This refers to the report “Godman’s unholy sermon on rape sparks outrage” (Jan. 8). It is dumbfounding to read about the mindset of fellow citizens who are expected to spread divine qualities like kindness, empathy and fellow feeling. Blaming the victim makes me even sadder. A massive transformation of such minds and hearts to treat women with honour and dignity is the need of the hour. While every human being has the freedom and right to live, no one has the right to assault the other by word or deed.
The danger that godmen represent is that everything they utter is gulped down by the naive. I would only implore the self-styled spiritual leader to tell his male followers to treat women as human beings and learn to respect them. If he can do this, he would be doing a great service to humanity.
I don’t know why politicians and spiritual leaders make such outrageous comments and later attempt to say that they were misquoted. When we call India Bharat Mata (Mother India) and most rivers are named after women, why should a woman fall at the feet of her tormentors and plead for mercy? If our leaders think in such a regressive way, then no law or act would be able to stop crime against women. We have to change the way we think about women.
At a time when the whole nation is rallying round and standing by the aggrieved parents of the 23-year old Delhi gang-rape victim, it is stupefying that a plethora of divergent voices are actually rubbing salt into raw wounds by attributing the fault to the victim herself rather than her psychopathic tormentors. Among all the obnoxiously chauvinistic statements that have emanated from these so-called leaders, what takes the cake for its absurdity is Asaram Bapu’s pathetically myopic view. Apparently, his prescription for self-defence for women is for them to carry rakhis along with pepper-sprays.
Asaram Bapu’s statement is a sad reflection of the age-old patriarchal mindset and a male-dominated society that we are a part of in India. The time has come for women to speak for themselves and claim and experience their inherent rights and freedoms. There cannot be a better issue than the most horrible and inhuman act of rape for women to take up the cudgels against a system that has always tended to push them into a corner and into a state of perennial victimhood. Meanwhile, politicians, preachers and intellectuals can do a service to society and to themselves if they are seen as trying to understand and uphold the dignity of women, and equality and respect for them.
It looks as if most politicians and personalities are suddenly feeling the itch to shoot off absurd statements on women’s issues. Their remarks show that they are caught in a time warp.
How bizarre. Going by Bapu Asaram’s logic, even Mata Sita should have tied a rakhi to Ravana, and touched his feet. Draupadi should have said “bhaiyya” to Dushasan instead of asking Krishna for help.
The spiritual leader’s statement defies logic. Was there a guarantee that the hoodlums would have set the girl free if she had pleaded with them? They were drunk. The statement only reveals a mindset that wants women to be always under a male-dominated system begging for her life and security.
It is interesting to observe that all the unsolicited advice on the issue is being directed at women, the victims of criminal assault. No prominent religious or political leader has cared to counsel men on the barbarity of rape or the need to respect the individual dignity of women.
To treat rape as something inevitable under certain circumstances is to justify it. It should be made a socially and culturally unacceptable form of behaviour by ostracising and shaming the offenders apart from punishing them as per the law. Criminologists and psychologists need to study the profile of the rapist offenders and try to examine whether there are any deep-rooted causes for deviant behaviour.
What Asaram Bapu thinks of women and society in general shows the general mentality towards women. If tomorrow when travelling to New Delhi and my train is late, what do I do? Do girls need to sit at home and not study? Do I tell the autowallah when I board his vehicle, ‘You are my brother, so don’t harm me?’ It looks as if a girl is not safe once she steps out of her home. Thus, she has to fight for herself and shed all notions of shame attached to her body.
The best way to tackle such irresponsible statements is to ignore them. The media should also stop jumping to highlight every statement and indulge in sensationalism. Let us take a clue from the protesters. Many of them are young but are proving to the world that protests are powerful, can be done in a sophisticated way and still achieve results.
It is going to take generations to change the basic fabric of the patriarchal structure of Indian society. One small step towards this change is making women strong enough to fight for their safety and dignity in situations where their life and self-respect is in danger. Self-defence courses are a must. Giving youth an option of exploring gender studies will definitely help in some way.