The initial furore has indeed died down a bit but the New Delhi gang rape incident has led and is now leading many people to question the basic values on which our society operates in terms of the expectations from men and women. Tiring as it is to read or listen to, stupid, senseless statements continue to flow from the mouths of politicians and self-proclaimed god men. Their statements have ranged from downright audacious and disrespectful on the one hand to being unequivocally stupid, thoughtless and imprudent on the other. But then again, stupidity is one of the prime requirements in a politician as also the ability to be thick skinned. One can expect no less from them now, can we ?
This post, however, has been in the draft folder ever since the great Mr.Mohan Bhagwat claimed with what I can only label as extreme impunity that rapes happen in India not in Bharat. Really ?? He also went on to state that women and men each have their roles to fulfil – a woman’s primarily being a housewife and “satisfying” her man and the man’s responsibilities being earning money and protecting his woman.
If Draupadi is listening right now, I, for one, sincerely wonder what she would have to say ? When Dushasana dragged her into court by her hair (not that it would have made it any better if he had dragged her in by her hand) and then proceeded with absolute audacity and brazenness to strip her clothing away, Draupadi had not one but five – five husbands sitting in that courtroom. One of them was said to be the strongest of men, one was said to be the best of archers and the other three too had qualities that supposedly set them apart from the others then. Yet, it did happen. Draupadi Vastraharan has gone down in mythology as one of the most brazen acts committed on a woman. My question is – did her husbands (going by Mr.Bhagwat’s current explanation or definition – however one defines such daftness) fulfil their dharma then ?
What Draupadi was made to go through that day, in front of a full courtroom – did it happen because Draupadi happened to be dressed provocatively and hence “asked for it”. Did it happen because Draupadi was “intoxicated” and hence sent out signals that she was inviting men to take advantage of her inebriated state ? Did it happen because Draupadi was “dented” and “painted” ? Did it happen because Draupadi was a woman in the company of five men, five husbands ? I won’t even bother answering these questions because they are indeed rhetorical questions.
It put down once and for all, where a woman stood in society even then. Her husbands actually gambled with her as a stake, a wager and what one normally stakes in a bet is a commodity. They put their wife on the line.
The current upholders of Dharma might argue that there was no rape involved then. Well, was what happened not bad enough ? Yet again, there have been numerous instances in Indian mythology when divinity itself has played the hand of deceit – to satisfy their lust for a woman. I remember reading a small bit of one such example in a book about Lord Indra. Lord Indra and Ahalya (Sage Gautama’s wife). What Lord Indra did then would have a totally different connotation if one is to go by terms as they are defined today. However, if mythology is to be believed, it did happen. Yet again, hardcore Dharma enthusiasts might argue that these were just made up. In my opinion, one cannot be selective in saying that only the good bits in mythology actually happened, the bad bits are just made up. No go. One has to accept this and look at the picture in its entirety if one is to be truthful to oneself.
It has pretty much been an age old “tradition” in the Indian society – to reduce women to mere commodities. This practice continues even today - in many different forms. Bollywood, for instance, is definitely doing women a disservice by regularly dishing out “item” numbers. Numbers like “chalti hai kya nau se baara” are definitely not aimed at welfare, are they. End of the day what many of these so called “item” numbers do is “objectify” women, encouraging the idea that a woman is nothing but an object and in turn, just needs to be treated as such.
Mythology and history also have a proven track record in having women account for, given explanations for actions which they’ve not been primarily responsible for.
Sita had to go through an Agni Pariksha. Why ? Because Rama felt the “need” for her to prove her chastity because she had been held captive by Ravana. Did she ask to be nabbed by Ravana ? Yet again, another rhetorical question. She was nabbed by Ravana, against her will. She had to endure captivity and to top that ignominy, she was the one who had to prove her “chastity”. It was assumed, even then, that the men could not have been at fault, in any way.
Don’t we see a parallel even today ? Women get nabbed, get molested, get sexually assaulted and end of the day, the society expects them to be answering questions. A woman barely survives being humiliated and violated beyond her worst nightmare and society is prepared and waiting to heap some more.
Mythologies were eons ago. Here we are today, bemoaning the state of women and the way they’re treated. Have things really changed ? I won’t bother answering that one and I guess, neither should you because it is just another one of those rhetorical questions.