The anguish and outrage that have erupted across India over two recent rape cases, in Kathua in Jammu and Kashmir and Unnao in Uttar Pradesh, are almost unprecedented. The last time we saw such outrage, protests and candlelight marches, was over the rape of Nirbhaya in 2012. The sheer brutality of that crime, and that too on the streets of Delhi, was mind-numbing. This time around, we have an eight-year-old child, Asifa Banu, drugged, kidnapped, sedated and raped repeatedly by eight men, two of them policemen, and another teenager raped by a legislator who she used to call “bhaiya”. As usual, the politicians have started the blame game, which does not, or should not, fool anybody.
Yes, it is disgraceful that we have around us men without a shred of humanity in them. Raping an unsuspecting teenager due to lust is terrible enough; but to use an innocent, fragile child’s body to settle scores, of whatever nature, is revolting and disgusting. That an entire bunch of men, and shamefully women too, tried to shield the accused, is shocking. In 2012, and after Nirbhaya’s rape, at an international event in Switzerland that had journalists from 140-odd countries, I had to face many bullets such as “what is wrong with Indian men?”, or “are women really safe in India?”
While the stunned brain grapples with questions on how low we have sunk as a society, and if there is something deeply wrong with the way we bring up our sons, the heart knows that Indian women are special in so many ways — bright, vibrant, passionate, energetic… just like women elsewhere in the world. Or else the seniormost RI leadership would not have been relentless in its pursuit of getting qualified women into Rotary. Every incoming RI President that I have interviewed, including Barry Rassin, has said in no uncertain terms that Rotary has no future worth the name without setting right its skewed gender ratio… which is barely 22 per cent for women. In India, it is half that figure, and Rotary leadership in India is working hard to correct the gender imbalance. More women members will mean more meaningful projects, is the mantra. So what does this tell us? That there are enough number of amazing women out there in Indian society… women of worth and substance… and Rotarians just have to find them.
If this is true, as it indeed is, it is time that women in Indian society take the onus upon themselves to instill in their daughters, and much more, their sons, that a daughter is much more than a mere body that has to be embellished with fancy clothes or jewellery. That she is as valuable, if not more, as a son and has to be treated so. She deserves neither to be killed in the womb nor considered an unwanted “burden” on the parents, to be “married off” (gosh, how I hate these two words!) at the first opportunity. Of course things are changing, but not fast enough. But Indian women, especially the young, are angry and are expressing their outrage every time a gruesome rape happens. Fortunately, many Indian men feel the same way. We women need to lead the way to shout from rooftops that rape is unacceptable, and we will not tolerate it and demand justice every time it happens. Let’s not depend on the empty promises of our politicians or law keepers to protect our daughters/sisters/mothers from this heinous crime. So let’s harness the power of Durga and Shakti.