Women

We do not have the social and political will to root out crimes against women

March 13, 2015 07:03 AM
India's daughters BBC Documentary Banned in India

By Rajiv Kumar

Rather than ban Nirbhaya documentary we must address issues raised by it

It is a bitter irony that International Women's Day came right on the heels of the hullabaloo about the government ban on a documentary about Nirbhaya's dastardly and horrific rape by a gang of depraved young men. The documentary has somewhat depressingly, but also expectedly, raked up public emotions that feed on self-righteousness, jingoism and middle class pretensions.

Every day there are thousands of Indian girls and women who are kidnapped, tortured and trafficked. Some are victims of honour killings ordered by khaps or fatwas. A large number of cases of domestic violence and marital rape routinely go unreported and unregistered.

The shrill public discussion that followed will unfortunately distract us from real issues and priorities. Unfortunately, this was not the only and will surely not be the last case of sub-human and indefensible maltreatment of women in India.

Every day there are thousands of Indian girls and women who are kidnapped, tortured and trafficked. Some are victims of honour killings ordered by khaps or fatwas. A large number of cases of domestic violence and marital rape routinely go unreported and unregistered.

Thousands of girls are trafficked across our border from neighbouring Nepal and Bangladesh and forced into the flesh trade. As a society, Indians choose to not only ignore but also often connive in the perpetration of these crimes.

In any case we do not care to challenge the stereotype of `good women' propagated by both Hindu and Muslim extremists and fringe groups. Why then the hypocrisy about an `outsider' holding up a mirror before us?
In a democracy political leaders are expected to be change agents and not opportunist followers of social practices.Therefore, i was expecting leaders like Smriti Irani and Maneka Gandhi, honourable ministers of Human Resource Development and Women and Child Development respectively, to take this opportunity to tell the nation about measures being planned to fight this social evil of maltreatment of women in India.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in his maiden Independence Day speech, had given the lead by calling upon mothers to sensitise their sons against brutish behaviour with women. But alas the PM's call has been in vain. Led by their favourite bureaucrats and apparently immunised against pervasive social malpractices, our political leaders choose to rave and rant in reaction to such malpractices but then revert to business as usual.

It is time political leaders followed Mahatma Gandhi's example of leading movements against social ills, rather than just leave this to civil society organisations which politicians will subsequently perceive as agent provocateurs.

There is a huge reform agenda to be taken up in earnest if we are serious about exorcising our society of abuses against women and children. Legal provisions against amniocentesis, child marriage and dowry that violate the rights of the girl child are only the first necessary steps. These have to be backed by social mobilisation, a massive education effort and well-advertised deterrent punishments.

The legislative approach has proven to be grossly inadequate even for social evils like untouchability . Yet the political class carries on merrily with this lazy approach rather than using its convening powers to change society's underlying value systems.

In the case of giving women the social status, safety and security which should be their birthright, the govern ment must now take a radically different approach. It should, to begin with, allocate sufficient resources and strictly enforce an outcome based performance and accountability mechanism for ministries that receive these allocations.

A country that can send a space vehicle to Mars can surely tackle these social evils. Could this be a priority assignment for Niti Aayog and indeed a test of its effectiveness in bringing on board various stakeholders like state governments and civil society organisations in ridding us of a national stigma?
The agenda for rooting out unacceptable attitudes and malpractices against women ­ as reflected in the rapist's statements in the documentary ­ must also include police and judicial reforms.Crimes against women do not happen without the active connivance or abject disregard of some basic norms by the police and judiciary . Unless these are reformed and the rampant corruption that permits women trafficking across our national borders and from the villages to cities, countless and faceless Nirbhayas will continue to be kidnapped, tortured, raped and killed in our country.

Police and judicial reforms are perhaps more important than economic reforms today if we are to lay claims to being a civilised society . Let us remember our humanity and pursue this agenda relentlessly .

In India divinity is worshipped as Shakti, a female form. She has innumerable avatars and names. We recite the Devi Kavach to protect ourselves. We celebrate Durga, Kali, Lakshmi and Saraswati Pujas around the country. We worship Fatima and Mary. Our saints have penned beautiful poetry like the Saundarya Lahri in praise of the Devi.And yet we do not have the social and political will to root out crimes against women! It is time we did. Alternately , let's at the very least be humble and contrite enough to accept criticism from wherever it comes.

The writer is Senior Fellow, Centre for Policy Research and Founder Director , Pahle India Foundation

 

 

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