Are We Willing To Change?
“We like to believe that ‘it cannot happen to me’. Unfortunately, the truth is far from that; we are all potential victims.”
The above sentence is quoted from a Voices article that dates back to August, 2007 (https://voicesiisc.files.wordpress.com /2010/04/voices_aug07.pdf). The issue of security, especially that pertaining women, was revisited in another article in 2011 (https://voicesiisc.wordpress.com/2011/03/29/some-unanswered -questions). To our dismay, standing in 2013, we are forced to believe that not much seems to have changed in the campus in this regard and we still remain ‘potential victims’.
At the outset, let me clarify that the intention of this article is not, by any means, to be biased for a gender. It stands against any form of abuse or violence. Time and again, there have been instances which bring general safety and security in campus under scrutiny. From thefts to creating nuisance in places of residence in the middle of the night, or to the rare occasion of sandalwood smuggling – examples of security breaches in the campus are many. Unfortunately, the gravest and the most unacceptable forms of such breaches concern women.
On the whole, India does not appear to be a safe place for women, and it would be naïve to believe that the campus, irrespective of how much isolated it may appear, will be unaffected by the beliefs and the behavior of the society. Any societal behavior is mostly enrooted at the households and is entangled with traditional upbringings. Sadly, except for a privileged few, children in our country are exposed to gender-stereotyping from a very early age and a boy is raised entirely differently as compared to a girl. While the boy may be made Superman at some point in time and an astronaut at another, the girl is mostly conditioned to play with dolls and told how to behave with her in-laws when she grows up. Though differences in ways of bringing up the children are not objectionable per se, the inherent implications of any form of ‘superiority’ definitely are. Of course, all this applies to the situations where a child is allowed to be born in the first place!
Having said all that, let us not harp too much on the problem and lose our focus in the statistics. Instead, let us talk about how we can work towards our goal of a place without any discrimination. Indeed, a way ahead will be determined ultimately by how much we are willing to change, starting at our households and carrying it forward to our surroundings. Let me give an example, and a dirty one at that! I was talking to a friend of mine, and incidentally,
she told me about some religious ceremonies traditionally performed in her community when a girl child reaches puberty. A ceremony along those lines is common in many parts of the country. She recollected, with a lot of disheartenment, how, before she could realize and cope up with the drastic physiological changes in her body, the whole family and the neighbors assembled at the house and all she knew was that they were talking about her! For days together, she was made to sit, by the women of the house, on a small mat and eat and sleep there. In a way, it made her feel guilty for no fault of hers!
Now, this is an example where a woman is made to suffer, and sadly, the people who spearheaded the movement that caused the suffering were all women! Thus, it would be incorrect to mention that any one gender is more at fault than the other. At least, on the bright side of it, my friend has decided to never allow this to happen with her daughter.
It can always be argued how ‘beneficial’ such societal beliefs or ceremonies can turn out to be. Indeed, traditional beliefs, even those which create a power-hierarchy in the household and in turn in the society, might have been built on reason. We may not be in a position to judge their utility at their time of origin; however, years of human progress and evolution allow us to at least question their relevance and reflect on whether such behavior is indeed doing us any good. It would, thus, be a wise and worthwhile pursuit to work towards a society where everyone is treated as a human being and as a friend, and not as anyone belonging to a particular race/cult/gender/caste or whatever discriminatory classification is applicable. It can hence be reasoned fairly, definitely without undermining the importance of a strong law system, that if a mentality of friendship towards women is inculcated in the general public, again starting at the household and at an early age, many incidences of abuse can perhaps be prevented.
Working towards such a ‘free’ society is very much achievable in and expected from an elite community such as IISc. The first step towards equality, fairness and justice is the ability and the willingness to ask questions. The institute, fortunately, allows us to do so. It encourages an opening of minds and we must make the best of it so that by the time we step out of this place and blend with the outside world, we are able to take the first steps towards a larger change.
Arpita Mondal (CIVIL)