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‘Inability to see women as equals is a disease’

Bageshree S.
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Entrenched gendered power structure needs to be broken, says Saraswati

Du. Saraswati
Du. Saraswati

In the aftermath of the brutal gang-rape of a paramedical student in New Delhi, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) chief Mohan Bhagwat declared that such incidents happen in “India” and “not in Bharat”. A few days later, spiritual leader Asaram Bapu said the brave girl who had tried to fight off the rapists could have saved her life had she, instead, pleaded with the “brothers” for mercy.

Kannada poet and women’s activist Du. Saraswati says that articulations of this kind, which consciously undermine the seriousness of crimes against women, are “symptoms of a disease” that affects the nation’s psyche. “They suffer from a crippling inability to recognise women as equal inheritors of this world,” she says.

“There are women and even little girls in remote villages and megacities in this country raped by not just by strangers but also their own brothers, fathers and relatives. What then are we saying about such incidents happening only in ‘India’ or pleading to brothers for mercy?” asks a livid Ms. Saraswati. “In fact such absurd utterances, I would argue, are not even worth responding to.”

Insecurity among men

As women grow more assertive of their rights, there is growing insecurity among men, which is taking ugly forms.

“The resistance to 33 per cent political reservation to women, even as political parties pay lip sympathy to the cause, is symptomatic of this insecurity and a reluctance to share power,” says Ms. Saraswati.

The deeply entrenched gendered power structure, she believes, needs to be broken at several levels — at home by teaching men the so-called “women’s work” and at the highest level of governance.

Led by wisdom

While the slew of protests across the country in response to the New Delhi gang-rape case is a welcome sign, Ms. Saraswati says that similar solidarity needs to be shown towards women who face discrimination on account of caste or class. Rape and brutalisation of Dalit women, like what happened in Khairlanji in Maharashtra in 2006, should also evoke national outrage, she adds.

“Protests should have not only energy, but also the wisdom,” she says.

The death penalty or chemical castration will not help cure a society’s warped mindset that fails to see women as equal citizens, she adds.

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