Women’s Safety in India

Recently, there was news about the rape and murder of a girl named Jisha from Kerala. She was a student of Law at Perumbavoor near Kochi in Kerala. Being poor she and her mother lived in a makeshift house on government land. When she was found dead by her mother, her intestines were out and there were at least 30 deadly injuries on her head, chest and other parts of the body. The gory details of the rape and murder raise many questions. There are a thousand other cases of violence against women coming up from around the globe. We as educated humanity and responsible citizens need to find answers to these questions if we desire to live in a peaceful and safe society in the future.

Friedrich Nietzsche says that life itself is intrinsically violent, exploitative and destructive and that no act of violence is unjust! This philosophy of life may be good as part of an academic pursuance, but for life in a civilized society with laws, every act of violence is indeed unjust. Atrocities against women especially are serious, heinous and cruel at multiple levels. Do such philosophies as that of Nietzsche influence the people of today? Or have we turned monstrous, losing our humanity?

Where did we learn that a woman’s body is a ‘property’ that can be invaded and conquered? Who taught us that women can be objectified as instruments of pleasure? When did we forget that women- who constitute half of humanity- are life-givers with equal human rights? Where did we go wrong? Hasn’t education brought about any changes to our nature? Even animals mate for necessity and kill for hunger- why can’t we be like them? There are a host of other questions that arise in a disturbed heart. Let us try to ponder over a few.

Though we stand angry, sad and clueless when such incidents occur, we can point at a few reasons why our society turns cruel towards its women. A few of them are discussed below.

  1. Role of Media in Objectifying women

The influence of media in the objectification of women is undeniable. We witness this every moment on TV, newspapers, websites, mobile screens, advertisements, movies and item songs. It is subtle, yet very powerful. Have you ever thought why there is a skimpily dressed woman on the advertisement of a shaving cream or a male undergarment or a car? It is because media knows well that women’s body is a commodity and can be used to sell products. Can we change this? Yes. We can bring a change if we as customers refuse to buy products that portray women as objects of pleasure and gratification.

  1. Role of Family in Creating a Powerless Gender

The family is where we learn that women are powerless. In most families, men make decisions. Whenever there are important decisions regarding finance or the future of kids are to be taken, men decide and women obey. In most families, women don’t earn. Even if they earn, it is made sure that their earning is not higher than that of men. This even dictates marital relationships in countries like India. As children, boys are given a different set of toys than girls. Boys’ education is given preference over girls’. Boys are sent out to play. Girls do household chores. Boys get newer clothes; girls use elder sisters’ old clothes. Children who see this from childhood believe in the powerlessness of women and live accordingly. Attitudes are formed in childhood itself. Can we change this? Yes. If every family decides to treat men and women, boys and girls equally we can bring a change.

  1. Role of Schools in Affirming Wrong Gender Roles

Teachers who are ordinary people with ordinary beliefs, try to mould a generation of young people who abide by the customs and standards of their society. Teachers insist that girls stay indoors while boys play outside, that girls choose a ‘safe’ (as defined by society) career while boys can choose any. Girls have restrictions to move about, while boys don’t. Moreover, while lady teachers are to abide by a dress code or uniform, men teachers can wear what they want! The gender biased social roles learned at home are affirmed at school. Can we change this? Yes. If every school decides to treat everyone equally, we can bring a change.

  1. Role of Universities and Institutions of Higher Education

Universities and colleges are where young generation learn to behave as adults. If inappropriate gender restrictions are imposed on them at that age, proper development as ‘persons ready for the society’ may not happen. Today we see that at least some places discourage girls from competing in sports, partaking in debates and outgoing activities like social action and activism. Such institutions should develop and promote gender sensitivity and give equal opportunities to girls and boys in academic and non-academic realms. Can we bring a change? Yes. If every University decides to give equal opportunities to everyone, we can bring a change.

Looking at the reports of a few cases of rape and murder in the past, one is forced to believe that India is becoming more and more gender biased. Is India a sex-deprived nation? Probably the lack of sex education at early puberty can solve this jeopardy. Sex and everything related to it is matters of shame, fear, and doubt in India. One is not expected to talk about one’s urges or developing body or confusions related to another gender. There is an invisible taboo attached to the ‘body’- especially of women. Sexuality is a forbidden area. Today, agents of moral policing throw the ‘culture-argument’ at us if anyone raises voice against such issues. They would say it doesn’t fit our culture.

What do we need, to have a society that respects women?

  • Have respect to all human beings irrespective of gender and social status
  • Have proper understanding of human sexuality and its vitality
  • Have principles that value life and dignity more than anything
  • Stringent rules
  • Strict and foolproof justice system that immediately delivers punishment and justice
  • Strong women who raise their voice against violence and objectification

We need to be hopeful as we raise our younger generation. Let us grow a respectful, responsible and humane generation of girls and boys. Together, we can make India a beautiful place for women, and men.

Read More: Facing Domestic Violence During Pregnancy