Ritam BanatiThe study of crimes against women is one of those issues where sounding pessimistic is directly proportional to being rational. History is replete with examples that while on the one hand, women have created a dent in erstwhile male bastions; there are the hapless lot who have been brutally suppressed.
There are also those who look liberated but are still subjugated. Take the example of South Asian nations like India and Pakistan. Here a financially independent woman may or may not be free in the literal sense. Economic independence can definitely be used as a defensive weapon if need be. The question is how many women who are subjected to domestic violence in any form actually use the same? The question also is why dont they? The point here is that economic independence is a necessary pre-requisite of emancipation. However it is not the sole answer.
This is further substantiated by the high rate of date rape cases in a superpower like America.
Statistics shows that the number of women climbing the ladder of professional success is steadily increasing in the world when compared to past trends. But this does not indicate a climb down in crime rates against them.
In United Kingdom most of the women are working. But a recent report found that the country also has a high incidence of honour killings- over 17,000 per year. Couple this with the fact that genital mutilation is becoming an alarming problem in Britain, victimizing Muslim as well as Christian girls.
On International Womens day, the thrust therefore must be on those women whom mankind has so far not embraced in its fold.
These include those women from Bangladesh who are compelled by poverty to sometimes willingly fall prey to prostitution in countries like India. Or young girls from Nepal who get lured into neighbouring nations by job or marriage prospects and are then forced to work as sex slaves.
The list of such crimes actually is endless. One can also lay stress on the women shattered psychologically by domestic violence. This can comprise honour killings in Pakistan, wife-beating or marital rape in India and elsewhere.
While one can still lament the inadequacy of comprehensive laws to protect women from domestic violence in countries like Nepal, what to talk of India where the Domestic Law Amendment Act of 2005 has done little to quell the high rate of such crimes?
When a woman fails to get protection even within the four walls of her own home, one cannot even imagine her condition outside. A case in point is our neighbour, Sri Lanka. The volatile situation there has seen women being used by the LTTE in their fight against the military. When captured, the worst form of assault is used on them by the soldiers.
Rape has been frequently used as a weapon historically speaking, in war or war-like situations. The current scenario is no different. Even if laws are made stringent, it does not do much to mitigate the crime rate. For instance, Pakistans age-old Hudood laws stipulated rules that four Muslim male witnesses were needed to testify in favour of a rape victim to prove rape. When the government passed the Protection of Women Act, 2006 it ruled out the same. Whether this has had a contributory effect in reducing rapes in the country is yet to be noticed. So one can say that the lack of an all-inclusive rape law (like) in Nepal cannot be the only reason why there is sexual victimisation.
In a similar vein, the existence of intra-country and inter-country flesh trade particularly in the context of the South Asian countries needs to be not only legally probed, but politically and socially as well. Legally it is forbidden to smuggle females; a porous Indo-Nepal border does not follow this law; pimps take advantage; politicians indulge just in rhetoric; pimps have political links. The conclusion is obvious.
Therefore the only two hopes left are the media and the society. Creation of an intense public frenzy by media might help in filling the gaps.
The dismal situation renders it mandatory for a woman to be stronger than she already is. She must imbibe it in herself, as someone as aptly remarked if enough power is not given to her to protect herself, she will have to snatch it. Noted Canadian politician and social activist Charlotte Whitton once said, Whatever women do, they must do twice as well as men to be thought half as good.
There are many women who have done full justice to the above statement. It is not a feminist viewpoint but rather a practical opinion that bluntly states that for a woman to attain victory in any field, be it professional or personal, she must not only prove to be a mans equal but also show that she is the first among equals.