The body of a young girl succumbed to brutal injuries inflicted on her by men. The sexual assault cut short a life prematurely. She would have had a job, looked after her parents, had a family of her own; but now she will not. Her fault was her gender. While rapes and murders happen with an increasing frequency, this nameless girl has stirred the conscience of many like no other.
Mass protests, few of them turning violent, foot-in-mouth comments from political class, opportunism, and media monitoring has brought a gruesome incident to the living rooms of people. For a first time crowds in thousands have gathered to protest without being offered free lunches. Few in slumber have awakened. Suddenly ‘rape’ is discussed at average Indian households. The movement, if it can be called so, has given newer and since-long-muzzled voices to many women.
The stirred conscience of citizens, leading to protests, has succeeded to some extent in applying pressure leading to creation of commissions which will look into women safety measures. But will any commission be able to change the mindset of those who view females as unequal; will any inquiry report change the misogynist attitude, or will any protest change the patriarchal high handedness practiced in most villages across the country?
The middle class has risen in protest. The thousands of faces of students, working professionals, both young, middle aged and old; visibly bearing no party affiliations are the bulk of middle class. But the middle class has its own concerns. Their priority list contains managing budget to buy that flat ten years from now, plan a holiday trip next summer, worry about the education of children; all the while worrying about the safety of women in the family. Hence the protesters are seen on the streets maximally in the weekends.
The upper echelons of society also has risen, but they are unaffected by the daily struggle a less opportune female faces beginning from her home, on the streets, in her office and in the public transport.TV room debates, twitter updates, lamenting on the systems, discussions of a deteriorating India and thus the need to send their sons and daughters abroad for education are features that describes the disconnected upper class Indians.
The poor of the country are too deep embroiled in their daily war for mere survival. They might be genuinely concerned about the gender crimes, of which they face a major brunt, but in their capacity to bring about that ‘change’, their resources are limited. However therein lays the catch. The upper class and vast swathes of middle class India do not vote. Apathetic political leadership can at one point be blamed on those who chose them, which are we the people. And what corrupt and inefficient polity can do to a society is all out in the open for us.
The ‘change’ that is being sought after does not end at death penalty for the perpetrators; that is a misconstrued demand. Violence against women, of which rape is a severe example, can only reduce with change in certain gargantuan systems in place. The systems being that of Policing, which is crying for reforms; Criminal justice, which is overburdened; and above all the system of Mentality. While choosing right representatives, applying public pressure and reformists might change the Policing and Judiciary; the third is the most daunting system to change.
Only a heady mix of deterrent (read police and judiciary) and education (read mindset) can reduce crime against women. Patriarchy in its medieval form, objectifying women in movies, gender divisiveness at home and work, disappearance of moral science classes in schools, an overall rich poor divide in society mixed with disregard for law are some of the areas that needs to be addressed. The onus largely lies on men, to understand women or at least not to commit such crimes; on parents, to teach their kids equality of gender among other things; on government to bring about necessary reforms and laws. Let the life of one nameless girl create some awareness, stir some bastions, whip up some passions, and bring about some change that her ilk seeks for.