Saturday, March 14, 2015

India's Daughters!

 Last Sunday I watched the controversial documentary “Daughters of India”. Some people say it glorifies rape and the rapist and that it should be banned. I don’t want to get into a war of words on whether to ban it or not. I was not even appalled by the views of the rapist. The matter of fact way in which he spoke about his crime didn't surprise me; he is after all a psychopath and a criminal. What I found very disturbing was the views of the educated and respected lawyers who were interviewed in it.

In the late 1980’s once I was travelling by train from Delhi to Guwahati. Somewhere in between U.P and Bihar our train broke down and we were stranded for hours outside a non descriptive town. The people from neighboring areas had  gathered around the railway tracts to stare at us. We had got down to stretch our legs. We were a bunch of girls from the North-East all dressed in casual western wear.This incident took place many years ago but I still recall vividly the cold and piercing eyes that glared at us.It was so creepy. The locals stared at us disapprovingly almost challenging our confidence to alight from that train.

Economic growth in the last decade has opened up avenues for employment and women have started moving out of their homes for higher studies and jobs.  But the men folk haven’t changed their views. Women are treated as weak and defenceless and men have a power over them at whatever the situation .She may bring home the pay package but she also needs to look after the home and raise the kids. She dare not demand equal status and anyway she has no rights and no power to exercise her choice.

In my home we raised our daughter in a very liberal environment. We never imposed too many restrictions on her freedom. We gave her the independence to make her own choices, to think and decide for herself. But juxtapose this with a girl of let’s say another economic or social status. She may not be so fortunate. Her parents may impose restrictions on her dress, her movement, her choice of career and even her choice of friends! She too is growing in this very country isn't she? Or is there another India within India? Or are there many Indias?

 In our country, there are regions where dominance of the patriarchy is very severe. Khap panchayats exist and play a big role in deciding how women should live. There are places with severe law and order problems and women’s safety is threatened. Men from such backgrounds have their own notions of how a woman should live. How then are we ever going to achieve a uniformity in our outlook towards women?

Gender sensitization needs to be introduced in the school syllabus across the country. Schools and homes have an important role to play in bringing about a change in attitude towards girls.Treating a woman as an individual, giving her rights and respecting her is the urgent need of the hour.
 Or we might soon earn the title of being the country of rapists (with a rape capital to boot) and our students might  be refused admissions abroad.

When will we start treating our girls as equal to our boys? How many rapes does it take to wake up the citizens of a country? When are we going to change the laws and empower our women? We have to make men like Manohar Lal Sharma (the lawyer interviewed in the documentary) shut up. We need to change and  we have to change fast.
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