Rape

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Changing Gender Equations In India

Published September 22, 2015 by vishalvkale

Sexual violence in India and its increasingly relevance to the public discourse, that is frankly a comparatively smaller problem in comparison to the major problem facing our society : that of Gender roles, and their redefinition in the changed world. The reality may even be that it is the percentage of reported rapes and sexual misdemeanour that are increasing. This, far from being a problem, is actually a welcome development, if that is indeed the case. It means that the stigma is receding, at it is being perceived as a plain and simple crime. This cannot be viewed in isolation, but has to be seen in the complete socio-cultural mileu, especially if we are to label an entire society.

The major aspect that needs attention, in my opinion, is the concept of Gender Roles in Indian Society, and especially how the Man {including I Me Myself} views this. The Challenges and questions being posed to the Indian Family Unit due to this need answering. Further, we need to move away from accusation and self-accusation, and blame games; this isn’t Gender Suppression, although that is also a factor in some cases, to be honest. It is just that I cannot say how prevalent Suppression is…

Suppression is when the act is one-sided. A lady once said to me categorically, “Women are also the ones responsible for it”. It was a statement that initially stunned me, but is increasingly making eminent sense. A Hindi movie from the 50s had a very interesting scene in it, when the lady defends her husband beating her by saying that he also loves her deeply {which was a fact as shown in the movie}. This is but one parameter of the problem. I have seen this quiet acceptance in many a household, and majorly in the educated classes, rarely in the lower classes.

And the solution isnt empowering women : that is an insult to women in general. The women does not need “empowerment”. That statement itself implies the inherent superiority of the male of the species. The need of the hour is education of the male mind, and engendering equality of the sexes right from childhood. That means social programmes to educate society and the parents. And, unless you understand the level of the full problem, its deep-seated nature and its genesis, all such outreach programmes are bound to be less effective. That is why understanding why this arose is so important.

Just who is the male to “give the women power”? Is he God? Or, does he own the woman? If not, how can the male give something which anyways does not belong to him in the first place? There are many, many parameters to this issue, which get lost out in the brouhaha.
People say Women should not tolerate abuse, But what about the attendant issues? Some women, just to take one tiny example, tolerate abuse for the children. What happens to them – the Women and The Children? Their lives get destroyed, that is what. That act of sacrifice makes the women far stronger than the male, and a far better human; but that comes at a high cost to the individual lady. Point is that there are a myriad set of parameters involved here, all of which need consideration. Unless all questions are answered, even a majority of women will {might} not support, and that is a sad fact.
That also indicates the solution cannot be just plain empowerment, or legal remedies etc alone. What is truly needed is a combination effort of legal remedies, laws and their implementation, social education programmes, setting exemplars of everyday women and men who have reached a balance, {not your famous women, people dont relate to famous personalities}, This involves changing mindsets, and is a very tall task
Why is this so? The answer lies in the socio-cultural constructs of our society and its historical experiences, whose current impact is a matter of studied and documented research. For example, castesim, once thought to be a core sanaatani construct, has been proven as a hard-core colonial creation in more than one solid research, one of which I have read. In it, the impact of history on the modern world and society has been effortlessly traced. I refer to Maria Misra’s Vishnu’s Crowded Temple – {Vishnu’s Crowded Temple Book Review}
Thus, if we are understand this problem, we have no choice but to go back to its genesis. Societal trends, norms and behavhiours only change over the course of generations, and if you have to alter the course of society, you perforce need to understand the history. Then and only then can a solution emerge. Then key question here is why is this so in Modern India? Since when has it become so? Why did this emerge?
If the emergence is recent in history, relatively simple steps like laws are the answer. But if the genesis lies deep in history, then there is no solution apart from a combination of laws, education and social change steps that need to be taken.

It isnt a Power issue, it isnt an issue of men wanting power over women. This is a deeply ingrained cultural attribute, whether or not you like it, or anyone else for that matter. Gender Relations and Balance is a fundamental construct of Society, more so a stratified and hierarchical society like India’s. Indian Society is at its core hierarchical, with strictly defined roles, norms, modes and behaviours and styles of conduct.
This hierarchical structure has both good and bad points, just the same as any other structure. One cannot only look at its negative ramifications and blame the entire structure for it, forgetting the other good points. Any structure will be definition have both good and bad points. This isnt Power; it is a simple case of hard-wired behavioural parameters, ingrained into collective memory over generations.
It has been said that the current dispensation is against Dignity; while I don’t deny that there may be some cases where this is true, but the questions remain. A person’s dignity is non-negotiable, granted. But how do you define dignity? Does the other person accept your definition of dignity? Your definition of freedom and independence? If not, then you are also imposing, and this cannot lead to a solution! This is a classic western concept, sorry to state; and does not apply to eastern constructs of society with its many shades, parameters and nuances. If the people themselves do not accept such imposition willingly, we are back where we started.
This is a highly subjective and relative issue, one that cannot and should not be discussed off hand without proper lines of thought. Furthermore, if the respondent does not accept the imposition, the result is a backlash. This cannot be ignored, or forgotten. Individual dignity is again a core societal construct that arises from roles, mores, morals, hierarchies and their inter-relationships nuances and other cultural parameters. Solving this complex equation will take generations, not less – as it is a painstakingly slow process that involves a variety of solutions and approaches

Add to this the purely eastern concept of Honour, and dignity takes on exceedingly complicated hues that defy definition. The interplay of these two in society determine a lot of what we see, more so in the Indian Context. And that fact of the matter is that these two are exceedingly powerful forces in Sanaatani Society – Honour, and Family.
Thus, in order that we understand this situation, we perforce have to cater to the ground reality. And Western constructs, theories, views do not apply on the Ground in India, that much is an absolute. Till lately, this was so deep-rooted that even crimes went unreported; I refer to rape and wife-beating. So strong, so hard and so deep are the bonds of honour and family that even heinous crimes went unreported.
The very fact that unreported crimes are now on the decline proves that our society is actually moving in the right direction. This is actually not a problem – honour and family are what define our uniqueness, and the two have a massive range of practical and powerful ramifications in the Modern Context. So much so, that they are actually a massive plus of our society. But each plus has some attendant weaknesses; the challenge before us is to remove the attachment of these two from crimes. And that is happening at an ever-increasing rate.
If you look at the increasing participation of ladies in the workforce, as an example, and juxtapose it with the continuing and in fact strengthening hold of honour and family in the Indian context, it can be readily seen that Indian society is changing quite rapidly , adapting itself without compromising its uniqueness, and its basic precepts.
What is happening is that increasingly, there is a subtle redefinition of constituent roles in the family unit, with the male increasingly shouldering some increased burden. I dont say that this is happening willingly in all cases – again, honour and family interplay force change on males as well, who are notoriously slow to change {genetic defect in the male? 🙂 } – but change is happening. And newer forms are emerging, adapted to the newer reality, making for a much better India.

And, speaking as a Man, what it requires is for Males to accept that the equations between the Genders are now changing; it would be better for all of us males – starting with Myself – to accept this change, and adjust, change ourselves for the benefit of the Family’; the same Family for which Women have more than frequently given their all…

Is this Justice? 28 Months for Rape and Murder?

Published September 11, 2013 by vishalvkale

Someone participates in wanton rape and murder – gangrape at that; and then murders the helpless woman; mercilessly beating and torturing her, and committing unspeakable deeds – and the best our justice system can do is meet out  a punishment of 28 months for one of the most brutal culprits? Is this justice? Just because the most brutal animal of the lot is a few months short of 18, he is let off with a light sentence – a sentence that does a mockery of justice?In 3 years (a little less, actually) this person, this poor excuse for a human being will be let off to roam the streets again.

What is the guarantee that this person will be reformed? Where is the guarantee that these 3 years will not harden his resolve to be more careful – and not be caught? 3 years later he will be roaming the streets again – having tasted blood once. 3 short years is what he pays for raping, torturing and killing a young lady in the prime of her life. The victim loses her honour as well as her life; the perpetrator goes on to enjoy life to the fullest after paying for just 3 short years for a deed that is too horrifying to even mention! And this is our justice system! Well done, well done indeed! What an exemplary lesson for crime!

The message that will go across to all such youngsters in this age range is that ladies are fair game; even  if caught, we get off lightly. To a certain category of people, to whom lawlessness is a way of life, this might even be an open invitation! I may be sounding melodramatic, but this sounds logical to me at least. The law has totally failed to set an example and provide a deterrent. To a person already on the wrong side of the law, and a history sheeter, for example, 3 years is nothing.

While I admit that attempts to reform are laudable, and should always be the first priority; this should not and cannot be extended to all cases. Logically, a certain class of crimes can and should be expunged from this forgiven category for the good of society as a whole. I am not concerned only with revenge for the hapless soul; I am also concerned with setting up a deterrent. And the justice meted out in this case does not qualify for that category – that of a sufficient deterrent. This is not about revenge; it is not about blood for blood. It is about exemplary treatment to such criminals, which would act as a deterrent to further such incidences. And even if the punishment does not act as a deterrent, at least it should not send the wrong message to all other youngsters in the juvenile category.

And on both these counts, the law has failed us Indians. I am not a lawyer, and am not aware of the finer points involved; but this sentence makes no sense. Absolutely none.  Justice has not been done; the society has not been served; the family of the victim have not yet managed to bury their past. This sentence is likely to haunt them for a long time; as it is the family intends to fight this verdict. To them, there is no closure. This verdict has actually sentenced an entire family to a life of fight and despair. Instead of punishing the guilty, the law has unintentionally caused considerable pain and continual suffering to the family of the victim. 3 years later, this man – who was the most indescribably cruel of the lot – will roam the streets a free man; while the family of Nirbhay will suffer in silence, fighting a hopeless case in the courts of the land.

My heart goes out to the hapless family, abandoned in this dark hour by the state; their justified fight forgotten at the altar of juvenile justice. My heart trembles to think of the lesson this is sending out to other such people in our society who might be willing to risk 3 years of their lives. Is this justice? No sir, beyond any shade of doubt, this is not justice; the needs of justice have not been served. Society has not been served; justice lies denied to both society as well as the family of the victim. Especially for the family of the victim, there can be no closure!

If the law is not upto the mark, change it! That is why we have elected leaders into parliament! What are they doing? Nothing, that is what. My complaint is not against the Supreme Court; it is against the  ladies and gentlemen who run the parliament, the people who make the laws. Change the law; change the juvenile age. Alternatively, you can exempt certain crimes from this protection. If the constitution is a problem, bring in an amendment. Countless amendments have been made; some senseless. At least, at the very least the Government can amend the constitution for a just cause. The Government owes this to society; in fact, it is their solemn duty. I can only say that just as the family does not intend to keep quiet – we, the people, should also keep this case alive, and keep up the pressure on our lawmakers to change the laws, and make that man pay!

Is anyone listening?

THE GENERATION THAT CHANGED INDIA

Published August 26, 2013 by vishalvkale

THE GENERATION THAT CHANGED INDIA
The future is not as dark as it seems; the silver lining in this black cloud is getting stronger each moment
The recent past has been very tumultuous for our India; the period since beginning of 2008, from the start of the stock market slide, has been unforgettable- with every week being witness to a new tragedy, a new scam, a new event and a new breaking story. This has been an unprecedented period in the history of our ancient civilization, and our young nation; one that has brought us to the brink of disaster, and has forced us to introspect deeply into what we have become as a nation, and what we want to build for ourselves. It has brought in its wake gut-wrenching change, and a deep sense of disquiet at what we have become as a nation. This recent past has forced us to look at our real selves in a mirror, and realize that the image is not a very healthy one.
From politics to bureaucracy, from corruption to negligence – every facet of non-deliverance has manifested itself. This is evident in the number – the mind-numbing number, scale and spread of scams that has ripped apart every facet of life in Modern India. This is also evident in the political scenario, the populist and at times even criminally self-indulgent policies, as well as the stasis on all important steps that need to be undertaken. This period has exposed the underbelly of our internal security as well, as is evident from a number of well-publicized instances.  This is evident from the cruelly self-centered attitude of the populace, with normal citizens preferring to let people die than come to help, and other such incidents. This is evident in the series of headline-grabbing gang rape incidents that have brought a shocked and stunned nation to a standstill in outrage… truly, a period that will go down in the annals of Indian History as a momentous and horrifying period in every which way you prefer to look at it.
There has been good news too; aplenty. Our successes in the field of technology and science are well-known; India is now known as a nation with cutting edge technological capabilities in any number of fields, with our innovations and ventures placing us in a select band of countries, which can be counted on the fingers of one hand. This is the same period that gave us an unprecedented run of wins and successes in cricket. This is the same period that has given us stars in fields other than cricket. This is the same period which has seen the Mumbai Film Industry gain major inroads in international markets. This is the same period where The Supreme Court became the torch bearer of the clean brigade and activism through a series of landmark and laudable judgments in a stream of areas that impact the high and low, the powerful and the mundane in equal measure. And most critically, this is the period where the power of our people, of our democracy has been highlighted in front of the world, such that there can be no doubt anymore of India’s democratic tradition – its many weaknesses notwithstanding; and that we as a people, as a nationality, have the will and the ability to solve our own problems.
Put the 2 paragraphs above together, and a picture begins to emerge: one that is nowhere near as dark and mournful that we had at first imagined. We have problems, that is undeniable; and serious issues at that. These are issues that are in urgent need of priority attention, that is also a given. Nevertheless, failures notwithstanding, we can be sanguine, calm and confident about one fact: that our lot will improve, and improve dramatically, in the due course of time. And this is not because time changes everything; it is because we as a nation are now beginning to put everything together in a larger picture, and create something that is much better than was previously the case.
Instead of looking at the glass as half-empty, let us take a look at the glass from the perspective that it is half-full. And that is where the promise begins to emerge. Take the cases of corruption and scams that have torn into our reputation and image, as well as our potential and competitiveness. Most of these have tentacles that go back several years. The very fact that they are being exposed – and exposed in every facet of life in India, is a positive sign – not a negative one. It is a signal that more and more Indians are quitting the fold of tolerance towards corruption. It is also a sign of the vitality of our institutions – in particular, The Media, as well as the various agencies that have brought these scams to light. The exposure of these scams is a positive sign; one that, repeated often enough – is sure to instill a culture of intolerance towards corruption, and make corruption inacceptable in our society. Given the endemic nature of our problems, the fight is a long one – but a start has been made; a very strong start.
Whatever be the reasons for the Media and the agencies – promotion, disgust against corruption, upping sales of newspapers and channels etc – the fact remains that these are institutions that have worked and performed their tasks – be it the Media or the CAG office, or any other. And they are manned by Indians – people like you and me. The fact that scams are being exposed is not a negative; it is a very powerful positive – it is a signal of growing intolerance towards corruption, increasing effectiveness of some agencies and increasing power and innovativeness of the Media. The old habits, the moral degradation, the equality aspect of society have all come under unprecedented scrutiny – in terms of popular as well as Media activism; which will lead to a push for the start of change in this aspect as well.
The increasing use of technology in various ways like sting operations, as well as normal citizens in Social Media, is another sign of the change that is upon us, a change that is showing the increasing power of the normal man, facilitated by easy communication, and catalysed by a general disgust on the status quo. The coming together of Indians from every stream in various agitations – anti-rape, or corruption, or whatever – is a sign of the increasing awareness of people power. The increasing instances of bureaucrats who are coming out in open revolt on the status quo – that too in a peaceful fashion without breaking laws – is also another massive push for the society’s movement and change in the right direction. And all of these changes are being driven by normal Indians: be it the Supreme Court, The CAG, The Media, The CEC or the Activist Bureaucrats who are beginning to emerge, and take center stage.
There is also increasing pressure on the Government and the Public Representatives to be held accountable for their actions; every step is analysed threadbare, and every decision held up to ruthless scrutiny, and in full public glare. No longer can the people who run our country hope to get away with populist or ineffective measures, given these changes. Yes, such ineffective governance is still the norm – but that is beside the point. The key point, the key change is that, unlike even 5 – 10 years ago, there is a demand for clean, effective governance, and an increasing pressure on the Government of the day.
It is always darkest before the dawn – a statement that fits well into our current status. Bogged down as we are by an unprecedented set of problems in every sector of public life, all does seem rather dismal. The scale of challenges facing us in the Economy, Governance, Corruption, Social Equality and Poverty are grievously massive. And yet, perhaps for the first time in our Independent History, we can be truly confident that things will change eventually. It may take time, given the scale of the problems, but the set of circumstances outlined above – with rising awareness and intolerance among the people, adherence to peace and non-violence, increasing sensitivity in Bureaucracy, increasing use of technology in every way, active intervention of The Supreme Court and the common, felt and vocal demand for effective and clean governance – will eventually lead to change. Further, the confluence of activism, technology and awareness is set to bring in change, which in some ways, that change is already being felt
The momentum of these changes can only increase, with increasing awareness, penetration of technology, increasing education, and the attendant demand for a better quality of life. The people, who have started the power of passive activism, will only get more demanding, the various institutions, which have seen how their actions are both inciting action on the guilty, as well as how the people support them vocally and actively, will obviously become more effective and vigilant with time. These changes have now acquired critical mass; it is no longer possible to muzzle the activist Supreme Court, or Media; it is no longer possible to reign in the desires and dreams of the people.
The fun and exciting part of this is that this is being achieved in the time-honored Indian tradition of peace, slow but effective change and non-violence. This will aid in the establishment of a stable order; even the most cursory perusal of change the world over will reveal that the only stable change has, by and large, been slow, steady and methodical. We should all feel lucky to be a part of such a defining moment of our national history – our personal problems notwithstanding, when the old ways are being challenged, and new ways are being discovered. Along the path will lie some speed breakers and false starts, but the overall direction seems right.
And if all this does come about, if we do manage to complete what we have started, then the future is ours to take. The momentum built up in the past few years has given us a direction, and a new hope for a new India, an improved and confidant India. The choice is ours to make: continue on this admittedly tortuous and long path of change that has just been started – and realize the potential that we all know is present in the ancient Land of Aryavarta, the land that we now know as Modern India, or Bharat. And, when all of us are gone from this Earth – and we reside in Vaikunth, or Heaven, or Jannat, or are in another life –  maybe, just maybe it will so transpire that we and our generation will be remembered as:

 The Generation That Changed India… 

Rape! Attitude… or something else?

Published August 23, 2013 by vishalvkale

For once, I am at a loss for words… a total loss for words!
Yet another morning, and yet another rape… a simple google search threw up the shocking statistic 68000 rapes in our nation just 2 years. I am speechless, and shocked…
And I dont buy that nonsense that is oft stated – “rape happens even in the developed world, and at a greater rate”. I care 2 damned hoots for what happens elsewhere, and at what rate. We are not discussing GDP Growth figures, for heaven’s sake… we are discussing the dignity and life of 68000 women in just 2 years… a statistic that should be enough to jolt even the most lackadaisical and sanguine among us… a statistic that should, but does not, act as a brutal wake-up call to our society! It is not a competition; it is not as if we celebrate if our rape numbers are 0.001% below the US, or Pakistan. Having read many a statement online, like “doesn’t rape happen in the USA etc”, I think it essential that we deal with this matter first! Fact of the matter is that these numbers are just not acceptable! 
I  have already stated in my articles on corruption that our national moral compass is in dire need of correction; these are not signs of a healthy society. I am sorry to use such harsh words, but I am too numbed into senseless shock to be soft this time around. The sheer brazenness of the rapists has stunned me; there is no fear of the law, no fear of God, no morals, and no recourse for the poor woman either. Someone can just grab a lady and rape her at 5PM in the afternoon, right next to a railway track in Mahalaxmi, the heart of Mumbai? The enormity of the brazenness of this deed has stunned me speechless. 
It seems clear that the rapists were just not scared of getting caught, and had lost total fear of the law. And when that happens, you have only your morals and your conscience between yourself and evil.  I just don’t buy that spiel that is given regarding attitude towards women; I cant see any attitude issue here. All I can see is a person who has no fear for the law, and no conscience and no morals. I can see an attitude issue towards the police; that they are ineffective. I can spot a morality that is in dire need of correction – but not attitude. Taken together with the rampant corruption as evidenced in the life around us, the signals are clear: signs of a serious societal decay, a society that is so bloody self-centred, so fearless of the law, so amoral, and so numbed into senselessness that it cannot take the steps needed to correct itself…
Do we have an attitude issue towards women? Yes, we do. A real world example from Corporate India will help to illustrate my point. This happened around 7 – 8 years ago, in one of the biggest companies in India. Two of the support staff took panning videos of the girls in my distributors’ staff – full profile shots. There was a hue and cry. When I intervened, and asked – do you have a problem with our company? Answer: No, we just want justice – and these guys to pay for their deed. We don’t like to have our full profile videos taken without our permission. Fair enough, and logical. They went ahead and complained. The feedback I got from a couple of senior managers was shocking: “boys will be boys. So what if some videos were taken? They are boys yaar – they were just having fun”. Wow. Fun? And what about the girls getting insulted – for they were feeling insulted. This is in a small town in Central India. Someone takes a full video of a girl – panning from head downwards (as per descriptions I got), and that is “just having fun?”. Now this is attitude. This is reflective of an attitude issue in society – and in my opinion, no part of India is free from it. 
Rape is far, far beyond attitude. Let us not brush it under the carpet by stating it as an attitude problem among males. Rape is far, far more serious. Rape impacts the entire life of the woman. At times, some Rambo of a husband even leaves the poor raped woman, as though she is to blame. It impacts the entire family, and engenders a fear psychosis in society. It is a crime, plain and simple. Rape happens when a man loses  sight of morality, fear of the law and is indicative of a power complex; that he can get away with it. Once that feeling sets in – that you cant be caught – then you have only your conscience and your values standing between yourself and evil. This is not attitude; this is not a complex. This is just a total lack of moral direction, conscience combined with fearlessness of the law. This is far, far more serious than attitude…
The repeated incidents highlight 2 clear points: there is no fear of the law, and that there is no morality left anymore. While we cannot do anything immediately about the moral correction bit – that is a long-term affair even at the best of times, we can and should do something about the law and order situation by improving the sensitivity, training and effectivity of the police. This is critical since it is evident that the people are just not scared of the law, due to slow pace of justice, corruption and connections which ensure that people go scot free and unpunished for years altogether. 
The problem with calling Rape an attitude issue is that it is escapist, and a euphemism. Further, the word attitude does not tackle the lack of fear of the law; it also brushes under the carpet the larger issue of the life of the woman – as then the great Rambos in our society can lay claim to the weak excuse that this is part of our overall treatment of women. You then equate Rape with stalking a woman; asking unknown women, total strangers, for a date regardless of whether or not she wants to talk to you; eve-teasing; denying equal rights to women etc etc. Rape is Rape – nothing less. It is plain and simple an act of a criminal mind that has no place in society, a mind that has lost all touch with reality – and is indicative of a man who has no right to function in a free manner in a decent society…