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Ending India’s Culture of Rape


Ritu Sharma - published on 03/10/15 - updated on 06/07/17

Indeed, in our patriarchal society, boys are from day one given preference over girls. They are taught to control a woman’s freedom — first their sisters’, and then their wives’. The male-dominated society even issues codes regulating women’s behavior: you must dress a certain way in public; you must return home before a certain hour.

But we as a society forget to teach men how to behave in the company of women. Imagine how different our lives would be if society would teach our boys a basic, fundamental tenet: respect women.

As Shabnam Hashmi, a Delhi-based women’s activist, told me: “Boys in most families are given preference and brought up as if it is good to tease women and disrespect them. It is the mindset of our society that teaches a man that he can and should control a woman.”

There would be no need to lock up our women in the home, or worry about their safety and security outside of it, if men understood their duties and responsibilities toward women. When men stop seeing women as merely sexual toys, then women’s fears could begin to dissipate.

In January, Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched a nationwide scheme to save and educate the girl child. But all these government programs and attempts to boost the welfare of girls will be defeated when girls cannot enjoy a safe environment to live freely.

Is it any wonder that some women would pick a son over a daughter, given the choice?

“Why should we have girls when they are given such a brutal and barbaric end?” said an angry female protester following the February rape of the Nepali woman.

Indeed, why bring a girl into our society, when our society does not acknowledge her true worth? It is an irony that in India, where goddesses are worshiped, that living, breathing women endure such disrespect.

We cannot negate the necessity of firm laws — and their stricter implementation — to provide justice for rape victims. But the real change will start within the family.

We must tell our daughters their rights so that they grow up to be confident individuals. We must show our sons that women are dignified individuals worthy of respect — not rape.

The change in our mindsets must start with us. It will be gradual, but there has to be a beginning. We cannot afford to lose our mothers, daughters and sisters like this.

However, the obstacles in the way of this change remain considerable.

Rather than using Udwin’s documentary as a harsh but essential starting point for an honest discussion about male attitudes towards women, the government has instead banned its release in the country.

Home Affairs Minister Rajnath Singh told parliament that Singh’s comments in the film were “highly derogatory and an affront to the dignity of women”. What he failed to mention was how pervasive such attitudes actually are.

Delhi police spokesman Rajan Bhagat went a step further, saying the film’s “objectionable content” could cause public disorder, as reported this week by AFP.

But outrage, condemnation — even public disorder — are the only logical responses to the craven assumptions about women expressed in the film and inflicted on women on a daily basis in India.

Ritu Sharma is a correspondent based in Delhi. This article was published in UCA News and is reprinted here with permission.

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