Protection for women in the wake of increasing sexual violence continues to be a contentious issue, evoking strong responses from the conservative and the liberal camps. Sample these questions: Why women should be protected? Is a man near her a protector or a pervert? What are the psychological problems of a sexual abuse victim? Does the law save her from harassments? In an effort to highlight the need for protection to women and the issues underlying it, ‘Save Tamils Movement’ had organised a group discussion here on Saturday.
Calling for structural changes in society to ensure gender equality, activist-cum college teacher A Mangai said, “Whenever there is a struggle against injustice, the victims affected in those struggles are idolised. Fortunately, it did not happen in the case of Nirbhaya. This case, instead, brought a new hope in bringing in new laws against rape and other sexual violence against women.”
Blaming patriarchal values as anti-women, she said “Woman’s purity always has a vital role in our culture. But there is no such thing as man’s purity. This is the result of internalised patriarchy. For years, the society we live in has taught us that women should have tolerance and bear with the acts of men. But, today those images are being broken by women themselves. Equality is what we look for rather than having tolerance. Empowerment will happen only when society’s structure is changed.” Noted psychologist R K Rudran said our culture and religion was loaded against women.
“When you look the statue of Durga in Mahabalipuram Durga Cave Temple, you can notice the goddess proceeding to the battlefield with her entourage, all of them men! The interpretation here is that even a goddess like Durga needs men to save her. It is this male-dominated society in which women have to survive,” he said.
“Films showcased rowdyism as heroism and it still continues. Cinema is also one of the reasons for the rise in crime against women in our day-to-day life – especially sexual violence,” he argued.
“There are only two options for women to escape from being sexually assaulted. Either fight or run away. The women, who faced sexual assaults, will have psychological effects such as sleeping disorders, severe anxiety and depression among others. It will reflect in their work as absenteeism, sudden decrease in performance, loss of concentration in work, etc. During those times, friends or colleagues must stand by them and help them overcome such problems,” he said. Advocate Ajeetha, in her presentation, made in absentia said, “Until now we do not have separate laws for sexual harassment. Now some amendments have been made in the existing laws, under which even voyeurism will bring severe punishments”.
During the event, a short-film titled Ungalil Oruthi directed by documentary film-maker Revathi was also screened.