Development without Women?

I’m not exactly a feminist and despite my cynicism, I can often be practical. But when I read this report, I was quite pleased with the woman’s courage. It was a brutal act, but if shoddy excuses such as provocative dressing and “immorality” can be made to justify rape, self-defence in fact turns out to be a very good reason for her action.

The recent rape incident in Delhi has garnered headlines all over the country, and while general public reactions do condemn the action, imbecility hasn’t been far behind. Someone on Twitter questioned why there was greater hype over such an incident when it took place in Delhi; someone else said that there was no point venting outrage over it, but instead it was important to demand good governance.

“Commoners” like me are as entitled to tweeting our opinions as published writers, politicians and journalists. I agree that we need to vote responsibly and demand what is due to us, but aren’t our powers limited beyond a point? I live in a country that struggles to respect its women. We rape our own girls and we rape our guests. Men get killed for trying to protect their daughters on the street. Connections can set you on the road to freedom, irrespective of the magnitude of the crime. Visible, stringent deterrent action is rare. I don’t have to be a journalist, or a political spokesperson, to have an opinion. If blogging is the only way I can make myself heard, so be it.

I cannot but agree with those who question India’s aspirations towards development- what does development mean to us, after all? Different areas of growth can be mutually exclusive of one another, but that doesn’t justify the reversal of priorities. Carol Cohn writes of the sexual subtexts in defence, of the use of phallic imagery and the significance attributed to the role of the man in creation and birth. As a patriarchal society, is our pride in our nuclear power and space technology also subconsciously driven by the need to assert masculinity as an important trait of our “peace-loving” country? We use growth in these areas as an indicator of our prowess, of our right to be mentioned in the same breath as the developed world. It is high time we learnt that the world isn’t just about the big boys. Development is not about excluding women and concentrating on economic growth.

Passionate speeches are being made in the upper house of Parliament. However, whether any real action will be taken is anybody’s guess. It doesn’t take much for one uproar to erase memories of another. The moment a round of populist debates begins, the pursuit of justice will be conveniently forgotten.

We are struggling to cope with domestic abuse, a skewed sex ratio and dowry issues. The slights on women are not merely imagined, as some would like to believe. What are we teaching our children, our sons, that makes them so nonchalant towards the needs and dignity of women? What is important isn’t the geographical location or the magnitude of a crime- there is no such thing as “eve-teasing”. We don’t always have to wait for things to blow out of proportion before we decide to wake up.

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2 thoughts on “Development without Women?

  1. The other day, came across an interview with the promising young filmmaker from Kerala, Anjali Menon. She very eloquently raised a couple of points which i have to agree with:
    – firstly, the crux of any society, the social fabric, should be determined by how they treat their women
    – in our cultures, usually women are taught they have to keep quiet and ‘bear it all’. How many more incidents of domestic abuse and otherwise may be going unreported because of this attitude inculcated in them? This itself is one of the roots of the problem – people have to be encouraged to speak up and be heard and this has to come from within the families first.

    Apart from this, i really feel at times that a lot of women themselves adapt that disgusting attitude of ‘well, she was asking for it…’ towards other women – if the fairer sex dont stand up for themselves first, it is tough for things to change.

  2. Sorry, just saw this comment. I don’t think the “asking for it” thing is limited to India alone, as comments on some foreign newspaper articles show. In our culture, the attribution of honour to the family and the fear of not being believed cause more problems.

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