The change that must follow Nirbhaya

Gurdeep Singh Sappal

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(Girls pay tributes to the 16th December Delhi gangrape victim on the eve of second anniversary of the incident, at Munirka bus stop in New Delhi)

Nirbhaya’s Anniversary brings back the debate on rapes. After the laws have been made stringent, after the public anger voted out governments, after great media debates have happened, rapes continue. What more should now be done?

For long, rapes have been used as a tool for social dominance, revenge and war. Now, they also are a result of fast changing social structures. The women are changing at a fast pace. They have now started realizing the rights provided to them under the Fundamental Right to Equality. This change is being met with increasing reaction from the traditional social structures.

The only answer to such reaction is to bring about attitudinal change. This is easier said than done. The attitudinal changes have conventionally been led by social and political movements. Sadly, there are not many progressive movements that are strong enough to lead such change. Rather, we now see a strengthening of the voices for status quo and even a reversal to old value systems.

Therefore, the only solution lies in the hands of women themselves. Women, who think themselves as equals, have a greater responsibility to ensure that the war for attitudinal change begins from within their homes, offices and neighbourhoods. They will have to ensure that their individual assertion for equality converges into a collective movement for change in outlook for the way we as a society respond.

Socially, the women are evolving at a pace faster than men. For the first time in the history of Indian civilization, they are effectively challenging the male dominance and are moving ahead equally in all matters, be it family, social, economic and political. Though constitution laid the basis for it long ago, the actual realisation is happening now. Predictably, this will be met with resistance from those who have dominated forever. There will be a backlash and it’s happening all around.

It’s a war for change. Change for a gender neutral, equitable society. Change, where women neither subjugate themselves to men, nor emulate their thoughts, functioning and ideology. It’s a change, where women can be women, with all their biological and aspirational differences with men and yet have an equal space under the sun. There may be few good, benevolent, progressive souls on the other side who may support women out of their own understanding, philosophy and outlook, but the reality remains that if women want to win this war, they can only rely on themselves.

This asks for a new set of values to be inculcated among the young and among the partners in families and offices. This has to be private initiative and also collective effort by the women themselves leading to peaceful co-existence of all. It’s not an easy task.

The debate on Nirbhaya must now transcend the demands for providing legal and policing solutions. It must now converge on the need for change in the mindsets. This change is inevitable, but if catalyzed by conscious efforts by women, the cost of such a change will be less.