President agonised over communal clashes, gang rapes

Midnapore, Sep 15 (IANS) Describing the incidents of killings and gang rapes of women and children in the recent communal clashes as a "sad spectacle", President Pranab Mukherjee Sunday expressed his agony over the violence and called for "widespread" public mobilisation for gender sensitization.

The president stressed that religion should not be the vehicle for spreading hatred and violence against "believers of different faiths", and called for introspection "on the sad decline in moral values" in the society.

"At a time when our country is witness to the sad spectacle of people, including women and children, getting killed in communal clashes, the life of Pandit Vidyasagar teaches us that religion should never become an instrument for propagation of hatred and violence against believers of different faiths," Mukherjee said.

Delivering the seventh Vidyasagar Memorial lecture at the Vidyasagar University here, he said no society which ill-treats women and girls can claim itself to be "civilized".

"When such incidents occur, angry criticism of the government cannot lead to a solution," he said.

"There is an urgent need for widespread public mobilisation aimed at gender sensitisation. We need to introspect on the sad decline in our moral values and reflect on how we can reset our moral compass," he said.

Urging teachers to ingrain in the students values like sincerity of purpose, honesty, integrity and respect for women, he regretted that there was a lack of respect for women in the society.

"This situation cannot be changed unless the society asserts itself," he said.

Seeking pro-active intervention of the society in such areas, he said laws for securing women's safety would become effective only if there was efficient mechanisms to enforce them.

He stressed the need for continuous police and judicial reforms to ensure prompt justice for women.

The president also called for women's empowerment and better health, education and employment facilities for them.

Railing against female foeticide, he said such practices should cease to exist immediately.

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