Respect for women a sham, violence is reality

Respecting women is a mantra that elected leaders recite even as the actions of those around them undermine their words.

Published: 19th August 2022 07:23 AM  |   Last Updated: 19th August 2022 07:23 AM   |  A+A-

domestic violence

For representational purposes (Express Illustrations)

Gender-based violence exists on a spectrum rooted in the same attitude and view of women: as lesser than males. It is a fallacy to believe this violence is a fault of individuals when it is enmeshed in the DNA of a patriarchal society and reproduced even though the mechanisms of organisations or State entities should consciously counteract misogyny. Yet, in just the past few days, at least two incidents have revealed that too much of what is spoken of women’s rights and empowerment is lip service. Respecting women is a mantra that elected leaders recite even as the actions of those around them undermine their words. 

Just days ago, 11 men convicted of gangraping Bilkis Bano during the 2002 Gujarat riots were released prematurely. Leaving aside the legal intricacies of how or why these convicts were released, it is how their release was celebrated by the organisation to which they are affiliated that gives the lie to the mantra. Rape in times of conflict has been understood as a weapon to humiliate, dominate and instil fear in a community. The conviction of the accused was a victory for Bano, her community, and the country at large as it established that all could access justice. The glee at their premature release is an instance of social entities undercutting the justice delivered by the State. Worse, it reiterates the message of fear and humiliation to the minority community while asserting women’s bodies may be brutalised for political and communal reasons with approbation. 

An example of how the mechanism that exists to serve justice may dis-serve it is seen in a Kerala court’s order giving bail to a man accused of sexual harassment. While bail should be the rule rather than the exception in most cases, the judge not only allowed the defence to produce photographs of the victim in the clothes she wore at the time but went further to say there could be no sexual harassment if the victim was wearing provocative clothes. The takeaway from both these instances is that women in India are often not even seen as real people equal to their male counterparts. Empty exhortations to respect women are meaningless when they are endlessly dehumanised by society and the State.


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