The recent brutal gang-rape of a young female student in Delhi, while extreme, is by no means an isolated incident. Violence, of varying degrees, against women happens across the country on a daily basis. The statistics are staggering. If anything, the ghastly event in Delhi became a tipping point for the nation to pour onto the streets, united in seething anger at an uncaring, inept administrative set-up.
No Indian woman is a stranger to harassment. Correction: no woman living in India is a stranger to harassment, of some form or the other. The abuse of dignity begins the minute I step out of my home. Whether I’m walking on the streets, or using public transport, or even ensconced in the relative safety of my own car, I have to contend with leers, whistles, lewd remarks & gestures, not-so innocent brush-bys, deliberate groping, or at the very least, men who will strip me with their eyes.
“Is it me? Is it something I’m wearing? Is it something I unknowingly exude? Am I bringing this on myself in some way?”, I ask myself, confused and yet somehow ashamed.
I am not alone. Thousands of women across the country experience the same sense of violation, disgust and shame every single day. No, it is not us.
We are not ‘asking for it’
It has nothing to do with how we dress or how we look. I have been hit on even when I’m dressed down and dowdy!This phenomenon cuts across social strata: women of all classes are targetted in some way or the other. It is not the young or the poor or the uneducated men alone who indulge in ‘eve-teasing’. The rich, the educated, the old, the white collars do too. Only the extent of their abuse varies. Formal education provides jobs; it does nothing to kindle or nurture human values or teach the Art of Living.
As I work my way through my own mixed bag of emotions at recent events, I find that underneath the shock, disgust, anger, and rage even, there is a deep sense of personal failure. His Holiness Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, the founder of the Art of Living, has often said that it is the ‘apathy and inaction of good people‘ that has brought us to this state. I couldn’t agree more.
Now, everytime I encounter men who make me uncomfortable, I stop to ask myself – “What if I had taken the responsibility of educating them, of creating a sense of belongingness with them? Would they still behave the same way with me? Would I still cringe at them?” (It is no secret that Sri Sri’s love is a security blanket that protects me from untoward incidents. Do I not owe it to others to partake of the same sense of grace and security?)
While stringent laws and stricter enforcement are undeniably necessary, they are not sufficient. Besides it bodes ill for a society if civilised behaviour can only be imposed via fear of consequence.
Creating a sense of belongingness & harmony, teaching people to handle their emotions & overcome violent tendencies are far more effective ways of dealing with such societal disorders in a permanent manner. Spiritual education is the urgent need of the hour.
I want a better India. I can make that happen when I Volunteer for a Better India.
Alone, I may continue to remain inert, reeling under the imagined burden of personal shortcomings. But all together, we can make a difference. You in? http://vfabi.org