Everybody has written about what needs to be done to provide greater security for women in terms of improved governance and policing. However, as stated earlier, it is a multi-dimensional problem that needs to be addressed in various ways. One of these is by understanding the behaviour, motivations and problems of various sections of Indian men. Much has been said about the misogynistic and patriarchal influences to be found in traditional beliefs, popular culture and social attitudes. Opinions differ on how these are to be dealt with. Some believe that these should be banned, banished and forbidden! They would even like language itself to be sanitised and sensitised so that retrograde values can be removed. There are commentators who would like all of Indian culture and civilisation to be placed in the dock for their role in perpetuating anti-women evils.
Others would suggest, however, that it would be better to create alternatives, codes of behaviour, icons and lifestyles that would make the old redundant. The problem has to be broken down into its component pieces and every part dealt with according to its needs, rather than painting everybody with the same brush and then attempting to dump the entire shebang on them!
Take, for instance, the cultural aspect. Many attribute the growing ‘commodification’ of women to Western influence. Apart from ‘reviving’ the ‘noble’ values of yore and shutting out Western culture, they have nothing to offer. None among them can point out modern day icons that are ‘non-Western’ and ‘viable’ in the present day. Most of those who preach cannot present themselves as examples, either. Perhaps, it could be because Western culture as exported globally is being wrongly and differently interpreted, sadly enough by the very people who have the responsibility of educating the youth! If they believe that Western women are ‘loose’, how can they convince others to think that Indian women with ‘westernised’ ways are ‘virtuous’?
Another factor is the disproportionate amount of wealth available among certain sections of society, without matching levels of education, exposure and responsibility. So it is that moneyed young men can enter the portals of pubs, restaurants and clubs, but get miffed by the seeming lack of acceptance by the ‘trendy’ crowd. They can’t understand why having the money can’t provide them the opportunity for a dance, or a conversation with a ‘cool chick’. Nothing hurts more than being snubbed in the presence of one’s friends, particularly when the girls are escorted by nowhere as ‘manly’ men as them. Egos get hurt, liquor inflames passions and Jessicas are shot.
It is important in this context that India’s popular culture educates young people in the code of courtship, which in many ways is just being introduced into a tradition that has largely depended on arranged marriages in the narrow confines of caste. Young people are confused, there is much miscommunication between the sexes, most elders can’t show the way. Boys don’t know how to make friends with girls, while the opposite sex often reacts unexpectedly to overtures. Everything becomes much confused.
Then in many cities, particularly the metropolises, there is a large migrant population of single men, who have nothing to do after work. All they have is a single room dwelling to return to with only a country-liqour shop on the way. Tired, frustrated and stressed out, they have no means to entertain themselves. Idle minds become the devil’s workshop. It is important under such circumstances for the government to proactively establish community centres in such areas with facilities for indoor and outdoor games like carom and volleyball. There ought to be social workers and counselors available to help them out in their problems, with occasional visits also from doctors. Social activities like festivals, musical and cultural programmes can also be organised for their benefit.
It is a vast subject, but it can be dealt with, bit by bit. There should not be ‘invisible’ people in society who come to notice only when their world impinges onto the normal world.