Thursday, 27 December 2012

The wrong debate

The last week-10 days has seen huge debates following the brutal Gang rape in Delhi. However, as usual, what our media and our leaders seem to be focussed on is where to accord blame and responsibility. There was, on the news today, much talk of how society has "commoditized" and "objectified" women and the steps we need to take to sensitise society and ensure the dignity and respect of women.

To be sure we could do with greater levels of sensitivity and respect towards women in society at large. But in this case, the larger problem, to me at least, is the establishment. Civil society has, in fact, reacted to the incident with a sense of outrage that definitely shows concern for women's safety and a desire to treat them with respect.

The establishment, and by this I mean our politicians, our police force and even our media, has on the other hand, been arrogant, callous and cavalier in its attitude towards Crime, especially Sexual Crimes, against women. From comments by Sheila Dikshit, the Chief Minister of Delhi, that women not step out alone at night to Abhijit Mukherjee's (MP and son of President Pranab Mukherjee's son) comment today that alluded that protests by women who went to discotheques have little value, the leadership of this country has only been dismissive of the situation.

A situation that should have united the citizenry and leadership of India to take positive action against violence and crimes against women has instead degenerated into a debate that blames every thing from western dresses to bollywood item numbers for the rape of women.

The argument being made in the case of rape today is akin to saying "if you wear a gold chain and step out and a thief snatches it, you are responsible for wearing the chain and tempting him in the first place. Therefore, it is you and not the thief who is responsible for the theft." Does that even sound logical?

Preventing crime against women is not about asking women to "behave". It is about sending out a strong message to criminals that they will not be allowed to go unpunished. It is about the system putting it's weight behind the victim and not looking for their faults or flaws. No matter how provocatively dressed a woman may be, it is not license to rape or eve tease or even make lewd remarks about her. And it is our leadership and our law enforcement agencies that seem to be more in need of this lesson today than civil society.

While crime and criminals arise from society, it is the state that has the power to keep them in check. That is the first and most important function that a state must perform - use the force relegated to it by its citizenry to keep them safe. And that is the function that this debate has conveniently pushed under the carpet. That is the question that the government refuses to take forward. 

No comments: