My column in today’s DNA
In the vast ocean that is the World Wide Web, is a site called Maps4aid.com. It is a crowdsourcing project that meticulously documents violence against women and children in India. Spending a fraction of an hour on this site is enough to send one into the pits of deep lasting depression. The site tells you what most women have known for ever – India is a deeply misogynistic nation where violence against women is the norm not the exception; where violence is sudden and casual; where demand for sex is considered a right; where forcing a woman is considered normal; and where more often than not, the rapist gets away with it.
The Delhi rape case would have been just one more rape case, but for the other brutality exhibited by the rapists. A woman travelling back with a male escort (therefore not alone), in public transportation (albeit privately owned and run); around 9 at night (therefore not late) with people in it (therefore not empty), was gang raped, sodomised, brutalised with an iron rod and discarded on the streets like a piece of used garbage. The girl is still critical. She was more than a sexual vessel for a bunch of depraved men out on a joy ride. She had dreams, hopes and aspirations; a desire to go beyond basic education and to study to be a professional worthy of respect. She was studying to be a physiotherapist. Her parents backed her ambition, instead of providing dowry, they sold a part of their fields to educate her and make her a professional. The kind of behaviour, one hopes, that most parents exhibit towards their daughters.
The Delhi gang rape case has shocked the nation. But, it is neither the first rape that India has seen, nor will it be the last. About six years ago, the state of Maharashtra was shocked out of its collective wits by the brutal gang rape and murder of Priyanka Bhotmange and her mother by a village baying for blood. She was a 12th standard student who hoped to be a policewoman. People tried hushing up the case, but there are events that are too brutal to be hushed up. However, neither the graphic descriptions of the case, nor the sentences to the guilty have stopped rape or violence against women.
If you glance through any news website, any TV channel, any newspaper, it is impossible to avoid stories of rape, especially gang rape. English media doesn’t pick up too many stories from small town or rural India, but when you glance through regional newspapers you will come across horrific crimes against women. Most of these are also linked to class and caste. Women were anyway at risk thrice over – on account of gender, on account of caste and on account of class. And now there is an added factor – rage. A deep visceral rage against women doing well, being independent, and considering themselves to be equal to men. That rage is seen manifesting itself in the number of acid attacks, murders, rapes, and violence against women who dare say no. An independent woman outside ‘male protection’ is seen as ‘fair game’ – available for hunting.
This gang rape case, more than anything else, exemplifies the chasm between the two Indias. A modern India where women are equal, have the right to dream and hope for a better tomorrow as an individual in their own right, far removed from the demands of patriarchy and societal obligations; and an India that is deeply feudal, that believes that women are chattel, that might is right, that the rule of law is about might. India lives in multiple time frames simultaneously. There is the aspirational India which talks of equality; there is an India of the caste panchayats & religious diktats that is deeply feudal and there is the India that lives between these two extremes trying to ensure that its children can see a better tomorrow at the same time as tolerating and condoning the excesses of social repressiveness in the name of culture.
There is something terribly wrong with Indian society and the way it treats women. It starts at the womb and discarding the girl-child like garbage. It goes on to her second class status in society, in general. It continues with her being the last priority throughout her lifetime. And unless these change, unless they are made to change by the iron will of the state, there is no hope for women kind. This will continue to remain no country for women