Monday, December 24, 2012

Protest hard but protest real

It would be wrong to say that India is seeing unprecedented protests following the brutal violence and pain inflicted upon a 23 year old woman in Delhi. My negative statement is due to the protests that we have seen in the past few years in India. India has by and large protested over fuel hikes and hikes in the prices of essential commodities. Over the past couple of years we have seen protests over the Mumbai terror attack, corruption and now the protest to amend the laws with regard to rape.

What has come about from these protests? People have gone back to work and to their lives, waiting for another incident and another day to protest. To the credit of the Indian public, the propensity to come out on the street and offer solidarity for however short a period is commendable. But is it enough and will it bring about any change?

What is the real issue in the present brutal case before us? It is a clear violation of a girl's person hood, freedom, body and spirit. A group of men got together and thought they could do what they wanted in the darkness of the night. The cruelty and the subsequent consequence of the cruelty has brought people out into the streets. It is also a lack of awareness among law enforcement agencies about what constitutes the freedom of a woman and how far they should go to protect this freedom. The issue is also about clarity in laws, punishment based on these laws and additional laws to deter anyone from violating the freedom and body of another person. But the issue has turned into capital punishment and castration of culprits!

The problem with both of these solutions is that one, we are struggling with whether we should do away with capital punishment all together even in the rarest of rare cases and two, these solutions are patriarchal and male solutions.

Capital punishment once upon a time was seen as a deterrent just like nuclear weapons are still seen. But there is over whelming public opinion that this is the most inhuman thing one could do to another person. From a Christian point of view and a non-violent Indian point of view this goes against our very notion as a collective and as a nation. Capital punishment may also result in innocent people going to the gallows simply because the rich will get away with rape and violence and the poor will get raped twice over. If fear in itself would have instilled goodness in people, we would have all been saints. Fear will only instill a sense of deep hatred and criminal tendency which will lead to more fool proof crimes which will become more difficult to detect.

Such solutions go against the violated and the victim. Women through such revenge will be sucked in to the world of male dominated violence which in actuality women detest and oppose. What rather needs to be done is to bring women to the main stream. How many women represent us in parliament? How many women are in church committees? How many women are leaders who make legislations that will take our country forward? The answer would be negligible. In this context what capital punishment would do is to strenghthen the male dominated framework of decision making and violent mode of functioning. This will not deter rape but will keep the basic precents leading to rape intact.

Churches and other religious institutions have to claim their women. The framework of marrying off daughters, teaching them to cook, keeping them inside homes and having them as receptors of religious services has led to the detaching of women from homes and churches. This makes them second class citizens in their own back yard. What security can they expect when they are out in the night? The talk of women reclaiming their public spaces cannot be actualized unless we include home, work and religious spaces in the gamut of public space/sphere.

The street protest now is essential. People have to protest as without protesting they are not human beings. But protesting for capital punishment goes against everything woman. Equal representation for women in all aspects of life would be a better protest to die for. Equal representation in the household, in religious institutions, in property, in security, in articulation and implementation would bring about equal space for women in India. Once this comes into force women will make laws for themselves. All that we are doing now is strengthening the status quo.

No comments: