The gang rape of a young para-medical student in Delhi a few days ago has the country up in arms. Actually I should say that reports in the media point to the fact that the country is up in arms, and I would believe that it were true, based on the unending fb posts and sms messages that have been passing around. I was amazed at how many of the posts were about Delhi as a city and its issues than about the bigger issue of how women are treated in our society. Having lived in both Mumbai and Delhi, I can vouch for a fact that as a young, single, independent woman, you do feel more confident in Mumbai as opposed to Delhi. But, such comparisons to me are one of the reasons why we are not able to have a more fruitful conversation as a nation about crimes committed against women. Delhi is still India, and its not like rapes don’t happen in Mumbai! The bottom line is that whether its Delhi, Mumbai, Jalandhar, Shillong, Chennai, Chandigarh or Jaipur, India’s cities and indeed India as a country has one of the worst rates of crimes against women in the world. Secondly, while I would love to believe that this reawakening of the masses is going to change the way we view women in our society, I am very skeptical. We are all more than aware of the fickle nature of media attention, what happens once a new story comes along? How many of us are going to be still talking about this issue? To me, it seems that very little of the conversation is about the meta issue here– how we view women in our society? how to most men, women are just objects for sex? This is going to offend a lot of people, but thats it, isn’t it? If you are a woman in India, you’ve in all probability been teased, heckled and groped at least once in your life….my guess is more than once. If this does not point to the fact that women are seen as objects for sex, then I don’t know what does.
The meta issue here is women and their treatment in society. This post by Vivek Kaul sums it up beautifully. The death penalty for rape in my opinion is not the solution. It might assuage our hunger for revenge at the moment, but in the long run I suspect it will only serve as a distraction. Its not just about how we punish people who commit such crimes, its about how to prevent them. And yes, a harsher, more swift punishment will induce some fear, but it will not change how we as a society view women……devalue women. Yes, women in India today are charting new territories, they are pilots and CEO’s, they are architects and leaders, we’ve even had a female president. At the same time, female foeticide goes on unchecked, to the extent that we have the worst male:female sex ratio since independence. There is legislation in place to punish doctors as well as parents that are found guilty of sex selective abortions, but what about implementation? Not a single doctor has been found guilty under this law. However, the male:female sex ratio continues to plummet. For all our talk of how important women our to our society, we worship them as goddesses after all, if we don’t as a society start acknowledging that we need to change our views, really change the way we look at women, then this is just going to go on.