Women once venerated as the mother and the perpetuating angel of mankind has come to be looked upon as ‘the unblessed creature of God’ in India, thanks to the club-and-drag cave-man attitude of the traditionally male-dominated society.
If we turn on the dailies in the morning, we shudder to read hair-raising instances of male chauvinism travelling in ‘sexism, racism, violence and poverty’ to women representing the ‘masculine mystique belief in the inevitability of violence against women.
The votaries of the cult of violence draw their inspiration from a grossly twisted and misfounded interpretation of saint Tulsidas’s lines, ‘Dhol, Ganwar Shudra Pashu Nari, Sakal taran ke adhikari’ (Drum, lout, untouchable, beast and woman, they all deserve to be beaten).
With the advance of material prosperity and easy money, sex and violence have become the order of the day. Drunk with eroticism, the Indian ‘man’ is unable to distinguish between woman and woman. Rapes and brutal murders have become common news.
Assaults, harassments and chain-snatchings no longer alarm us. It is indeed a slur on the modern Indian society that the cult of violence has grown to such proportions in free India. Dowry deaths are the culminating point of violence. All the social, political, economic and cultural progress made by us is nullified by the simultaneous increase in violence against women.
One of the most hideous aspects of our society is the dowry system. It is a complex phenomenon and there are several dimensions to it. It reduces a young girl into a saleable commodity and lowers her dignity. In case she brings an inadequate dowry, it exposes her to the risk of mal-treatment after marriage.
Thousands of girls immolate themselves at the altar of this evil every year, some of them before marriage because they cannot afford dowry and some after marriage because the dowry is insufficient to quench the rapacity of the in-laws. Readers have a vivid memory of gruesome suicide of three hapless sisters in Kanpur. As to our legislation, for all the anti-dowry measures in its armory, the government has not been able to contain the menace.
No less an evil is the physical outrage on women. We persist in our wretched belief that women are weak, helpless creatures who need constant watching by their fathers, brothers, husbands and sons at different stages of their life.
How often does one hear of ladies living in busy localities murdered, even in broad daylight, all because they had some yellow metal with them? The race of eve-teasers, chain-snatchers is increasing. In temples, at fairs and festivals, in crowded public places and in the buses, these lynx-eyed brutes abound and carry on their depredation even where police officers arc on duty.
Greed is not the only motive force behind the crimes against women. Sex-hunger is another. Young girls are decoyed on promises of a decent job or marriage. And once a girl has fallen, she is black-mailed into a life of vice and forced to spend her life as a call-girl or a whore in a brothel. If we want to get a feel of the rottenness of our social milieu, we have only to know the experience of working girls.
From standing at the bus stop to the place of their work, they are exposed to the vulture eyes of males of all ages and all classes. If the way lies through a deserted place, there is always the danger of facing a potential molester. The journey from home to office is nothing short of travail.
Violence against women in India is becoming more frequent and is alarmingly on the increase. A heavy responsibility falls on the shoulders of our social workers. But the biggest responsibility will be that of the women themselves. They must organise themselves. They have borne the tyranny of man far too long. The time has come for a crusade.