respect for women

(This article first appeared on here)

It took a six-year-old innocent soul who has been allegedly gang-raped by her instructors at school for Bangalore to wake up to the horrors that were being unleashed inside what should have been one of the most secure environs for kids who spend a significant amount of their time there. We have been reading daily reports, but facts have a way of numbing you into acceptance.

Let us stop for a moment and get our heads around the incident. A six-year-old? Is there no limit to what human indecency can extend to?
Every time an ‘incident’ against women bubbles up from the media morass, hundreds of pages of newsprint, thousands of blogs (mostly by women), hundreds of thousands of Facebook/Twitter posts and comments and millions of conversations are dedicated to that one incident, even as we ignore the symptoms of the same disease all around us.

Here’s what happens typically

  • Strong, independent women (I refuse to use the word feminist – how would men feel if we had to use masculism to get what we deserve?) such as Kalki mince no words in sharing their thoughts and getting hundreds of their followers into good-hearted action.
  • NCW creates a ruckus about how media is ‘objectifying’ women in order to sell everything from soaps to movies
  • Good-intentioned but misinformed writers talk about all of these crimes being committed by ‘repressed’ men
  • Law experts on television shows blame the lax judicial due diligence and enforcement as the root of all this evil while extreme quarters seek for ‘strong’ deterrents such as chemical castration for the guilty parties
  • Region specific outfits such as MNS take to the media to write that all of this would not happen if there were no uncontrolled immigration of villagers into cities
  • Not wanting to be left behind, a senior politician puts his / her foot in the mouth by uttering that such incidents would not happen if women stayed at home / men did not eat chow mien / wore appropriate clothing and such other gems
  • The kicker – after this, we as a nation wait for the next such incident

The incidents keep piling on alarmingly rapidly and extending to frighteningly innocent souls. Young women are raped and hung from trees in places such as UP allegedly because over 60% of UP police stations are apparently headed by members of the same dominant community. A tennis player – Sania Mirza – who has spent an astonishingly huge amount of time on the tennis courts from the time she has been a child, has represented and won honours for the country, is callously called the daughter-in-law of Pakistan. In a panel at a technology conference, in front of the audience, an esteemed panel member refers to his target group as the women who are naughty at forty. Really, what does it take to end this?

Call me naïve, but I think the root cause of all this is deeper, and in essence, simpler. Call me an idiot, but I think there is a simplistic solution, one that does not involve any of the above quoted ones. Call me simply stupid, but shouldn’t a woman automatically qualify for respect simply by virtue of existing?

I believe that the solution lies in what we learn as kids and in turn propagate to our future generations. No disrespect to women by making lewd jokes even when it’s just harmless ‘boys’ fooling around. No objectification of women by treating them as a combination of body parts even when it’s just boys being boys. No discrimination between your son and daughter. No reference to how a colleague is looking ‘sexy’ at an office party.

The point is, we need to ourselves learn and then teach our kids that we need to respect a woman, whether she is in front of you or not, whether she wears ‘appropriate’ clothing or not, whether she is drunk or not, whether she is supposedly ‘easy’ or not, whether she works long hours or not, whether she is a workaholic or not. Simply her existence qualifies her for every last bit of respect, honor and integrity. If this means, it will take us some more year, so be it – but we start TODAY.

What do you think?