Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Let's Be the Change

Recently in media, be it in print or in television, there is one word that manages to sneak into the headlines. The word unfortunately is 'Rape' and there is not a single day which passes without one having to come to know depressing incidents such as this. It is not clear whether incidents of rape have increased post the famed Nirbhaya case or the media has decided suddenly that there is more sensationalism to such news and has started doing more active reporting of the same. Either ways, it is a very disturbing trend, because it does not ultimately do anything to improve the situation or rectify the core issues in our society.

Like all other mammals, Man is also an animal and animal instincts cannot be suppressed, so lust is something that every man will feel, whether a woman likes it or not. In that sense, a man and a woman are very different creatures, because men are in a way more prone to lust than a woman is. This is not to justify rape, but to understand that in terms of addressing this issue, we need to think more organically. We keep protesting and issuing ultimatums to politicians as well as asking for stricter punishment for rape, but never think holistically about what can bring change.

I am sure, people greater than me, might be knowing this already but just so that this in clear in my mind as well. What we need essentially is a movement!. When I say a movement, it should definitely not be one like feminism, because feminism has already been acknowledged as a failure and I think this is mainly because it focused on female spirit and women's rights and in the process in certain ways antagonized the male gender instead of engaging them to arrive at a solution.

We need to drive towards social, cultural change in our mindsets and this does not happen quickly. It has to happen slowly over generations and these lessons should begin at home. Especially, in India, in order to drive towards a generational shift in the attitude towards women, we have to start with teaching our children. To teach our children, we have to start from our home. Teach, not just in words, but in our actions. We have to lead by example and respect the women of the household. Men need to participate in daily chores, just the way women do and share responsibility. I know of many households where when a guest arrives, women run inside. We have to bring women to our living rooms and start treating them as equals and women need to start living as equals at home.

For generations together we have had our women subdued and therefore they remain soft targets for many men. Rape or any other form of harassment is ultimately also about power and violation of another individuals personal space. Therefore what we need is, to educate and spread awareness in society of rights and duties of every citizen. When we debate these instances, what we refuse to discuss is the moral decline in society, in popular medium. There are no stop-gap solutions to a problem which, like a disease has been plaguing us for a very long time. We have to cure this disease over a long term with a few mandatory steps.

Strengthening our Education System : Our education system is today completely job and earning focused and with each passing day, less and less driven towards imparting knowledge and inculcating moral values into tomorrow's citizens. Be it in rural schools or big reputed colleges in the cities, the focus is on factory-like delivery of products for market consumption and there is no organic growth of knowledgeable free thinking individuals. This market pressure and peer pressure today helps only in producing selfish citizens who think only about their own lives and achievements rather than the society as a whole. I am a product of the same system and I believe that in many schools not all is lost, but still the decline in imparting of moral values is very much evident. Value based education today for the masses will result in a more benevolent society tomorrow. Men and Women and their differences and potential has to be taught about. We cannot afford to shy away from sex education as well any more. Educational reform is required so that every citizen is aware and has respect of his or her rights and the personal freedom of every other person.
Awareness programs for the masses : One of the big impediments to there being serious steps taken to prevent these kinds of crimes is because it is misplaced and treated and discussed as a law and order problem or a social evil, which in turn limits the debate and does not enrich it.We have to treat this as a disease that is plaguing our society and work towards eradicating it like, we worked towards eradicating polio.A sickness be it of the body or the mind must be treated by spreading awareness about it and in this case we have to make the masses aware about personal freedom, women's rights, child psychology, marital discord and it's impact and these awareness programs have to reach the masses of the country through local panchayat or municipal programs, through videos, through street plays, through word of mouth.The importance of spreading the message of equality and having resourceful and enterprising women citizens is at an all-time high and is the need of the hour.

Public Participation and Selflessness : It is no more enough that the authorities alone handle this problem. It is the duty of every citizen to ensure the safety of every woman and child in their neighborhood. I remember I saw this social awareness video where domestic violence is protested against by the public by knocking on the doors loudly. Such efforts have to increase multifold and the media has to focus on spreading this awareness instead of concentrating all their energies on reporting of more rape cases alone. If a person witnesses violence happening against a woman, be it by a man or a group of men, there has to be an immediate response to stop the violence and the women of this country must also understand that they cannot question a person who comes to their aid, because an on-looker, his conscience and his freedom to live in a peaceful society is also being violated against. It need not be the job of just a policeman to stop an act of violence. It is the duty of every citizen.Today our society has slowly moved away from the joint family system to being nuclear families, from the close bonding in the villages to the total alienation in the cities and in the process the welfare of the self has gained precedence over the welfare of thy neighbor, fellow traveler or bystander. We cannot move back to the villages or to being joint families now, but we can surely try to be more selfless in our every day lives. Even if it is one selfless deed a day, it could touch so many lives and that should be motivation enough.

Equal Ownership and Responsibility : As far as society is concerned, once a rapist is arrested and put behind bars, or is hung till death, the matter is closed and justice is done. As far as a rape survivor is concerned, the death of a rapist does nothing to soothe her stigma, the pain and humiliation. As a society and a citizen I have to take equal blame for every rape. I am as responsible as the rapist, as responsible as the policeman in-charge, as responsible as the parents and as responsible as the rape victim. I am part of the system which failed to prevent this incident and it is just a pretense if I feel justice has been done, once the rapist is punished. We have to lead the change, be the change to ensure a better tomorrow and take ownership of ridding the society of this evil. The responsibility falls equally on the shoulder of both men and women. Women too have to rise above the ills of gossiping about the the girl in the neighborhood, rise above the habit of being judgmental of a daughter-in-law or a sister-in-law or a mother-in-law, rise above the practice of thinking about one's family alone and step out  and start thinking of the whole society as a big joint family.

We cannot afford to relieve our burden anymore by finding someone else to blame. We have to be the change. A punishment does not and will not stop the crime from happening and if at all we have to punish, let us punish the sin in all of us, instead of punishing only the sinners.