This is the first post of 2013 and also the 300th post on this blog. At this juncture, I expected to be writing about something rather more pleasant, but some things need to be said. And now. The whole world and its dog has just exhausted its energy crying itself hoarse about the need for change in anti-rape legislation and justice for the murdered 23-year old physiotherapy student. Demands for justice ranged from the sane and sensible calls for societal change in attitudes and stricter law enforcement to some knee-jerk demands of hanging, chemical castration and even physical castration for the accused. However, what really struck me in this whole drama was that every other protester spoke of how the increasing incidence of sexual violence against women went against Indian culture that respected and worshipped its women since time immemorial.
Now, I do agree that many of those who spoke of an irreproachable Indian culture were young men and women barely out of school. But this just goes to prove how much we are brainwashed into believing that everything Indian and traditional is good and great. We truly believe that the root cause of the increasing rate of crimes against women is western decadence, even if we are too diplomatic to say it in as many words. But really! Enough is enough. Enough of blaming the pub culture, western influence, mini-skirts, Facebook and Bollywood for rape. Let’s face it! Indian culture has traditionally treated its women no better than any other culture.
In case anyone forgets, we are talking about the same Indian culture that shows, covertly or overtly, a distinct preference for sons, that teaches its girls to be submissive, that kills off baby girls for the crime of being…girls. It is the same Indian culture where thousands of young women lose their lives for the crime of not bringing enough dowry. It is also the same culture that refuses to acknowledge a woman’s identity as distinct from that of her husband and where it is still a crime to survive the death of a partner. Rapists and sexual offenders are not made in a day. They grow up with a sense of entitlement and cannot fathom why a woman would say no to them. In fact, they do not even realize that a no really means a NO, simply because they have never been denied a thing. We are talking of an Indian culture where a parent will deny their daughter three full meals a day to fulfill every whim of their son. Just because some of us are lucky enough to grow up in a healthy and gender-equal environment, it doesn’t mean that Indian culture is all good.
If we really want to change things, we need to demand societal change. And, this doesn’t come with amending laws or naming a new anti-rape legislation after the unfortunate 23-year old. It comes from within. Holding candlelight vigils and chanting slogans against misogyny will not help. If we are so concerned about change, we must not hesitate to change ourselves. Let’s stop praying for a male child because that will take us to heaven, stop treating our sons differently from our daughters, refuse to buckle under the societal pressure to kill off our baby girls. Let us also refuse to pay a dowry to secure a “good match” for our daughters and instead look for men who respect them enough to keep them happy. Let’s stop using the B-word to insult women we do not like or worse, call misogynistic men b*****ds. Let’s remember that when we do that, are not insulting them, but their mothers. If we really want things to change, let’s BE the change we so crave to see.
But, while we are at it, let’s also remember that change does not come easy. It may not even be visible for the next 20 years, but there will come a day when we will be able to turn out a better class of human beings for a better future. This may not be as satisfying as hanging the rapists or castrating them, but will surely be more effective. And this solution will take time. After all, Rome was not built in a day.