October 16, 2012

Gender Equality to fight Rape

During the last few days the the number of rape cases being reported in news channels and newspapers across India have witnessed a significant increase. I do not know if this increase is because of increased news coverage, or the of the incidents of rape are indeed increasing, or a combination of the two.

Rape is by far one of the worst crimes in developing countries like India, primarily because the victim gets treated like a social outcast. And rather than addressing the root of this problem, gender inequality, our "honorable ministers" come up with weird solutions like decreasing the marriage age and minimizing the interaction of boys and girls. For the sake of debate let us assume that the marriage age is reduced to 16 and that schools, and other places of education segregate students based on their gender. Do they really think it will solve the problem? Will a girl/woman still report a case where she was raped by her neighbor, classmate, or colleague? Will marriage or caging women to rooms or making them cover their bodies and faces reduce this madness?

Based on my personal experiences, I believe that it will worsen the problem. I studied in a boys school and I was uncomfortable talking with girls (at times even my cousin sisters). The situation worsened when I went to college. Despite being a co-ed college (co-ed is what they call education institutes where girls and boys study together) the rows of benches were separate for boys and girls. It was the same during my engineering years. Things were not very different during my masters because the number of girls in IITD were really really low.  And even in IITD, and the other IITs, the hostels for girls are separate from the hostels for boys. This form of gender based segregation is not healthy. How many girls or boys in India are comfortable living in a hostel where there will share the facilities with people of the opposite sex? It was at the age of 28 and after sharing an apartment with girls that I started becoming truly comfortable with them. Until then I was a hypocrite -- a hypocrite who believed that he considered boys were equal to girls and whose penis started to do the thinking when a beautiful girl started talking with him after a bisou. It was my housemates in Nice, boys and girls, who truly taught me what it is to treat another person as your equal. Thanks to the internet and mobile revolution I am glad that my cousins who are about 10 years younger than me have had a much more healthier school and college life than I did. I therefore do not want the system to revert to dark ages when my nieces and nephews start going to college. I want them to have a nice time with their friends and classmates regardless of the gender of the child they want to spend time with. Reverting the laws shall undo the little progress that has happened in the last 20 odd years and shall only bring the dark ages back in India.

Marital rape is the other important issue that reducing the marriage age does not address. India is one of few countries where marital rape is considered a form of domestic violence, however, only a handful of the total incidents of marital rape are reported. Marital rape is even more heinous because the victim shares the roof and the bed with the offender. Like other cases of domestic violence in India, the victim bears this torture in silence. Silence for the sake of the family and kids -- all because of the social stigma and its impact on the children. The reason for bearing the torture by most rape victims is the social structure where the female is not considered an equal to their male counterparts.

The gender equality in developed countries ensures that the victim is treated like a victim and not the culprit. This is the least any society can do!

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