India is a land of paradoxes – on one hand, we worship a pantheon of goddesses and on the other, and inhuman treatment is meted out to women in our country. A glimpse at the daily newspaper is enough to drive home this lamentable fact. Our present Prime Minister recently launched the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, to ensure that our surroundings are clean, free from all kinds of dirt and filth. An important consideration here, that needs to be pondered over, is that cleanliness is not merely physical in nature, one is not completely ‘clean’ or ‘humane’ until one shuns dirty thoughts and behaviour, and adopts a healthy, holistic view of life and living.
The usual explanation that is often given about the reason behind why a woman became a victim of an atrocious act such as rape, is that she ‘asked’ for it – perhaps her appearance or her attire was not ‘normal’ in some sense. What ‘sense’ are we referring to? Who decides what is ‘normal’ and/or ‘abnormal’? Who lays down the rules for what is ‘decent’ and/or ‘indecent’ behaviour? Are the law-givers the so called morally upright men who wouldn’t let a chance to leer at women go by?
It has been proved by a study, in the Indian context, that women who wore the traditional attire were more prone to physical assault and/or molested than women who dressed up in the so called indecent, skimpy, Western attire – such as skirts or shorts. With whom does the fault lie then? A woman’s body is viewed as a commodity – something which is meant to satisfy men. She has no other existence, or rather, her existence serves no other purpose. Jackson Katz points out that victim blaming – that is, asking questions such as - why do women go out with these men? Why are they attracted? What was she wearing at that party? Why was she drinking with that group of guys in that hotel room? – is an unconscious act, as our whole cognitive structure is set up to blame victims.
It is set up to ask questions about women and women's choices and what they're doing, thinking, and wearing. Men are never blamed, or questioned about their choices, because it is a given fact that “it’s a male’s world”. Instead of playing the blame-game, connections and intersections should be delineated between the role of religious belief systems, the sports culture, the pornography culture, the family structure, the societal institutions such as schools and colleges and so on.
Only then can the root of the problem be reached – the answer lies in discovering the process which leads to such monstrous behaviour, in locating the filth in the mindsets of the perpetrators of such violence, so that they can be transformed. One important and basic way in which it can be done is through education and the inculcation of the virtue of the equality of the sexes from within the family structure. Definitions of manhood need to be revamped too.
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