The past few days have shown just how unsafe women are in our country. Given below are some examples that have made headlines and hence, we know of them. There are, undoubtedly, countless incidents of violence against women which go unreported.
Earlier this month in Manipur, two women were paraded naked and sexually harassed by a mob on camera. On July 28 in Delhi, a college student was bludgeoned to death by her cousin after she refused his marriage proposal. Again on July 28 in Madhya Pradesh, a minor was gang-raped and brutalised with a wooden stick.
The fact that such incidents keep happening with gruesome constancy points to a deep-seated malaise within our society. There is something grievously wrong about the way we look at our daughters, sisters, mothers.
As a woman, you get an idea of just how twisted and perverse the male mentality towards women is from an early age. I remember seeing sexually-explicit, obscene sketches and words written on public restroom walls and train toilets. Expected to follow the diktats thought up by so-called ‘morality police’, women in our country can justifiably claim that the male gaze and attitude towards them reeks of toxic masculinity and pernicious patriarchy.
As a young girl, you are supposed to dress a certain way, so as not to call attention towards yourself. Dressing ‘modestly’ is ingrained into a girl’s psyche from a young age. It is drilled into you that you might ‘invite’ trouble by dressing a certain way. Mothers regularly ‘counsel’ their daughters to ‘cover up’ and not wear ‘tight’ clothes, as it may be ‘inappropriate’.
Nobody bothers to explain why then are fully-covered up, burqa-clad women harassed in busy public places and packed public transport. As pre-teens and teenagers, until the time we reach menarche, we are literally treated as ‘goddesses’ on certain days of the year, in the Hindu tradition. ‘Devis’ are invited home and then offered food and money with great ceremony. Some people even go as far as to ‘wash’ the feet of these young girls as a mark of respect for them.
Tragically, on most other days, girls are just not safe enough anywhere — be it homes, schools, public places. In some especially ironic cases, women are subjected to the most gruesome sexual, physical and emotional abuse right inside their homes, places where they are supposed to be safe and cherished.
This dichotomy is not just objectionable, it is dangerous. Treating young female children as goddesses and then subjecting the very same individuals to unspeakable horror and abuse — this is beyond condemnable.
Stripping women naked, parading them around town and sexually-harassing them on camera. Bludgeoning to death your own cousin because she rejected your marriage proposal. Gang-raping and then violating a minor girl — just because the perpetrators felt they could commit such an act and get away with it….
The litany of horrific treatment of women and regular desecration of the female body (almost as if the malefactors were on a mission) is long, detestable and without parallel. Given the alarming regularity with which these incidents keep happening, across the length and breadth of the country, we need to ask ourselves just where we are going wrong.
Why are we failing to protect our daughters and sisters, while being unable to adequately inculcate respect for the feminine among a vast section of our fathers, brothers and sons?
Unless that happens, women will unfortunately, tragically, continue to be subjected to systemic mental and physical abuse and gang-rape, and incidents such as the ‘Nirbhaya’ case will keep happening with shocking regularity.