Women’s Day can be special when women are safe

We need a special national police force and sustained public campaign to avert a potentially explosive situation

By Mari Marcel
Published: Monday 30 November -0001

Puerile political posturing is not what the women of India need as we celebrate Women's Day 2014.

The usual platitudes will be trotted out no doubt, by the usual suspects. But to stop the violence against women, we need, as some women’s groups have done, to analyse the root causes of the new phenomenon of gang rapes in our urban streets and rural spaces.

Through the ages, poor, vulnerable and defenceless women all over the world have been sexually exploited.  The just released Violence Against Women report by the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA), informs us that around one in two women in Britain have been physically or sexually assaulted while the figure for the EU is not much better—one in three women are abused across Europe.

Crack down on mobile porn

Our dalit, adivasi and other impoverished women fall into the category of particularly vulnerable Indian females, as do domestic workers slaving in urban homes.  Rape and sexual abuse are real fears as they go about their daily routine. Yet gang rape, the headlined sort, as happened in Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata, is a relatively new feature of Indian cities. In almost all these cases, the men were drunk and watching porn on their mobile phones. Rural Indian men who migrate to cities deal with issues of loneliness and isolation. But for them the norm is a Bollywood movie romance. It is not normal for such men to violently insert a bottle or an iron rod into a woman's vagina. Or a child's. Rape is horrendous enough without these new sadistic ideas being implanted into once simple men’s heads via phone pornography. Rape was unheard of in adivasi society. Yet, recently, a Ranchi friend told me that boys as young as 10 years old go to phone shops where they can buy violent porn phone downloads for as little as Rs 10 a shot. And the porn is not mere sex. It’s violent, degrading porn. The rot is endemic and spreading like wildfire not just in major metros but throughout the country.

If we are serious about protecting our women, protecting our culture and protecting our society, we need a stringent crackdown on porn creation and distribution. This is merely the tip of the iceberg and no amount of policing or street lights will protect Indian women if our young boys (and old men) continue this trend of violent addictive porn. Several cases of men photographing their sexual escapades and then blackmailing the girls involved, intimidating them into having sex with other men, and sending pictures across their social circles, all point to a deeper malaise. We are turning into a sick society.

Role of movies, TV

Bollywood and regional film-makers need to check the violence against women depicted on screen. Activist actors like Aamir Khan must aggressively create opinion in film studios for movies which will not stereotypically denigrate and typecast women as mere sexual objects. Likewise, with the advertising world. It is shocking that TV ads continue to show brainless beauties as eye candy ready to fall into the arms of a man with the best bike, car, deo or whisky. We've come a long way baby?!!!  Watch one hour of TV.  It’s pretty pathetic actually. Advertising has not moved with the times. It’s stuck in a stereotypical rut. Only more slick.

What needs to be done

We need special forces, a non-local, national police force to tackle rape in rural areas. The local police are generally from dominant castes and refuse to take action against their own caste perpetrators when dalits or adivasis are raped. Most dalit and adivasi women do not report violence. Studies show that only one per cent of the cases actually filed end in convictions. Almost all cases show that dalit and adivasi women are punished by police officers when trying to file a complaint or threatened into remaining silent by means of physical assaults and rape.  Reports reveal that the women in most cases are denied their right to medical treatment for their injuries.

Women’s groups need to educate young girls to respect themselves and not to be pressured into silly potentially endangering behaviour such as allowing themselves to be videoed nude or in sexual encounters. Education to respect women must begin in middle school. We need creative, inspiring films and videos not boring government propaganda. If film stars help with these campaigns, they could change a potentially explosive situation. We would be cleansing our society of an enormous threat from within. On this Womens' Day, start a campaign. To help Indian society. To help make India safer for your daughters, wives, mothers and sisters.

Subscribe to Weekly Newsletter :

Comments are moderated and will be published only after the site moderator’s approval. Please use a genuine email ID and provide your name. Selected comments may also be used in the ‘Letters’ section of the Down To Earth print edition.