India

Why We are Unable to Give Freedom and Dignity to Women?

Shazia Shaikh for BeyondHeadlines

Past few days had been much highlighted by major alarming instances in relation to women issues. One was mounting public anger against one 17 year old Girl’s molestation in Assam.  The video clipping of this unfortunate incidence had hit highly in national media and social networking sites which had aroused much public debate. In fact, this time Netizens had raised multiple questions over the enforceability of law and order, moral duty of spectators and giving corporal punishment to culprits. Another major instance, though which did not ignite much public criticism and remained slightly marginalized, is one of the rulings of Panchayat in Baghpat district of U.P. introducing public modesty for women for their protection.  These two major cases though of different nature illustrate contentiousness of gender in Indian society and expose deep rooted patriarchy in our social fabric.

The first instance in which a young teenage girl was badly beaten and stripped by gangs of seven to eight people outside the bar in Guwahati had shocked the entire nation. This painful incidence had caused major anxiety amongst people over what could lead such horrible crime. No doubt, this had been utmost condemned and builds up vast public sentiments. However, this was one of the explicitly substantiated cases of violence against women which had temper public modesty due to its vast circulation whereas there have been many cases of violence against women including rape, trafficking, sexual harassment and molestation etc in India. Therefore, the question is not just confined to moral duty of bystanders as has been frequently raised but it is much larger which nevertheless points to huge deficiency in law and order enforcement agencies and more importantly the question of gender security setting in India. Still women are not safe in major metropolis cities forget about rest, and have been subjected to sexual violence of some or other kind.

Another disturbing case was of Panchayat’s ruling in Baghpat district of U.P. who had issued Taliban style’s diktat in order to protect women. To keep under check eve teasing and molestation’s cases, Panchyat has come up with an innovative solution which heavily exhorted women below 40 years of age not to use mobile phones as well as to accompany with escort in public. Very surprisingly, instead of taking action against notorious elements, Panchyat is cautioning affected group to curtail their basic freedom. Such kind of ruling strongly reflects entrenched feudal and patriarchal belief system still existing in India which is a dangerous trend for our democracy and our present institutions are unable to provide effective challenge against such practices. It is also evident that Khap Panchayat issues self-style diktats in many parts of India despite heavy criticism against it.

Hence, major commonalities in these two cases rest upon the patriarchal attitude. There have been conceived heavy doses of moral policing under the carpet of these explicate shocking instances. This is the covert criteria of our so-called developed society to set indicators for women. There is a separate ethics for women who prescribes dress code for women and suggest at what time they should reach home etc and if they cross this rekha i.e. boundary then they will have to undergo harassment. Still, we are unable to give freedom and dignity to women and instead of finding fault in culprits we are punishing vulnerable section in the name of protecting them. Still we are not democratic enough to accept different way of living that’s the reason in some society Burqa is viewed with contempt and in another, westernized outfit. Instead of accepting diversity, we are out to impose universal moral and cultural principles, and claimed it to be one of the best ways to protect women from any kind of violence. And if not does, it is consider as an excuse to licentious rape and sexual harassment of women.  Therefore, there is a dire need to overcome from our rigid outlook for women and law enforcement agencies should be sensitive enough to assure protection to them irrespective of their choice and life styles.

(Shazia Shaikh is an Assistant Professor at Ismail Yusuf College and works keenly on social issues. She is the author of a famous and recently published book “A Critical Analysis of Fatwas Issued on Muslim Women in India”Her email id is shaishazia@gmail.com)

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