When Lord Ram asks Goddess Sita not to accompany him to the forests, saying forest is no place for a princess, she replies- “I don’t need your permission. I am your wife and I am supposed to accompany you, to the throne, into war and to the forest.” Here, Sita is not a feminine requiring protection from her husband but an equal partner in relationship called marriage.
Fast forward to today’s world. Three days ago, four drunk persons, grabbed a lonely woman in the outskirts of Hyderabad, raped her, then killed her, raped her again and then burnt her- just like that. It was not a planned attack, rather four drunk persons thought that a lonely woman is an opportunity, that it’s their right, that’s ‘normal’ for them.
No wonder it attracted widespread condemnation, people calling for their hanging, media widely reporting, people sharing on WhatsApp, Facebook, Instagram, and candle marches etc. There is anger against police for untimely action, against courts for tardiness. Unfortunately, this instantaneous anger is momentous, emotional outburst which, more often than not, does not necessarily lead to a structural, logical attempt to understand the predicament woman faces in today’s society and what justice means to her.
In fact, the outburst was more during 2012 Nirbhaya case which shook conscience of the nation, bringing national capital to a standstill. Laws were amended, special courts were created- yet 7 years later, the tragedy of rape continues. It begs a necessary question. Are we searching for correct solutions? Justice is not vengeance against the culprits, but justice is served when, we, as a society can guarantee that no other woman goes through the same. This requires a deeper introspection.
According to National Crime Records Bureau 93% Rapes in India Committed by Persons Known to the Victim. So, what happened on that day to Nirbhaya, and recently in Hyderabad, is a tip of the iceberg. Moreover, many more rape cases go unreported, due to social, economic, cultural factors- as MeTooMovement brought to fore the harsh realities women face.
93% of the rapes are committed by persons known to them. That means, rape is just the worst manifestation of the discrimination women face in day-to-day life. The real culprit is the discrimination based on gender, linked to deep-rooted patriarchy, stereotypes, cultural prejudices that treat women as inferior, as property, as something weak to be protected.
This discrimination is manifested in our everyday lives, which we take for granted, treat it as ‘normal; unless something as gross as gang rape happens. For instance, take item songs, where women are objectified, commodified for male audience to ‘consume’. (In one song the lyrics read as ‘Tu “Cheez” badi hai mast mast’ literally reducing woman body to a commodity).
Even religion sanctions it (Sabarimala case for example- where women of menstruating age are debarred from entering the temple). When a 15 year girl having menstruation is asked not to touch her siblings, what are we teaching our kids? These may look trivial, but these condition the thinking of children, leading to the mindset where women are seen as vulnerable, weak, to be protected.
Curses are always targeted at women of one’s family (popular MC, BC for instance), because women are treated as honour, as property to be preserved, protected- not as independent equal human beings. That’s why we see honour killings, domestic violence, glass ceiling at workplace, judging women for her revealing clothes, her relationships, her career decisions, her opinions, her sexual choices. No wonder the four ‘deserve to be hanged’ were a product of society we nurtured. We as a society share equal blame.
Unless these prejudices are addressed, unless women are treated as equals, no courts, no police stations, no outrage on social media will stop another drunken man- who is essentially a product of the stereotypes we as a society cultivate, from violating another noble soul. Neither Sita nor our women need protection as mothers, daughters and sisters. What they need is treatment as equal human beings, equal value to their dignity, their sexuality and their choices. That is the true justice for India’s woman, with her independent identity, not as someone’s mother, sister or daughter.