Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Only an armour can make women feel safe now – Dr. Shura Darapuri

The furore after the December 16 gang rape brought us on the verge of believing that we were living in an awakened India which showed zero tolerance towards all kinds of violence against women.
It was felt that such roars of protest would eventually prove a deterrent to the prospective rapists, and women would for once know, what it is like to breathe fearlessly in a ‘free country’. But their hopes and aspirations were not to last for long and they soon found them shattered with series of rapes ensuing thereafter like an ‘epidemic’.
Almost every morning, while drinking tea, the eyes tend to look for news that ‘do not speak about a rape’. But invariably almost every day, one finds news of modesty of girls outraged with the blink of the eye.
On January 26, we show off to the world our military strength. But it is found that with all the legislations, arms and ammunition put together, we fail to protect the dignity of sisters and daughters of our country.
Certain sections of ‘academia’ in a frustrated attempt, tirelessly indulge in futile long discussions and debate about women’s attire, whether they should be allowed to wear ‘provocative’ jeans and skirts in public or not . Instead of working on developing a mechanism which may make it the responsibility of each and every individual to prevent such cases, they do not hesitate even for a minute to shift the entire blame on women’s shoulders for their miserable state.
It is to be pointed out that a woman’s life right from infancy — if ‘allowed to be born’ — till death remains threatened! There are shameful incidents of innocent toddlers being made victims of a sexual assault! Then going by the advice of so called ‘intelligentsia’, a dress code for toddlers and newborn babies also may be devised. The assault on women may not be always sexual. Only few a weeks ago a JNU student was attacked with an axe by another student of her class. Almost every day, along with rape cases, acid attacks are reported with immense regularity. Brides are burnt every now and then for dowry by greedy in-laws.
One wonders what attire would befit such women. If provocation is regarded the culprit, then ‘purdah system’ of the early times, when there were no jeans should be greatly publicised. Purdah system also did not allow girls to move out of their house freely. It prescribed their confinement at home. It might have saved them from the ‘evil eye’ of the outside world but then the question arises, were they equally safe at home? In the 21st century, in spite of regular reminders on the occasion of ‘Rakshabandhan’ to brothers and other close relatives of their duty to protect their sisters, one finds painful incidents of incest relationship on an increase, with fathers, brothers raping their daughters and sisters. One shudders at the thought of women in veil in the earlier times.
One may again ask the so called custodians of women’s honour what attire may be prescribed for such women and girls. After the 16th December incident, we have yet another shameful case of the gangrape of a photojournalist in Mumbai. In between, there have been uncountable incidents of rape of small children, toddlers, dalit women, tribal women, many of them going unreported. The news of a rape no longer ‘horrifies’ but leaves one worried. That is because, our universities may not have found a top rank in the world, but our services whether judiciary or police are made of men of both vigour and wit. They qualify for these prestigious services only after going through highly competitive examinations and rigorous training. They have greater obligation and duty towards the nation.
It is paradoxical that in spite of the presence of efficient judiciary and police force, the women of the country still live under constant fear of all kinds of assault on their life and integrity. In no way, they find themselves safe outside or in the sanctity of her home. Laws have been made stricter but not strict enough to deter the perpetrator. They, in no way, feel threatened by highly trained and armed police force. Women are advised every now and then to learn to protect themselves by carrying pepper powder and hairpins. Self-defence training institutes have suddenly found a lucrative business. Lingeries are devised to prevent rape. It is hoped that they will soon be made available to poor dalit and tribal women on affordable prices.
But considering the vulnerability to crimes of diversified nature, most useful and appropriate attire for women of 21st century should be an ‘armour’!
(The writer is associate professor and head of the department of history, Babasaheb Bhimrao Ambedkar University, Lucknow.)

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