Sometimes, it’s worth thinking about the times someone reflects your deeds back at you. I think that you’ve guessed that I’m talking about the Delhi Rape Case. And you’ll be wondering. Another commentator mouthing off about that? Not again!
Well, I’ve written about something similar once before. As I read that post again and reflect on what I was thinking at that time, I realise that not much has changed in my head. I still feel disgusted. I still think that this country has become a cesspool of idiots who have no idea what civilization truly means. I still believe that many Indians are simply not willing to learn about modern civilization and the few rules it absolutely requires them to bind themselves by.
But when I say that not much has changed, I must concede that there is some portion of this society which has understood the malaise gripping the unconcerned majority. The many protests in metro cities and the rippling anger of youth do point to some form of awakening. Though I know not whether these are the thrashes of a dragon mumbling in its sleep or the rumblings of one just woken up, I am hoping for the latter.
There are problems with directing this anger, though. Many people occupy themselves by demanding more stringent laws, asking for a better police force, blaming men and countless other such things. While I do agree that these are problems, I think that they point to a deeper problem than the one we’re admitting to ourselves. Or maybe we do know it, but choose to turn a blind eye towards it, seeing that it’s the easiest thing to do.
Somehow, Dumbledore’s words come to mind. Something about dealing with what’s right, and what’s easy. Ironic that I look to an Englishwoman for the right words here.
Our society has traditionally been a patriarchal one. Boys are given more preference than girls in almost every way. Sometimes even in ways we cannot ourselves control because of their instinctive nature. It all starts with the parents who expect their girl to be a demure, shy damsel who lowers her eyes while talking to anyone. She is taught to be submissive and timid from a very young age. She’s expected to help her mother in the kitchen, be a responsible young lady and smile modestly when addressed, saying little.
In contrast, boys are generally allowed, almost encouraged, to be rowdy and aggressive. A few fights here and there are considered “making one’s bones” in several parts of the country. A rude boy is oft-considered a wily rascal by his fond parents, but a rude girl is a shame. Boys are allowed to have unlimited tantrums and demands, but very few girls are given that privilege. There are many families with educated fathers who would prefer that their own girl be educated till the bare minimum, namely till the point where she can help her son in school during his formative years. Tenth grade. Twelfth, if she’s lucky.
And even for those who do go to school, gender equality is not really taught in our schools, is it? I mean, yes, boys are told that girls are equal to them, but how is it really enforced? In school, a teacher drills “not-spitting” into a child. She drills the necessity not to litter as well. She teaches them patriotism and polite behaviour. But teaching them about the equality of girls and boys, about the crimes boys commit against girls and the horrible trauma as a result is taboo in our society. It’s generally mentioned brusquely and then forgotten. In some cases, forever.
And look where that brings us. Indifferent parents, indifferent teachers and an indifferent society. There’s a very good reason India’s ranked one of the worst places to be born a girl in. Not only are you unsafe inside the womb (gender-specific abortion), but completely vulnerable outside too. There are girls well below the age of consent who are being felt up, fondled or worse while I’m writing this. And the sad bit is, most of the people who’re doing this are are friends and family of the parents. When the parents get to know about what’s happening, they mostly tell the girl to be quiet and try to limit her exposure to the man. This leads to a mindset. A very ugly mindset. It tells the girl that whatever happens, once she gets violated, there’s no one to help her. There’s no one to hold her hand and tell her that everything’s about to be OK, that nothing will be able to hurt her any more, that her parents and society will work together and do everything to make sure that the person involved knows just how wrong he is. Instead, a subconscious notion of being helpless fills the girl.
Of course, there are other things which make this very difficult as well. Uncooperative police, a painfully slow judiciary and an unsympathetic or rather, a non-existent social support system. But I believe that these are simply the symptoms of a diseased society. In fact, when I was discussing the abnormal number of rape cases in India with a friend, her response to me was, “Well, Look at our population. Don’t you think we’d have a correspondingly larger number of rapes as well?” It’s probably harder to deal with all those cases, or so she thought.
Well, I’m not comfortable thinking along those lines. I honestly believe that when it comes to things like rapes, every society should have zero tolerance. I mean, many crimes have extenuating circumstances which allow you to legally commit them, and no, I’m not talking about theft. More like murders. You can get away with killing someone for self-defense, if your lawyer can prove you really were in danger. However, there’s no such circumstance for rape. There’s no excuse for violating someone in such a horrifying way and staining her soul for life.
So for all those who advocate equating rape with murder in our laws, consider this, while murder does away with a person’s life and causes immeasurable grief to said person’s family, rape destroys a girl’s life without killing her, condemning her and hers to a life of eternal shame. How can they even be compared?
And a small message to those who persist on calling for more stringent laws, stronger police and other such things, please, people, start with yourself. It starts very innocently. The planting of such an idea is so subtle, it almost seems as if it was Leonardo Di Caprio’s work from Inception. Maybe a sudden liking for Yo Yo Honey Singh, maybe a liking for violent porn. That’s how it grows, you know. It may never go beyond that, and for many, it doesn’t. But there’s always a chance that it will. And it’s best to watch out.