SPECIAL ON INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY
THE gang-rape of a young medical student on December 16, 2012 sent shock waves throughout the country with young boys and girls taking to the streets to voice their anger and indignation at the deteriorating law and order situation in the capital city of Delhi. Even on the political front, heated discussions continue to rage between parties of different colours and hues. No less has been this incident the centre of focus for various television channels and news media. What is particularly intriguing is the fact that since this gruesome tragedy of December 16 , not only is there an increase in rape cases as seen on reading the newspapers, but even those cases which had so far been relegated to the back-burner are now coming to light.
Atrocities on women and rape related issues have now become the topic of discussion. This was inevitable especially when we take a concerted look at the national scenario where we find a consistent increase in incidents of crime, assault, robbery, etc. against women, so much so that other forms of crime have been pushed to the background. It is only when a major catastrophe occurs that the focus of attention shifts and it becomes a subject of much debate. On taking a wider look, it becomes evident that there has been a marked decline in the social situation of the country. It is imperative to ponder seriously on these social problems and take concrete steps for implementation of stern measures if a semblance of law and order is to be introduced. The current situation shows a marked decline in the people’s social and ethical values. In any case, whatever be the cause, in order to find a permanent solution to any problem it is necessary to identify the crux of the problem and initiate steps for taking successful remedial measures.
Today the discussion is focused on reformation of laws, all-round improvement in police action and a positive change in people’s attitude and behaviour. Out of the 700 cases reported in the past one year, only one who was found guilty was brought to book. This is a sad reflection on our judicial system. Even those cases that are reported at the police station are few and far between, especially since many such cases are not even reported at the police station. In a recent case reported in the newspapers, a rapist auto-rickshaw-driver of his own volition admitted that nine women had become victims of his lust. What is more, out of these, only two cases were reported. What is more, such cases continue pending in court for years. Subsequently in such cases, even if justice is meted out to the criminal, it has lost its significance by then. After all, justice delayed is justice denied. There is an urgency to bring in new laws if the law and order situation has to be maintained. The number of fast-track courts for such cases has to be increased and the victims awarded relief at the earliest possible in a fixed period of time. Similarly an increase in the number of police personnel and making them take prompt and proper action are called for. Consequently the situation demands prompt justice for the victim and severe punishment for the perpetrator of the crime.
In the widespread discussion on this subject in the country one thing that comes repeatedly to the mind is that change in our attitude is the need of the hour. The argument is very valid, but how can this change be brought about? This is a very ticklish question. Can a change be initiated by imposing death sentence on the rapist to serve as a deterrent for prospective rapists, or would increase in the strength of the police personnel, or entering of the names of rapists on the internet serve as a deterrent? In my view change in attitude can be brought about by change in one’s views, which in turn can be initiated by teaching how to value one’s cultural traditions, by inculcating moral values and by maintaining the sanctity of a just social system. Once I went to meet an eminent physician-friend of mine at Kanpur. During the course of our discussion, the question of civic sense cropped up and he said that when he lived in Mumbai, he was used to standing in a queue to board the public bus, but as soon as he reached Kanpur station, he forgot all that he had learnt and had started behaving like an uncouth person. This means that an ordinary citizen begins to behave according to the environment he finds himself in.
A change in perspective towards women should begin at home first. In the family, one’s sister, daughter, mother should be treated with respect and equality. A family in which a woman is not treated with respect can never constitute a harmonious unit. In our society a woman who runs the house in a family is bestowed greater respect than a woman who does a job or runs a business. It is necessary to bring a change in this outlook too. In today’s consumerist world, children are not being given adequate attention. Parents do not have the time. In poor families, the parents are busy trying to make the two ends meet due to which the children are left to fend for themselves. As a result, when they reach adolescence or become youths, due to lack of right guidance they take to the wrong path. It is seen that invariably it is the middle class which, in the race towards consumerism and with both the wife and husband engaged in earning at a job or a business, is unable to spend quality time with children. In a similar manner, in most well-to-do families, the drink-dance-and-club culture is developing at such a fast pace that children are left in the care of the maid-servant or an ayah. In such a social set-up, children need to develop high values and knowledge imparted to them through love, dialogue and understanding by their parents. If concrete efforts are made in the right direction, it is possible to find a solution to the ills plaguing the society.
Amongst the chief causes for loss of moral values is the current trend in the country’s education system where moral values, ethics and spirituality are no longer an integral part of education. In such a scenario, there is every likelihood of the youth going on the wrong path or developing unethical behaviour, Sri Aurobindo had once said, “Since the time education in the country has got separated from the values of life, the people have been drawn away from their dharma and goals.”
Today we find most families displaying lack of values because parents too went through the same system. In my view, the three major offshoots of education are – all-round development of personality and character, fulfilment of national and societal responsibilities and ability to face national and international challenges. Not a single point mentioned above is being fulfilled by the current educational system. On the contrary, textbooks in Hindi published by NCERT, provide information that is derogatory to women.
For example, refer to excerpts from the book Kritika of Cass IX, Pp 35-37, and chapter titled ‘Reedh ki Haddi’ by Jagdish Chandra Mathur.
Prasad: Tax on beauty (Ramswarup and Shankar begin to laugh)! It’s no joke, sir. This is a tax, sir that the taxpayer will not object to pay. The only condition is that is should be left to every women to decide on the amount of tax according to the ‘standard’ of her beauty. Then watch how the government’s earnings soar.
Prasad (interrupts): This is a different matter Babu Ramswarup. As I said in the beginning itself that it is absolutely essential for the girl to look beautiful, no matter how she does it. She may either use cream and powder or she may be naturally so. The point is that though you and I may accept it otherwise, the women in the family will not accept it.
G. Prasad: Regarding reading and writing, it is clear sir, that we do no want a highly educated girl. We are not in favour of a modern girl because who will tolerate her airs? At the most we would like her to be a matriculate. What do you say, Shankar?
Shankar: Oh yes, that’s out of the question.
Ramswarup: There is no question of her doing a job.
What kind of an opinion would students develop on reading such information in their textbooks? Thus, if the outlook of the society has to be changed, we will have to change the direction in which we are moving because the change of direction will bring about a change in the situation. For change in the direction, the administrative set-up in the state will need to be overhauled, particularly the education system.
Revise the education system to reform the nation
For this purpose, all the commissions constituted by the Central Government submitted suggestions on value-based education, but to this day teaching of value-based education has not been initiated. At the societal level, wherever efforts were made to impart values and moral education through the revised system of education, good results were seen. In this same way, when imparting education in some schools for development of personality and character, the Education/Culture Growth Trust after concerted efforts for six months, conducted examinations in some classes of three schools and from where good results were obtained. Such experiments now need to be conducted on a widespread scale in the country by the State and Central governments. Nevertheless such experiments by governments alone many not suffice. Hence along with the State governments, personnel from the education sector along with the society at large have to contribute their mite too.