Tuesday, January 8, 2013

POISED ON THE BRINK?


The last few weeks have been very depressing in a way that I am unable to explain. Newspapers and television channels  have seen an outpouring of news about rape and protests against rape. There have been asinine comments made by politicos about how women “ invite rape” upon themselves- the need for a dress code, about “Indian culture” etc!  On one hand I feel outraged and angry when I read some of these comments and on the other hand I feel a sense of emptiness . I want to believe that this is the beginning of a social  change where citizens are actually speaking out against something that is the ultimate symbol of patriarchy and dominance. But on the other hand  the cynical part of me wonders whether with time this spirit will also die a natural death?

But what has been most encouraging is that there is now a public discussion about rape and its reality as a threat that is being faced by every woman in our country. And, most importantly, I found that the issue has crossed gender boundaries uniting both men and women . The cause is no longer restricted to “women’s activists” – there are as many men as women that I have seen taking to the streets in protest against rape! The debates and discussions have gone beyond rape and explored the whole arena of patriarchy like imposition of  dress codes, restriction of women’s mobility etc.  Yes, there are still people who believe that women invite rape upon themselves by their dress and behavior. But there are also significant number of people who have questioned this… It is refreshing to see the way the discussion around rape is emerging out of its “virtue/ virginity” shroud.

I read today an article written by a rape survivor . A powerful piece of writing, it spoke about her determination to survive and the way her family stood by her as her physical and emotional scars healed.

This brings to my mind a Hindi film made in the 1970s/80s that was way ahead of its times. The movie named “Ghar”  starring Rekha and Vinod Mehra dealt with the story of young and happily  married couple.  One night as they return from watching a movie, a group of men surround them, beat up the husband take the wife away in a car and rape her. The wife goes missing for a couple of days. The husband has to endure a lot of humiliating questions as he tries to file a missing persons report at  the local police station.  The wife finds her way home on the third day. The rest of the movie deals with how the couple try to deal with her trauma.  Actually, it goes much beyond her trauma. It also brings out nuances of a husband-wife relationship.  The husband, a very sensitive man tries to deal with his wife’s emotional scars by being caring and loving but for the wife, the rape is not just a nightmare that can be washed away with care and love. It makes her completely afraid of any form of physical contact including that with her husband. And there is the guilt that begins to play in her mind because of which she is unable to face the physical side of marriage. An absolutely brilliant movie with great acting and wonderful music, I am yet to see something as sensitive as this movie!

My only wish is that the  momentum that has being built up around this crime does not get lost once the media turns its attention to something else. We are at the brink of a sort of social change. Even if we are not able to change the legal system or the safety situation radically, I would be happy if it did change the way we think of and relate to each other as men and women…

14 comments:

Divya said...

I wrote something on this issue a couple of days ago..Even I share the same fear - there are so many discussions happening - I hope they all materialize into action!!

I have not seen this movie - must grab hold of a copy! Thanks for recommending this one :)

Happy New Year - let's hope for a brighter future ahead!

KParthasarathi said...

Notwithstanding the huge outburst of protest and emotion over the Delhi rape,I read such things are happening even now in the capital with total impunity.Qucik arrests,speedy time bound trials,deterrent punishments,increased patrol and effective laws may help reduce but not eliminate this scourge.How do other nations deal with such a menace as after all the human urges are the same everywhere?Why the sudden spurt in the recent times?As in US where people do not visit shady down town or crime prone areas in the night,both men and women should be careful about late night outings at least in selected places. Both girls and boys should learn some martial art like Karate to stun the opponent till help reaches or they are able to escape.

SG said...

Nice post. You are right. Hope the momentum does not get lost as soon as a new and different issue comes up.

Also, I do not agree with this dress code stuff. Rape is not just about sex. It is about power. Uses force to take control over another human being. Therefore, it does not matter what the dress a woman is wearing.

anilkurup said...

The plethora of articles and media programs, live discussion etc. on the most widely spoken subject of these days.
As you fear, I too cannot avoid the apprehension that the moment media hitches to a new development- news the whole debate on women and their rights and security may whimper.
But I feel the voice is beginning to rise, it has risen. And it will be sustained if the new generation of Indian man joins women.

The ridiculous aspect of the discussions on TV , is that the women who line up in the plus sofas in their designer wear and well dramatized gesticulations and falsetto , besides the contrived Anglican slang - the so called liberated, emancipated , from elite back grounds seem to be the wrong kind to discuss and express substantial opinion on women and abuse of women. For, these varieties are totally divorced from the reality of the vast majority of Indian women. A Jaya Bachan or a Shabana Asmi or a Barkha Dutt is not the face of Indian women and their life are not the lives of the Indian women who are marginalized be it in India or the Bharat of the RSS.

Cloud Nine said...

Well written, Meera. Exactly what i have been thinking. The arousal is good to see, but i fear people will lose steam somewhere along, as media has now shifted interests to Owaisi and cross border shootings. Hope for the best.

Jack said...

Meera,

I remember GHAR which was way before it's time. It was brilliantly made and had such sensitive touches including how public talks. I too hope and pray that this does not become just a part of statistics after some time. Hope the pressure to change mindset of society is maintained, not only for police reforms or legal system changes.

Take care

Meera Sundararajan said...

@ Cloud Nine, yes Owaisi and cross border terroism are now competing with the news of women's safety in the country!

@ Jack Uncle echoing your thoughts! Glad that you liked Ghar too!

@ SG yes, rape is not about sexual attraction. It is about power!

Meera Sundararajan said...

@ Anil the reason why celebreties are showcased in TV shows is because our people want to see them and not just you or me speaking about an issue though we may be the ones who are actually affected by it. About their clothing and appearance -well, according to the Prez's son all women who were protesting against the Delhi case were "Painted and Dented women". So here we are a bunch of such women. We even have a facebook page by that name. Tell me if you want to join. I will induct you :)

Meera Sundararajan said...

@KP the issue of safety as you have correctly pointed out affects both men and women. Unfortunately men when they are attacked, are not told that they "asked for it" by being out ina violent neighborhood. Women, even if they are walking in their own neighborhood and get attacked are said to have 'asked for it"!

@ Divya, thanks for the wishes. Waiting to read your piece. Look for my comments there !

Christopher said...

I hope there is change for the better. Despite all that is faulted with Indian media, I think it has done well to raise the nation's consciousness and demand changes for a safer and equitable world. Heard Harish Salve say that most of the laws needed to curb crime against women are already in place and the problem is in their implementation. The number of unreported cases is high and the rate of convictions dismally low. Not much can be expected to change here as long as we have 37% of our elected representatives with charges of crime against them (who are spread across all major national political parties). We, as voters, WANT these tainted men and women as our representatives. That is a reality. If we Indian voters continue to support people who have scant respect for the law, I hate to say this, but we will continue to get a government that we deserve.

Rhapsody B. said...

Namaste.....
Ignorance is pandemic and there will always be those who seek to blame others for their acts of inhumanity and brutality.

it matters little what a woman wears, she can run naked through the streets or stand spread eagle in a park none of it says RAPE me and NO still means NO, it does not mean MAYBE, POSSIBLY, PERHAPS, SURE, means NO, HELL NO, FRIGGING NO, GET YOUR NASTY ASS HANDS AND FUNKY ASS BODY PARTS OFF MY PERSON, YOU DO NOT UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCE HAVE THE RIGHT.

Meera Sundararajan said...

Yes Rhapsody you are right. NO means NO. People ought to understand!

Yes Christopher, we are not asking for some great legislation - what we are asking for is an effective implementation of laws

Kalpana Solsi said...

nice post. and hope the momentum against the brutal crime is not forgotten with another scam or political unrest.

Kalpana Solsi said...

Nice post. Hope the momentum against this brutal crime does not die down due to another scam or political unrest.

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