Where Bharat becomes India

We are not prepared to recognize that women’s rights are fundamentally human rights cutting across cultures, regions and religions



 The RSS Chief Mr. Mohan Bhagwat has created a virtual storm by saying that rape is mainly prevalent in urban India. He attributes it to the impact of western culture and influence mainly prevalent in urban India, and Bharat which houses the rural and the countryside is immune to it. Speaking at Silchar, Assam, he argued that crimes against women happening in urban India are shameful and crimes won’t happen in rural areas of the country. You go to villages and forests of the country and there will be no such incidents of gang rape or sex crimes. This statement has, in the midst of emotionally charged atmosphere in India invited a lot of criticism for very well grounded reasons. Bindra Karat of CPI (M) lashed out at RSS leader saying that he neither understands the India nor the Bharat. To Karat maximum number of victims of rape belong to the poor, Dalit and other marginalized sections of Indian society, who live in the periphery. Mamta Sharma of National Commission of Women said that crimes against women cannot be differentiated in terms of geography.
The statement of Mr Baghwat cannot be accepted for various reasons as it is not empirically valid argument. The urban India sees lot of media presence and if and when a particular crime takes place it gets lot of attention, while as crimes against women in rural parts of the country most often get buried for lack of both media and state intervention. The problem to me lies elsewhere. The growing crimes against women are located in denying them public space for which they are fighting at various levels. The cut throat contestation over that space has thrown the social order in flux.  The cultural argument cannot hold ground precisely for the reason that culture itself has been a site of oppression. We South Asians very often take refuge in the richness of our cultural moorings without understanding that in South Asia every 34 minutes a rape takes place, every 42 minutes a sexual harassment incident occurs, every 43 minutes a women is kidnapped and every 93 minutes a women is burnt to death over dowry. The worst is that of the total reported rapes one quarter involves girls under the age of 16 but the vast majority is never reported.
                     The culprit in the matter of denial of public space to women is not only the society and its several institutions but the state as well. Women round the world have fought protracted battles to win their rights. In USA the 19th amendment granting women the voting rights was the result of seventy years of struggle that started in 1848. In Britain women won the rights in 1918 half a century after JS Mill called for women suffrage. Switzerland caved in as late as 1971. The women exclusion was justified on account of both religious and ideological basis. The great French philosopher Rousseau argued in 1762 that ignorance is entirely essential for women and did advocate their exclusion from politics. The great Greek philosopher Aristotle stated that women by nature are secondary to men and are to be excluded from politics. South Asia is a land of contradictions where in many pockets women are worshipped as goddess Durga, goddess Lakashmi and goddess Saraswati, but on the other hand women are willfully denied the share in public space and political power. Tulsidas said women deserve to be beaten like drums. Thanks to the Supreme Court in India  that it set aside an order of a Tribunal which declared an unemployed college girl killed in a road accident as liability and awarded rupees one lakh as compensation to the parents of the girl. The Supreme Court rightly observed that the order made by the Tribunal disclosed utter insensitivity to human feelings. The Tribunal is guilty of overlooking the constitutional mandate that no citizen shall be discriminated against only on basis of sex.
Prof Opendra Baxi, reputed jurist presently teaching law at Warwick, UK has recently highlighted prevalence of different rape cultures in India. His thesis can be extended to entire South Asian region where women are at the margins. One such rape culture is what he calls political rape culture vividly fore-grounded in counter-insurgency operations. In south Asia from Kashmir to North East, Baluchistan to North-East of Sri Lanka political rape cultures are writ large over the political and social landscape of the region. The practices of insurgent armed opposition groups fare no better. The women in Kashmir have assumed new identities-rape victims, abducted women, widows, half widows and migrants. The political rape culture is noticeable during regime change and also is regime-sponsored/tolerated. In the Bangladesh war in the first three months of 1972, 170,000 rape victims were aborted and more than 30,000 war babies were born. The problem with our systems is that we are not prepared to recognize that women’s rights are fundamentally human rights cutting across cultures, regions and religions. The way forward in our extended region of South Asia is (a) how, and in what manner ideology of male domination and women subordination is challenged (b) how quickly and efficiently transformation of different institutions-media, family, state, religion and society takes place (c) how social, economic, political practices and processes are challenged which reinforce women subordination. I do understand that we have lot of nostalgia about good old days when many of these horrific crimes against women will not take place in a Bollywood style but the fact is that societies do undergo change, new classes emerge and old values are replaced by new class values. The change can be traumatic in transitional societies like that of South Asian. The   remedy lies in understanding that change and evolving new institutions and cultures so that there is no societal drift and decay.

Lastupdate on : Sat, 5 Jan 2013 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Sat, 5 Jan 2013 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Sun, 6 Jan 2013 00:00:00 IST

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