I was new in America, and didn’t know a lot of American politics; yet, I was aghast.
Not too many white liberals came out to support Anita: she was black, and Clarence Thomas, one of the staunchest conservative judges on the highest court is also black. The support (justified 100%) Christine is getting today was simply absent.
Hypocrisy, if you think about it that way.
It’s not only a double standard in America in the Republican world. It’s the same in the corporate Democratic world too.
(And I’m not even mentioning Bill Clinton here: we all know the salacious scandal corporate media and Republican Party drooled over. And the entire world laughed to see the unthinkable moral degradation of this great country).
I congratulate and applaud Ms. Christine B. Ford, for taking this bold step, against all threats, fears, and intimidation by racists and violent powers.
Ms. Anita Hill also took such a bold step, and was so extremely steady and articulate. But I remember she did not get much support from white liberal Americans.
Otherwise, it’s no news these days. Even though we still occasionally wake up to the brutality of it.
Not that one rape is more barbaric than the other. Not that a New Delhi girl’s gang rape and murder that shocked the world in December, 2012 was any different from so many other rapes and tortures that happen in India — where I was born and grew up — on a daily basis.
Yes, daily basis.
Just in six days, five gang rapes and murders of young, village girls happened only in one state of India. The news shocked us again to the core of our heart. They reminded us one more time that liberals’ candle light vigils, politicians fiery rhetoric, or even Indian court’s amended, harsher laws would do nothing to stop the relentless horror against women there.
Something is seriously wrong in India. No, don’t tell me it’s Hinduism or its caste system, and all that rubbish. I don’t have time for it.
And I can go on and on. The grotesque nature of the crimes, if we actually think about it, puts a chill through our spines.
And because this time these incidents are happening in rural areas with zero political limelight, and because the usual suspect upper castes or Brahmins or their perceived protector BJP or RSS were not found responsible for the crimes, and perhaps because a caste-based, sexy story could not be cooked up, and also because Muslims were also found to be committing the crimes, Indian liberals are not anymore outraged. Heck, they’re not even doing too many candle light vigils.
U.S. media, unlike the New Delhi rape in 2012, are not showing their outrage.
Obviously, when I write about criminals belonging to lower castes (I don’t believe in the caste system even though by birth, I am a Hindu Brahmin), or when I write about criminals belonging to Muslim communities, some people automatically charge that I am either a BJP-RSS man myself, and by default, I am an anti-Muslim, low-caste-hater.
To those people, I only say this: fools.
I shall continue writing against any crimes and against any criminals, and I shall not spare any religions, castes, colors or nationalities. I have done it all my life, and I vow to keep doing it for the rest of my life.
I am ashamed of these crimes, and I am ashamed of India, a country I have always loved so much.
But most of all, I am ashamed of the double standards of elite media and privileged liberals — of India and USA.
If I had the time or political connections, I would start a high school for human rights.
One in India, perhaps in Calcutta. The other in the U.S., perhaps in New York. Because these are the two places I know. These are the two places I call home.
I’m sure many of us think this way. I’m sure many of us have done exemplary work to promote human rights across the world. The recent, Global Exchange Peoples’ Choice Award that some friends nominated me for, and some others voted, reaffirmed my belief that even in this dark, depressing time — full of war, terrorism and street violence — countless human rights soldiers are doing incredible work for the poor and powerless. I salute them for their commitment, courage and determination.
I also know that many schools, colleges and universities have programs and projects on human rights. Especially here in the United States, I know for the fact that young men and women take on assignments, and travel near and far to experience human rights situations, and with their limited capacity, work hard to instill some hope for the hopeless. I salute them too.
Then, religious organizations small and big such as Red Cross and Red Crescent, and secular organizations such as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and Oxfam have been in the forefront to save millions of needy and destitute. These organizations may have various motives, but I never doubt their passion. I salute them too.
But I am not sure if especially in India and USA, we have high schools established solely to educate young women and men on the various aspects of human rights and justice.
So, I propose we have one.
I don’t have the time, money or political power to do it. I wish I started on this dream long time ago, so that I could see some fruits of my labor before I died. But I never had the intellectual or organizational abilities either. Now that I’ve perhaps come to a point where I do, time is not on my side to build it myself, and see it grow.
Therefore, I’m leaving my ideas behind, for younger women and men who believe in this cause, and want to follow up.
I’d be more than willing to talk more about the idea, should I find opportunities. But right now, I’m leaving a brief outline of the plan. I hope people — my blog readers from all over the world — think about it, and let me know their thoughts. Help me flesh out the idea. Help me implement it, wherever you are.
This is an absolutely urgent cause that we must work on. In spite of the dark, depressing time — full of war, terrorism and street violence — we must strive to educate young minds about the justification of this cause.
Do not tell me it is not pragmatic. Do not tell me it is utopian. Do not tell me how vested interests, war and prison corporations, and big-party politicians and their media would create problems for it.
I would not take no for an answer.
A high school for human rights would have a curriculum rooted in reality.
A high school for human rights would have a curriculum rooted in economics, society, values, traditions, and politics.
A high school for human rights would have curriculum rooted in modernity and science.
A high school for human rights would teach equality for women and men and mixed genders.
A high school for human rights would teach equality for religions, races, castes, colors and lifestyle.
A high school for human rights would put emphasis on the collective and organized 99%, without taking away the importance of individuality.
A high school for human rights would teach history of rights and justice movements around the world, with special reference to the place it is located.
A high school for human rights would teach young people how to create its own news and entertainment media — free of corporate and political powers.
A high school for human rights would show that equality and diversity is actually more sustainable and profitable, not just for employees, but also for employers.
A high school for human rights would envision a world free of war, terrorism and street violence. It would created curriculum to analyze reasons behind them.
A high school for human rights would propose proactive and reactive measures to deal with violation of rights and justice.
A high school for human rights would envision a world free of hunger and disease.
A high school for human rights would educate young people about their birthright to air, food, water and a clean environment.
A high school for human rights would work hard to build bridges across the moderate, nonviolent, ordinary men, women and families around the world.
A high school for human rights would put more emphasis on experience-based education vis-a-vis textbooks, and award degrees to working men and women for their life’s accumulated work experiences.
A high school for human rights would create a modern and futuristic, critical thinking education.
She came to work the day before, went home, and did not come back to work the day after.
She died a tragic, sudden death.
I am remembering Sandipta today, because she was a dear sister, and I’m still not completely out of it.
I am remembering Sandipta today, because her death symbolizes the many, tragic deaths of women in India — under similar, never-resolved circumstances.
I am remembering her today, to remind ourselves that women in India — of all classes, races and religions — are living a perilous life. Injustice, violence and insult are crippling half a billion women.
Rapes and torture on one hand, and social second-classing on the other, are creating countless such tragedies — every single day.
It is an international crisis.
I hope we all understand the catastrophic nature of this crisis.
Last year, I quoted some Facebook comments I received from friends, in response to my trip announcement (read the blog: click on the link). This year, I do the same. Similar, I mean. Well…the format is similar, but the subject of the discussion is definitely not.
You’ll find out.
So, I posted on my Facebook wall this time:
THIS WEEK, I AM LEAVING FOR INDIA, my homeland, where men violate women, rich oppress poor, “high caste” beat up “low caste”…and guess what…powerful men and women of ALL societies exploit the powerless…AND MAKE MONEY. YET, you can’t call killers killers, liars liars and crooks crooks: media, police, politicians and social bosses will tell you what and how much you can say or do. They call it the largest secular democracy in the world!! Wish me well.
Oh boy…oh boy…did I open up a Pandora’s Box!
Responses came like a burst-open Hoover Dam. Or, keeping India in mind, like the Hoodroo Waterfalls in monsoon.
Some comments were quite mild. Like this one:
“I wish you didn’t make such an observation, Dada.” (Dada means big brother in Bengali).
Another innocuous one:
“All said and done India is our motherland…”
Of course! Who would disagree? So, I replied:
“If it’s our motherland, than treat the land as your mother.” (Like, don’t rape and kill and steal and soil and spoil and hit and hurt…the current India way!)
So far so good. People even started “like”ing the conversation.
“This expresn hurts us as we r livng in our mtherland u r nt. Don’t nacket our mother.”
Okay. Still okay with it. (Even though it hurts just a little…perhaps…whenever I see the you don’t live here snide. So, what if I don’t live there physically? I know about India inside out…believe me…I can teach you about India five times over…however “politically incorrect” that teaching might be — see below for clarification. And guess what: I’ve actually lived there for three decades — and that is where half of my heart still is. Does it make it a half-hearted passion? You decide. I don’t care.)
Then…a more “politically correct” comment.
“This is what Uma Narayan [author] calls “Death by Culture.” Your remark is so incorrect and the way you have stated your opinion is so problematic that it requires far more than a facebook reply. It would benefit you to actually educated yourself on gender-based violence, particularly in the post-colonial context.” (No edits done here.)
Well, first of all, I don’t even understand half of it: I’m not that politically educated…at least my language I never claim to be politically correct. And I don’t mind being a little more educated even though I’ve been getting education for half a century now, but some more wouldn’t hurt.
And I also got a long note:
“Exploitation is everywhere, the core countries exploit the peripheral states, the haves exploit the have nts, whites beat up blacks, police interrogate anybody wth a beard and a surname calld khan, presidnts have their underwear testd to cnfirm adultery,…ethnic groups clash, a schizophrenic runs amok and guns dwn schlchldren, the entire world is dark and brutal..lets nt singl out india nly..yes it has many negative aspects…bt its healthier if we see the general dgeneratn of nations as a whole..cultural imperialism has taken its toll on india and such countries. Advertisements, baywatch, sex n the city, these cmodify wmen..we have 2 indias..one whch thrives ôn the MTV inputs and the other an impoverishd india..there is hybridisatn of idntities coupld wth illiteracy whch makes india what u branded it nw..lets nt only thnk frm a macro level.”
[Did not change the typos or abbreviations at all: who knows I might be even more politically incorrect doing it.]
So, I tried to explain my status update (not sure why I have to do it every time — to my “friends…I mean, don’t they know me?)
“Indian govt, police and military kill innocent people (mostly inside the country). U.S. govt, police and military kill innocent people in faraway lands (and also in the country). Indian politicians and corporations have some of the most corrupt elements in the world. So do American politicians and corporations. But they tell me not to get into it. My friends and family warn me not to get into it. My fellow Indians hate me for saying unpleasant things about India. My fellow Americans get very unhappy when I say unpopular things about America. And I really should follow their advice and shut up, given how powerless and pedigree-less I am.”
I also wrote:
USA and Western corporate capitalist powers, with help from IMF and World Bank, have completely colonized India and such countries; most people do not understand the nature of this massive, unbelievable neocolonization mainly because media do not talk about it and it is not bloody on the outside. Nobody understands what Monsanto does, what Wal-Mart, Disney, Coke, McDonald’s, GE, Exxon, Goldman Sachs or HSBC does. The death and destruction is perhaps the biggest in human history; yet we have so little talk about it especially outside the election cycles. India is perhaps the biggest victim. The social, economic and political problems that are imploding the country are all connected to this neocolonizing powers and their paid puppets, politicians and police in India. I’m going to talk about it at every opportunity I get while I’m there. I’ve written about it for years. You can look up one such article at http://onefinalblog.wordpress.com/2012/05/26/new-imf-terror-in-india-can-kill-my-family/
I AM poor, powerless and pedigree-less. I do not get quoted in news media. I do not feature in high-echelon accolades. I do not go to elite literary or musical conferences that New York Times reports. I do not have a car or even a family-owned house in India. I do not have followers. I do not have fans. Killing someone like me…is so easy in a place like India…or anywhere. My good friends, family and well wishers are often deeply worried about my well being. I’m not making it up.
I am scared to death too: for me, for my family, for my extended family living in India.
Yet, I got this last piece for now — another piece of wisdom from [I suppose] a more educated and politically correct person:
“Why do you think if a person isn’t making knee-jerk remarks that they are not as enraged or aware as you? Frankly, I find 90% of your remarks to be incorrect/inaccurate in some way or another. I hope you start to analyze the issues in a better way.”
And she even got rave reviews for her remarks:
“I ditto […]. I fnd u too exhibitionist. Anyway gdluck.”
I think she means well. I’ll take it. Thank you.
Not all the responses were critical. Some were reassuring. I’d pay more attention to them (life would become a little less complex that way…I suppose. But who knows if I’m making a politically incorrect, illiterate comment here!)
One friend cheered me up:
“The exploitation on women is universal, I suppose. The form of exploitation can be different from one to another. But still what you said about INDIA is also true.”
A young writer friend wrote:
“Welcome to our Shonar Bangla.” (Shonar Bangla is Tagore’s term for Golden Bengal — the old-glory, prosperous, pre-occupation, pre-colonization, pre-partitioned, pre-looted Bengal where lives and education and businesses and cultures and music and art and poetry and spirituality and such precious things flourished for centuries. Of course, nobody — not even Bengalis — cares to know.)
Even though Bengal is not golden anymore — thanks to a two century-long brutal, violent, plundering colonization and raping of the land followed by half a century of brutal, violent, plundering and raping of the land by a new class of “Independent India” rulers — I’ll take that “Shonar Bangla” omment with a cheerful heart too. It means something. It helps sustain a dream — to rise again, to prosperity and freedom to learn, think and analyze.
That is a dream I come back to every year. I hope those of you who do not like me and hate me and wish me go away do not kill me while I’m there. Even though Indian-Bengali poet D. L. Ray had said: “I wish to be reborn here and I wish to die here too…” honestly, that is not my wish right now.
I want to return. I wish to return — to you.
I am leaving for India again — with mixed emotions. I am excited, and I am nervous. I want to meet friends. And I am also apprehensive about meeting friends: who knows how they are going to talk and treat.
But it’s my mother’s land. I must come back to her.
But friends have reminded me that sometimes, less is more. Thus, this new post with short and succinct points to highlight the reasons behind the gang rape barbarism and rampant violence against women in India.
I now carefully coin the rape problem as an epidemic given the massive numbers of such incidents and the vast amount of geography they’re impacting. I’m also using the word apartheid because I am positive that is what it is: a nationwide apartheid against the women in India — the half a billion people.
I hope in the coming days, along with the candle light vigils and celebrity poetry and street dramas (no pun intended), we can come up with action plans to eradicate India (the entire subcontinent) of this epidemic and apartheid — once and for all.
I hope in the coming days, we can work together — hand in hand.
I was about to impress on my American friends who have a soft spot for India and its music, food and culture that as soon as the country is able to get rid of its horrible corruption, it will usher in an era of modernity, equality and progress.
Just at that time, the brutal gang rape of a young woman in Delhi followed by many similar, newly reported barbaric acts of violence shook us to the core.
Suddenly, all of us – Indians and Americans – sank to the new low that “modern” India is neither modern nor equal, let alone
corruption-free. We jolted realizing that progress never meant new shopping malls, fashion garments, shoes or food chains, or U.S. and Japan-made cars.
My American friends suddenly began keeping a measured distance from me with a carefully observed silence. Yet, their silence was loud.
I woke up to realize that India and the Indian people wherever they lived – especially men like me – were looked down upon by the
civilized world as uncivilized, violent and untouchable.
I hung my head in shame.
India’s all-pervasive, never-ending violence on women is now exposed as a new apartheid: similar to what the world had seen in South Africa or slave-era America. The only difference is that India’s apartheid is against its women. This is on top of the unspeakable division, disparity and discrimination India has continued along caste, religion or class lines.
Manifestations of this gender apartheid are similar to other horrific violations of human rights. Women are treated as subhuman beings with no dignity, respect or equality. Society takes its women for granted, exploits their talents and labor, and violates their rights.
Few question it. Others deny it. Most ignore it.
Indian entertainment industry exploits women as objects for sale. Bollywood thrives selling machismo, violence and rape.
Priests and far right conservatives blame the Indian woman for speaking up for fairness, dignity and justice: they demand punishment for the non-subservient. India has recently seen “honor killing” too — both in Hindu and Muslim communities.
The recent, exponential surge of rape crimes in the country – encompassing all castes, races, languages and religions – is now also
an epidemic. Symptoms of this epidemic are strikingly similar to any health epidemic India has ever experienced. In fact, in many ways, this epidemic is worse than cholera, small pox or plague because here, even if the victim individual and family do not die, it cripples and devastates them psychologically for the rest of their lives. Moreover, it is not localized in one geographical region. It is urban, and it is rural.
Symptoms of this new epidemic are equally disastrous: the attack is traumatizing and debilitating – often resulting a painful death. Hurt is extreme – both physical and emotional. A surviving victim often sinks into depression and commits suicide out of shame. In feudal-conservative societies like India, people consider constructive discussion of sexual violence a taboo, and shun the victim as outcast. People are fearful to get involved especially if it has connections with police or politics. Most schools do
not allow boys and girls to learn together, or have sex education. I have written before how God Created Indian Men.
In India and similar places, rape criminals, with a very small number of exceptions, are never bought to justice. Poor victims cannot find money or courage to go to the doctor, hospital, police or court. Even the few brave victims who lodge a complaint are often threatened with consequences and pressured to withdraw their cases. Nine out of ten complaints are never resolved.
Thousands of rape and violence cases in India could have been averted had there been a caring and efficient administration; timely intervention (along with vigilance on possible crimes — undercover or not) would promptly apprehend the criminals, delivering justice. That would create a sense of security for the others. Indian administrations have rarely created that sense of security; on countless occasions, the police or political leaders have either committed the crime, or sheltered the perpetrators. Many elected
lawmakers — including parliament and assembly members — have criminal records. Cronyism is a big, profit-making art there.
The silver lining on this dark cloud is that the younger generation is showing signs that it is no more going to accept such a globally-exposed horror and shame. The nationwide protests against the Delhi gang rape were unprecedented in modern Indian history. This is a watershed moment. Grassroots groups and non-governmental organizations working in India and supportive groups around the world can come to seize the moment and make this uprising a nonviolent revolution. International political and economic pressure would create enormous impact.
For me, I am going to tell my American friends to wake up to the height of reality that India is rising to eradicate this epidemic and
apartheid, once and for all. Young India is going to end India’s massive corruption too – through non-violent means.
Finally, a word of caution for those who’re crying blood. Violence is no answer to violence. Death penalty or mob lynching is prehistoric.
Let’s truly usher in a new, modern era of civilization.
THE MASTER AS I SAW HIM. — “He believed that the one thing to be renounced was any idea of birth as the charter of leadership. He believed that the whole of India was about to be thrown into the melting pot, and that no man could say what new forms of power and greatness would be the result.” — Written by Vivekananda’s disciple Sister Nivedita (aka Margaret Noble).
For us who grew up knowing him, reading him, idolizing him — it’s a very special day.
For those of us who grew up in Calcutta, India, and that too, within half a mile of his residence, within quarter of a mile of the college he studied — it gives us goosebumps to imagine how this young monk who passed away at the age of thirty nine, turned Bengal and India upside down, by his rousing call to young India — to get rid of superstitions, castes, and all forms of social and religious dogmas.
Swami Vivekananda, a Ramakrishna-ordained Hindu saint who relinquished mortal pleasures to work to uplift the Hindu religion, used the religion to uplift the morality and soul of Indians. He dared to say: It’s better to play football than to study the Vedas. Indian revolutionaries who fought back against the British colonial tyranny idolized him, emulated him.
No wonder he was often fondly called the Socialist Saint.
Vivekananda’s disciple Sister Nivedita (aka Margaret Noble, an Irish woman) followed his footsteps, and worked among the poorest in Calcutta until her death at the age of forty four. She was also responsible for co-founding a major socialist movement in India — a “crime” for which Ramakrishna Mission (a nationwide, now international, organization her guru created) ostracized her.
India, unfortunately, did not follow the religion-based morality-upliftment lessons Vivekananda and Nivedita preached. Social patriarchs — including missions and monasteries — took their religion part and forgot about the upliftment part. Media selectively glorified some of their “innocuous” teaching and conveniently excluded the “controversial” ones. As a result, Vivekananda’s India is now one of the most corrupt, violent and immoral places on earth. The recent developments in the land of Tagore, Gandhi, Vivekananda and Ramakrishna are truly catastrophic, calamitous, ominous.
I want to say more about this great man whose life and teaching we can perhaps compare with those of Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. Both used spirituality to teach the downtrodden how to rise up and walk straight and tall. Both died at the age of thirty nine.
I’m including a famous poem Swami Vivekananda wrote and Sister Nivedita used in her writings on the guru. It may bring some special reflection on this dark and depressing time. At least, I hope it does.
Let us invoke the Holy Mother. Come, Mother, come!
I dedicate this multi-part article to the memory of Jyoti Singh Pandey, the 23-year-old brave woman from India who gave her life to wake us up from our slumber and inaction. This moment is precious. Mobilize. Cure India from this horrific epidemic. Cleanse India’s soul of this pervasive apartheid.
This part is all about action. Act NOW!! Read the action plan below. Suggest yours.
In Part 3 of this article (please click here to read it), we have a chart to show the reasons behind a biological epidemic and their interconnectedness.
Some of the reasons in that Intel Education chart are:
1. Extreme climatic conditions
2. Lack of timely medical intervention
3. Increase in population
4. Civic amenities
5. Epidemic control program
6. Govt. health policy
7. Increased awareness or interest
8. Absence of doctors
9. Role of NGO
I’d like draw a comparison between the above reasons (and there could be many more — feel free to add them to the list) behind a cholera-like epidemic and those behind the rape and violence on women epidemic. They are not the same; however, they are similar to various degrees.
I’m including some of the reasons off the chart here, replacing them with similar reasons behind the rape epidemic we’re discussing now, and suggesting some action plans to address them. The action plans I am suggesting, based on some ideas I received from friends and readers (see Part 4 — link here), are either proactive or reactive, or both.
Note that I am only suggesting action plans to address some of the problems outlined below. I invite you to suggest your action plans to address any one or all of the issues. I do not want to ever pretend that I have solutions for all of them.
I hope they make sense. Please comment and criticize.
1. Extreme climatic condition — replace it with extreme social climatic condition. — A pervasive culture where the society is extremely patriarchal and the powerful people in the society consider the woman is (1) inferior and never meant to be equal — due to religious and social doctrines plus archaic traditions and distorted history; (2) a dispensable commodity where her body and mind are subject of physical and emotional pressure as well as considered easy for sell and profit — Bollywood and market-mainstream movies and today’s rabidly pro-West corporate culture made it so; (3) too much speaking up for fairness, dignity and justice, which the powerful and deeply-entrenched consider a threat to their power, (4) therefore worth getting a lesson through various means of punishment including violence.
How do we act on the above? Both short-term and long-term actions are needed — proactive and reactive. Proactive actions are ordinary men and women and young peoples’ resistance against and rejection of the people in power — locally and nationally. What is happening now across India — big cities and small towns and no-name villages — must get support from a new kind of social and political force. This force will break down the iron wall of feudalism and patriarchy, and kick out the elite and the powerful. But it’s easier said than done: a section of Indian media is still not completely sold out, and they can be on our side.
2. Lack of timely medical intervention — replace with lack of timely social and political intervention. — As we reported before, thousands of rape and violence cases could either have been averted had there been a caring and efficient administration; timely and honest intervention would promptly apprehend and try the criminals, delivering justice. That would create a sense of security for the others who are vulnerable. Indian administrations have rarely done it; in fact, on countless occasions, a cruel and indifferent police, law enforcement and political leaders have either committed the crime themselves, or sheltered the perpetrators. This has greatly exacerbated the problem.
3. Increase in population — Nobody in the Indian administration talk about the catastrophe of a exploding population as if it’s not an important issue anymore. Other than its unbelievably dangerous health and environmental impacts, even the few and far between honest and sincere government and private organizations are terribly under-resourced, and civic amenities that ensure safety, security and a dignified living for women (and men) are simply absent.
4. Civic amenities — Police, protection for women, easy access for women and their families to government and law enforcement agencies and the legal system. Shelter and support for victims. India’s police is perhaps one of the most corrupt, anti-people, violent and inefficient. Overhaul India’s police system. Force the people in power to do it. Put enormous local pressure all across the country.
5. Epidemic control program — Control begins proactively at the schools, colleges and communities. Control begins at home. Control begins with equal rights and equal justice awareness where women are not treated as inferior or dispensable. Reactive measures include quick arrest, trial and punishment. DISCONNECT THE CRIMINALS FROM THEIR POWERFUL PROTECTORS. Reactive measures include social, political and economic support for the victims and their families so that they are not subjected to shame, ridicule and humiliation — common in the Indian society.
6. Govt. health policy — Replace it with government policy for women and violence. We force the government and other people in power and also media to lay out policies protecting women and keeping them safe from the pervasive attack of this epidemic. Just like health epidemics such as cholera, plague or small pox (or other disasters such as fire or terrorism) need well-designed, practical policies for prevention, this epidemic also deserves it. Force the government to discuss with grassroots organizations and social scientists, now.
7. Increased awareness or interest — Media, schools and colleges as well as religious institutions can play a big part to create awareness about this new epidemic. Media and Bollywood must fulfill their responsibility to work for the benefit of the society, and not just for profit by creating crazy sensation. I want to repeat what I said before: Indian education system must create a new, modern curriculum where equality for women is a foreword for any textbook.
8. Absence of doctors — Replace with absence of law enforcement. In case of India, we might say: absence of honest law enforcement, lawyers, political and social leaders. It is time to overhaul the vile, corrupt and violent socioeconomic and political system of India. This is India’s Tahrir Square moment. Moreover, to keep an eye on domestic or street violence on women, create groups to keep 24/7 vigil, without creating militia or armed vigilante groups such as the anti-immigrant Minutemen here in the U.S. We do not want violent gangs to fight violent gangs.
9. Role of NGO — Grassroots groups working in India and supportive groups across the world can come to seize the moment and make this new revolution — this new mass uprising against violence on women — a reality. Human rights violation in India should be used to pressure U.S. and European corporations and governments to DIVEST FROM INDIA, and put Indian market on a no-business list. Global economic pressure is one of the most powerful tools today to bring an end to such a horrific, gross violation of human life and dignity. Let us use it.
In this segment, I’m going to include some of the feedback I’ve received from friends and readers — some of them activists working on the ground both in India and here in the U.S. I’m also including my anecdotal comments side by side to make it a meaningful conversation. I hope I get more ideas and suggestions from you in the coming days.
I’m not including names of the writers here only because I have not asked for their permission to use their thoughts they sent to my Facebook page. I don’t think it matters who wrote which comment: all of them are thoughtful. I want to keep writing about an all-inclusive, comprehensive set of proactive and reactive measures to stop this epidemic.
Friend #1 wrote:
Commodification of women has to stop and artists, poets, advertisers, movie makers need to become educators in a way, exerting their power to demonstrate responsibility in the portrayal of women, children, men’s bodies as commodities on one hand whereas the right positive education through removing and rectifying stereotyping in text books (we had started some of that work ) from childhood and mindful education to adolescents esp. boys to understand the fragility of women’s bodies and the natural difference of creation between men and women – posters, banners,punishment etc can go on – but to bring change our society needs to inculcate care as against violence -there are no shortcuts I’m afraid but the task though large is very much do-able.
In fact much of the doings of the women’s movement in the years gone by are responsible for creating this generation of young protesters who are not afraid to voice themselves and claim the streets
Friend #2 wrote:
Partha- I am answering your question above on how to stop violence against women- we need to institutionalize the empowerment of women everywhere. When society as a whole frowns upon it rather than condones it, we will see it diminish.
She wrote again:
Society in India has institutionalized the abuse and marginalization of women there, Partha, and violence against women is no new thing- it has been with us throughout all of written history. We need to change the rules as well as follow the advice that others have given here.
Politically and especially ECONOMICALLY empower women- then you will see things change. Let’s start economically empowering women by acknowledging that a woman’s very real job of being a mother and running a household is not ‘private’ work that is worthy of no economic compensation. It is, as Oprah has stated many times, the most important job on earth, and in a world that depends on the monetary system for survival, it is a job that is deserving of dignified pay. We need to start acknowledging that ‘women’s work’ is real work and that it should no longer pay slave wages. Then, maybe the men of the world will stop treating us as slaves.
Friend #1 wrote here:
Let us try to break out of the paradigm of weighing everything through economic value , the woman’s role in society can never ever be compensated – let us think of happiness as the paradigm to be achieved as an example.
Let women not have to measure upto the man’s yardstick but reverse the paradigm – tilt the scales for a while before equalizing.
Friend #3 sent her thoughts:
Making short video clips of the different aspects of disrespect and its implication and reaching them out to the mass through MMS, television, community radio and also through NGO workers who has penetration in remote rural areas can be an option. Also I feel on personal level there should be more dialogue between the have and havenots. Lack of communication creates indifference and carelessness.
Friend #4 sent in his comments:
Start questioning and acting to change the cultural aspects that couches patriarchy at home. Second (if you allow) we need to take up community watch – ensure the beat cops/other cops/bureaucracy works by supporting those who need… this needs a strong community togetherness…
Finally, Friend #5 added in:
Passing and enforcing laws to protect girls and women is an important step. But the fact is education and culture must be addressed, worldwide, regarding the status of children, girls in particular and women to make the deeper and long-term change we all (writing here) desperately want. Politics, law and policy making are more immediate and central to more fundamental change. in my opinion.
In relation to some of the comments above demanding cultural shift in attitude toward women, I quote these lines from an American TV sitcom The Honeymooners (alas, U.S. media do not make such blue-collar, real-life shows anymore. Alice is the homemaker in the middle of the picture above. Her husband Ralph is the big man. He is a blue-collar worker.)
Alice: Let me tell you something. There’s an old, old saying Ralph. “Man works from sun to sun, but woman’s work is never done.”
Ralph: (In a snooty voice) Good gosh!
Alice: You men just think you own this planet.
Ralph: Yeah but you women get your revenge. You marry us.
[From: A Woman’s Work Is Never Done, The Honeymooners, Season 5, Episode 4.]