After the gang rape in Delhi, the problems of rape and violence against women have attracted a lot of attention from the media and the people. Many people have suggested tough laws against rape like death sentence. The others feel that we need to increase awareness about these problems. Some want to organize women for liberation. Some people have talked about the Western cultural invasion and erosion of our culture and value system. I feel, instead of a unilateral approach we need a multilateral approach which tries to address social, economic, cultural, moral and political factors, in addition to legal measures. Even though gang rape has attracted a lot of attention, yet female feticide and dowry deaths are much bigger social problems as far as violence against women is concerned. By making female feticide almost socially acceptable, we are abetting crimes such as rape, against women.
The legal aspect is also related to other aspects, such as social and economic factors. For example, in 1947, the population of Delhi was about 700,000. Now, it is about 17 millions, an increase of about 25 folds. The question is that have the infrastructure, social and legal services increased with the same ratio? I think the answer is a big No. I do not think that the police force has increased with the same proportion. Even if it has increased, still more police is needed to take care of the VIPs and less police is available to take care of the ordinary people. I remember, in my childhood, I hardly saw security vehicles with the Chief Minister’s or the cabinet minister’s cars. Now, we see caravans of the security vehicles with sirens and lights on the highways. Actually, an MLA now has more security than what was available to a cabinet minister then.
The economic aspect cannot be ignored. Women’s freedom to move around cannot be curtailed because by doing that we will be limiting the employment opportunities for them. The women from the lower and the middle strata need to work because their households cannot be run with the single income. Therefore, preserving the freedom of mobility for the women is not only in their interest, but is in the interest of the whole society.
The cultural issue is also a very basic issue. In the era of Globalization, the Western imperialism has launched a three pronged attack on the other cultures. This includes technological and cultural attack along with the economic attack. At present, the cultural attack has become the dominant among these attacks. Under the influence of the Western cultural invasion, we are adopting a way of life which is still not acceptable to the majority of our people. The Western dress, manners and norms have not yet been accepted by the majority of the people. The public demonstration of the feelings about the opposite sex such as holding hands, hugging or kissing, is still not approved by the majority of the people. We have to show respect for the other people’s feelings and should dress and behave with restraint, taking into account the sentiments of the majority of the people. This is not a question of double standards but is a matter of accepting the social realities. Moreover, generally, we are adopting the decadent aspects of the Western culture and ignoring the healthy aspects of that culture such as punctuality and accountability. The bitter truth is that we have mostly discarded the healthy aspects of our culture and adopted the unhealthy elements of the Western culture. We should retain the healthy elements of our culture and adopt the healthy elements of the Western culture.
The moral and ideological aspects of the problems should also be analyzed. The traditional Indian thinking promoted the motherly aspect of the women. However, the Western capitalism mostly promoted women as sexual objects. The Westernization of women does not mean liberation of women because from a mother they are reduced to an object. In reality, the Western capitalism has degraded both men and women to mere consumers. The human relations, in general, have been mostly commercialized and marketized. Therefore, both men and women have been victimized by the Western capitalism. Moreover, nature did not create man and women in opposition to each other, they are complementary to each other. The Western capitalism incites women to oppose men under the garb of women’s liberation. However, men and women should work together for the betterment of the society. Both men and women have to liberate themselves from the Western capitalism.
Many of our problems are the result of adopting a wrong model of development. The Western capitalist model has led to chaos and anarchy. This is also a major factor contributing toward the problems of gang rapes and violence against women. We have to adopt an alternate model of development which is based upon the historical experience of our people and which upholds what is best in our culture and value system.
Dr. Sawraj Singh, MD F.I.C.S. is the Chairman of the Washington State Network for Human Rights and Chairman of the Central Washington Coalition for Social Justice. He can be reached at [email protected].