Management of change is always a challenging task and change is always resisted in any organisation or society. What the country has been witnessing and seized with in the last fortnight after the rape and brutal injury of a Delhi girl has shamed one and all. May her soul rest in peace.
Why did this happen? An analysis reveals that Indian society, especially many males, have not been able to manage change and transformation that has taken place as regards Indian women. Our culture, traditions, ethics and values have taught us to respect women and treat them equally at our respective homes and amongst relatives. The moment we see a woman in public and who is not related our attitude changes and we tend to pass sexist and snide comments. Wrong thoughts also build up in the mind.
In earlier times women were tasked to look after homes and rear children. They were treated with respect and were nearly but not exactly equal. They were looked upon as the weaker sex. Over the years women have transformed and are now taking on and executing all tasks that had been earlier done only by males. They have become equal and this is a huge change. This change requires to be understood by all Indians.
Today, women, apart from doing many other jobs, are commanding space stations, flying passenger as well as military aircraft, captaining ships, participating in all sporting activities, driving cars, buses and trains. They are heading governments, business houses, industrial institutions and are holding senior offices in the police, bureaucracy, military, medicine, judiciary, scientific, educational institutions and any post of responsibility that can be thought of. Not only are they holding top posts but are more effective and efficient than their male counterparts.
It is this change that needs to be understood by many men. The new mantra that needs to be followed and understood is to treat women equally and with respect not only in their respective homes but in the streets outside all day and especially between sunset and sunrise. These two values need to be ingrained and followed amongst those Indian men folk that have not yet understood them. We are now in an era where we cannot question what women feel, talk, wear or do as they are responsible enough.
If they cross the boundaries of the law of the land, then the law agencies would take care of the situation. This applies to men folk too. This equality needs to be understood. There is no need for moral policing by political, educational and religious agencies to tell what a woman needs to wear or how to conduct herself. What is needed is to respect women as they enter new fields of responsibility in Indian society and treat them as equals.
Why is rape on the rise? Of the many reasons why rape occurs, one of them is because men cannot understand the change taking place as regards women. They still think of them as inferior. As women take on responsibilities they rightly feel that they are equal to men and would like to be given the space and freedom to do what they want to do and what men normally do. They venture out of the safe sanctuaries of their homes only to be sniggered, teased and treated with indignity by some men outside. When some men see women out in the street, they feel that they can take advantage and sometimes overstep the 'Lakshman Rekha'. They lose sight of the mantra, equality and respect.
It has to now be clearly understood that the consent of the woman is required before any advancement having a sexual overtone is done by any man. It is her right. It is so with men too. A woman sexual worker cannot force herself unless the man consents. So here again equality comes in. This intricate balance of equality and respect needs to be understood. This applies both ways and whilst women display these two virtues towards men it's some men folk who somehow seem to lose it somewhere down the line.
The time is ripe now to understand women, as they move about day and night doing their jobs and take on new responsibilities. They need to be treated with respect and equality. As regards rapists, they need to be punished severely and justice needs to be delivered quickly so that it acts as a deterrent. Stricter laws need to be enacted.
In summary, the days of telling women what to do, say, dress or feel is over. They know their responsibilities and if they do anything the law doesn't permit the law agencies are there to handle the situation. It's high time we let them enjoy their new found freedom and allow them to take on higher responsibilities. The faster we manage this change the better. The bottom line is to treat all women with respect and equality at all places and at all times.
Though we lost an innocent life, her soul will continue to be with us and remind us that we need to change our mindset. As the new year ends with a sad note with our braveheart dying after battling injury for 13 days in hospital let us all make a new year resolution and pledge that henceforth, all we Indians understand the change and treat our women with equality and respect.
(08-01-2013 Ravindra Gaikwad is a senior serving officer of the Indian Navy. The comments expressed are personal. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org).