but a hundred women raped, mutilated, brutalised doesn’t bring out a single man or woman. Rape stories have become so very commonplace that the media only reports especially brutal gangrapes these days with adequate coverage.
The Delhi gangrape changed that scene, ever so slightly. For the first time in years, people were angry, they were awakened to a few truths in this subcontinent. Thousands of men, too, joined the protests and demanded more measures for the safety and security of women. Many demanded death for the rapists.
What they perhaps do not realise is that the death penalty is possibly the easiest punishment to mete out to a criminal by a court. The logistics of a hanging is far simpler than to initiate a grassroot change in an inherently misogynistic society that must learn not to objectify women. The Herculean task of educating a society to look at individuals equally and respectfully, and not merely as sex objects, is a responsibility that this government must take.
Of course, making kids recite, like clever little cockatoos, lines about freedom and non-discrimination and how ‘men and women are equal, how women must not be disrespected,’ doesn’t exactly solve the problem as it doesn’t reach back to the core of their values. When the children go back home to find men to be the ruling heads and women to be side-characters in this cinematic reel, this observation itself changes their entire perception about themselves.
They grow up reading the same newspaper reports screaming, ‘One can do anything with a woman’s body and get away with it. One can rape an infant and be forgotten. No one thinks of this as something worthy of protest. To rape a wife is not punishable in a patriarchal society. To give or receive dowry is a common cultural practice condoned by both men and women.’
Yes, it’s that bad for women in this society which treats them as a second sex, as a lesser, lower life form, so that there’s really no other option for them than to bribe men and become their slaves for life. To pay men to accept them into their lives.
The media has its own role to play, the society its own. The society spots women by such so-called ‘innocuous’ ritualistic markers as the sindoor or the shankha-pola/mangalsutra, as something that is already licensed and sold. No such markers for married men, of course, for when were they meant to ‘belong’ to a woman?
The media rediscovers female bodies each day as sex objects, focussing maniacally on disembodies anatomical parts to titillate audiences. Whoever she is, a writer, scientist, thinker, philosopher, it ceases to matter. She is a mindless, spineless piece of flesh, and the folds of body are meant to be devoured by millions. They are not meant for conversations of intellectual stimulation, they are meant to be enjoyed.
Perhaps no other species can treat its females the way humans can. There is no documented instance of gang rape, there is no instance of murder after intercourse. If anything, the male of every species do their utmost to court the women into acquiescence through a mating ritual. To treat their own species so abysmally may finally lead to the extinction of the species altogether, because it seems to be somewhere stuck in the evolutionary ladder, and instead of bettering itself, is rooting for its own destruction by exterminating the female of its own genus.