Respect for women is fundamental to our civilisation. Globalisation has changed values, the emphasis is more on the exterior; looks and beauty is a thriving industry, not divine or God given. Never before were crimes against women so common in our society as today, and it is very rarely that the culprits get punished. In this context the verdict in the rape case of a Maulana Azad Medical College student has been received with much relief. The life-term to the convict have gladdened many for in most such cases, the victims suffer endlessly and the criminals go scot-free.
This is the first time any sexual assault case has been settled so fast (two years). This is also the first case involving a minor where punishment has been given. Perverts have argued that the convicted was a minor and therefore should have been sent only to a juvenile home. By setting aside such prattle, the judge gave his verdict, sending the social message loud and clear.
In Indian culture, women enjoy a stature and position few others can boast of. That this position has eroded considerably is a fact. But even then, within a family, the Hindu women command and receive respect and deference. Even before the modern civil code, the role of women in a Hindu household has been that of an equal, in fact, more than equal.
The idea of woman being the deliverer of man’s spiritual journey is not unique to India. Ancient and now-extinct civilisations have also given women the hallowed position. The recent best-seller novel, The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown runs on this theme. It is with the advent of Christianity that the female was identified with sin. At the height of its glory, the Church even launched a movement against women. The term witch-hunt originates from this operation, in which millions of women in Europe had to face persecution and were burnt. Though adopting Christianity, these were women who practised rituals as part of their worship, coming out of their traditional religions. Of course, witch-hunt was also used for silencing women who dared to speak up.
Tamil poet, Bharatiyar, has said that he would consider that day and society ideal when an extremely beautiful woman, loaded with jewels, walks unescorted, unafraid on a moonlit night and comes to no harm. We are living at a time when a college student is assaulted in a traffic island, on a busy road, in mid-day, by a male, who, going by his birth certificate, has not reached the adult stage. Crime against woman is an assault on the society. Stringent punishments would go a long way in dealing with the rising menace.