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ARE WOMEN TRULY LIBERATED IN INDIA?

By Barnes Mawrie

The horrific incidents of crime against women which took place recently one at Unnao in UP and the other in JK where an eight years old girl Kathua, was raped and brutally murdered, clearly paint a dismal picture of women liberation in our country. These are not stray incidents but such violence against the fairer sex take place on a regular basis in different parts of the country.

The women in our country suffer a double discrimination. First of all, in a highly male dominated and male-centred society of India, the women are considered second class citizens with no equal rights and opportunities. In many rural areas of certain parts of India, girls are deprived of basic education and they are married off at a very young age. Female infanticide which is so rampant in some parts of the country is a barbaric practice which no civilized society should tolerate. We would be utterly shocked to know the actual statistics of female infanticide in our country. Yet such practices are being pursued because there is no political or legal will to put an end to them.

Secondly, the women in India suffer from a political and legal bias. This is evident that when it comes to crimes against women, there is little political reaction or swift legal actions. The above two incidents would have been conveniently forgotten and justice denied to the victims, if it were not because of the nationwide protests. All of us remember the case of Jessica Lal who would have died in vain if it were not because of similar reactions.

Women constitute the suffering population of our country whose voices and complaints are seldom heard and whose rights are often trampled upon. If women at the high circles are victims of male chauvinism, how much worse is the plight of the ordinary women? In the wake of the Weinstein scandal in Hollywood, many Bollywood female actors have confessed of being subjected to similar molestations. Divya Unny, a Malayalee actor confessed to being victimized by a male director way back in 2015. Harassment of women be it in film industry, in government offices or in ordinary work places, is rampant in our country. There are numerous cases of sexual harassment of tribal girls working in various metropolitan cities of India. Many of these girls are from Chotanagpur and they migrate to cities for the purpose of making a living but many of them go through a terrible ordeal in the process.

What is more disgusting is that many of these crimes against women are committed by politicians or sons of politicians or persons in high positions. In a country like ours where the politicians and high bureaucrats rule the roost, many of these culprits go scot free and they continue to perpetrate the crime. Indian males harbour a lot of false myths about women for example like: women are meant to be housewives, women are to stay indoors, women should not converse with men in public, women should submit to men and the list goes on. Society and religions seem to conspire to confirm these myths and consequently the poor women continue to be discriminated. Using the words of Rousseau, “women in India are free but everywhere they are in chains.”

This causes us to pose a big question: “Are women in India truly liberated?” Legally and theoretically they are free but de facto they are still slaves of the evil system or of an imperfect and prejudiced culture that we have. If most of our women still live in fear and insecurity and continue to be under the shadow of men, can we talk of a “free India?” If women form almost half of the Indian population (48.3%), then how can India be free if they are still in chains?

 Every man in India should hang his head in shame whenever a crime is committed against a woman or a girl. Every politician and every law enforcer in our country should feel ashamed whenever justice is denied or delayed for such crimes. It is time that our administrative and legal systems wake up to their God-given responsibility of meting out justice to every citizen irrespective of race, religion and sex. There would be no need for national protests or protests of any sort to deal with such crimes if our legal systems work as they should. It is only when women in our country are respected, cared for, given their due rights and privileges and share equal responsibilities in the country’s affairs that we can truly speak of India as a “free country.”

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