The Chandigarh stalking incident viciously repeats the same grim tale of women security in the cosmopolitans of our country. It shows us that we have learnt nothing from our disastrous past and we are yet to challenge the concept of toxic masculinity that flourishes under muscle, money and political power. Four and a half years have passed since the gruesome rape and murder of young Nirbhaya, a barbaric incident that shook the foundations of this country. A wave of protests spread across the nation, catapulting the civil society into action from its slumber. But has the scene of women security really changed in India? The answer is in a grim negative, in fact it has abjectly worsened. The number of rapes reported each year in Delhi has catastrophically increased post the protests, and the Justice Verma reforms, registering a diabolic increase of 277% from 572 in 2011 to 2,155 in 2016, as per the data released recently by the Delhi Police.
Molestation and incidents of groping have too risen meteorically. 1,387 women were interviewed across the cap- ital and about 40% of the surveyed confessed to have been sexually harassed in a public place, with most crimes occurring during daytime. Further 33% had quit venturing out at night, while 17% had gone to the extent of quitting their jobs, rather than face harassment in the public. When it comes to women security, the country tries to follow a lacuna filled linear approach, divided into two sides.
One that arises from the cultural perspective, in which the feminine is overtly glorified as ‘Mother’, ‘Goddess’, ‘Shakti’ etc. This side advocates an absurd solution one which scuttles the freedom of women, preaching medieval methods of restrictions on her conduct, behavior, life style even on what she wears, or who she chooses to accompany. This approach has been pivotal in causing life long social trauma to victims, further victimization of the already oppressed and marginalized, and stigmatization of gender discourses.
On the contrary, there is another so called motions. They advocate similar lifestyle for the fair sex as in western nations, completely turning a blind eye to the predicaments encountered there. These same people though also advocate a point of view that differs completely from the west amongst them are those who campaign for stringent laws, harsher punishments and state of the art security and surveillance in the Indian cosmopolitans. In fact the punishments for rape, molestation and other crime against women lack teeth in the West. For example, in UK a rapist can be let out in 2.5 years from the correctional facility with good behavior. Modern perspective which apes the west for most of its curative solutions. They advocate similar lifestyle for the fair sex as in western nations, completely turning a blind eye to the predicaments encountered there. These same people though also advocate a point of view that differs completely from the west among-st them are those who campaign for stringent laws, harsher punishments and state of the art security and surveillance in the Indian cosmopolitans. In fact the punishments for rape, molestation and other crime against women lack teeth in the West. For example, in UK a rapist can be let out in 2.5 years from the correctional facility with good behavior.
What this side completely ignores is that when it comes to women security, the west has failed miserably too. As per a report of YouGov.uk A third of British women have been groped, and the situation is worse in other European nations too. ‘End of Violence Against Women Coalition’ took out a survey in 2016 which showed that 64% of women of all ages have experienced sexual harassment in the public, which increased to a threatening 85% when the age group was between 18-25. In 2016 there were 2 million female victims of domes- tic violence, while shockingly 2 women every week were being murdered by ex partners or relatives.
The solution here cannot be only legal, but cultural in a systematic and relentless crusade against patriarchy, insecurity, commercialization and domination. What we need is a paradigm shift in our patriarchal mindset responsible for breeding and brewing such diabolic demons. A migration from man centered society to an equitable environment where empowerment sensitization and awareness go hand in hand. A patriarchal society can never be a gender just society.
We need to teach the young men of our nation that, patriarchy has no gender It has in fact oppressed as many men as women. The power of patriarchy has been to make maleness feared and to make men feel that it is better to be feared that to be loved. Emotional neglect lays the groundwork for the emotional numbing that helps boys feel better about being cut off. Eruptions of rage in boys are most often deemed normal, sometimes even glorified, and it this this rage that is then manifested as not only in acts of violence against women, but in violence of all kinds. This cultural patriarchy has to be condemned and crusaded against at all levels within our society, with intense focus on our family and educational systems.
Also, the ‘imperialist white supremacist’ patriarchal culture needs to be critiqued too along with the cultural patriarchy embedded in our society, be- cause it is normalized by mass media and rendered unproblematic. The only way forward is adopting the ethos and values of ‘spiritual feminism’ which is a wise and loving way of life. It is rooted in the love of male and female being, refusing to privilege one over the other. The soul of feminist politics is the commitment to ending patriarchal domination of women and men, girls and boys. We need to assert in the young minds that Love will never exist in a relationship that is based on domination and coercion. Men cannot love themselves in patriarchal culture if their very self definition relies on submission to patriarchal rules. And only when they embrace true feminist thinking and practice, which emphasizes the value of mutual growth and self actualization in all relationships, will their own emotional well-being be enhanced.
Secondly instead of merely concentrating on barbaric and exemplary punishments which too undoubtedly act as a deterrent by putting fear in the oppressors’ mind we should also focus on reforming our police and administration, who currently mired by their social stigmas increase the trauma of the victims. The police system especially, needs an overhauling with mass gender sensitization drives. Due to the insensitivity in the police system, several cases of gender violence aren’t even reported, which further emboldens the perpetrators. And that is where we must take cue from a city like Mumbai, which has become a beacon of modernization and women security due to its attitude. It is a city which is used to see women on streets, and in public transports for a long time and that is what causes this attitudinal shift. Exposure and not expulsion of women in the public spaces is the answer.
– By Deana Uppal