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Freedom, Thy Name Woman

By Kritika Tandon


The woman of today is described as beauty-with-brains, career oriented and well educated. However, there are many problems faced by all of them, which are either unknown to us or we force ourselves to remain silent and let them be a subject of ignorance.

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To this day most parents would rather spend the lion’s share of their income educating their son and not their daughter. The reason behind this may be the need to preserve a fortune for her wedding, or may be in future the family would (want to) depend only on the son’s income. 

Several researches have concluded that even though on an average, a woman works more than a man; much of her work is not encouraged or given attention. This is because domestic work is not considered as work at all as there is no monetary contribution to the household. And thus, when a woman juggles between professional workload and household chores, a man easily claims to have worked harder by spending more time at the office. In addition to this, women also have to confront the challenges of sexual abuse, molestation, eve teasing and domestic violence. 

Most of us are well conversant with these facts. They exist in our textbooks for the mugging-up business, are exhibited on large hoardings as we traverse from place to place and are also brought up as a ‘mundane concern’ in the popular media content. In spite of such disinterest among the majority it would be highly unfair to say that not even half of us would want to delve into the hypotheses of such issues.

When the Indira Gandhi regime could not enforce sterilisation and family planning measures on men for long (especially during Emergency), it diverted its wrath towards women. This is evident even in today’s times when a family is rewarded if the woman goes through certain contraceptive procedures such as the insertion of a Copper T. One silent cause behind all such efforts could be the ability of those in power to hurl impositions more easily on women than on men.   

Such instances take us to a conclusion that since time memorial, the society has always been busy in controlling a woman’s sexuality for if she wears the pants; who would be the rightful owner of property and give the last-name-identity to children? To prevent this pandemonium, the female population all over the globe is made highly conscious of its actions because they are ‘bound to have’ equal and opposite reactions. Thus, it ends up being subjugated to a series of psychological and physical torture.

Instances of sexual harassment occur on an everyday basis, not only with women, but also with men, children and the elderly. The dreadful situation can befall on almost any person. So what action does/should anybody take at such an event? The ‘wise’ would expect to either ignore or remain hush about it. But that would be ideally wrong.

This, in turn, produces a disarray of emotions amongst most of the victims and survivors of sexual harassment. When somebody touches us or passes lewd comments, our brains automatically start thinking about the consequences of raising an alarm. By the time we’re done suppressing our rage it’s too late to take any reverse action.

Mukhtaran Bibi in her book In the Name of Honour gave a brief account of the biggest tragedy of her life. She was gang-raped by men of the rival tribe because her minor brother had been wrongly accused of molesting an adult female of the opposite tribe in a village in Pakistan. Bibi was raped ‘in the name of honour’, she was raped because those men misinterpreted jihad and came to the conclusion of raping her in order to take revenge and reinstate their pride. While other women who had faced similar incidents in the past committed suicide; Bibi fought back, filed a case and got her culprits punished.

So not being able to retaliate gets stroked-off from our globally-applicable list of doubts and questions. What becomes important is how to retaliate. In India, the laws are the there to protect us. While Article 14 of the Constitution of India talks about the Right to Equality (gender), Article 21 lays immense emphasis on the Right to Life and Personal Liberty. The Supreme Court has also mandated Anti-Sexual Harassment Policy for every organisation.

Nevertheless, the implementation of such laws has not yet met complete success. This is because of innumerable reasons like corruption, high might of the abuser or mere unawareness of several women regarding the existence of their own rights. Absence of consideration of domestic helpers in the Prevention of Sexual Harassment at Workplace Bill, 2010, is another problem for our country. 

Moreover, the separation of the complexities of rape than that of molestation is a highly debatable matter. A rape case has always involved a stringent punishment as compared to an act of sexual harassment. This is because where the former is constringed as penetration inside the private area, the latter is limited to external harm.

Women, as victims-to-be, must become strong and prepare for this challenge. They must be physically fit and morally upright to protest the lewd intentions of those who work along with them or meet them at public places. They should not conform to a man’s ‘muscle power’ and should strive to protect their dignity. But all such attempts will be in vain if notions of equal and respectful treatment towards the opposite sex are not imparted to men (and women) of all age groups.

“AS LONG AS THE BIRTH AND THE EXISTENCE OF A GIRL DOES NOT RECEIVE THE SAME WELCOME AND RESPECT AS THAT OF A BOY, SO LONG WE SHOULD KNOW THAT INDIA IS SUFFERING FROM PARTIAL PARALYSIS.”
                                                                                                                      - Mahatma Gandhi

(I am not entirely acquainted with intrinsic legal details, so please pardon me for any errors that may have occurred.) 

About: Kritika Tandon is a student at Delhi University pursuing Journalism(Hons). She writes also at http://hippiedippie.blogspot.in/

 

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