20 January, 2014

Nirbheek - Is a gun the solution to rape avoidance ?

(Pic courtesy : scmp.com via Google)
I read this article in The Times of India the other day, with a growing sense of dismay.  No – am not talking of accidents, murders or rapes.  Those seem to be happening as routinely as clockwork, even now.  I’m talking of Nirbheek (I believe that’s what it is called).  Nirbheek is said to be India’s first gun for women, a lightweight .32 bore pistol and is being touted as something that could produce “the element of surprise that is sure to scare the life out of most of the persons who attempt rape”.
Is that the solution ?  Really ?
To be honest, the thought scares me rather than infusing a sense of confidence that it might help the situation. 
In a country like ours, the problem lies not with the women but with the men who consider it their birth right to molest or rape women at will.  In a country like ours, the problem lies not with the rape survivors but with society on a whole, for, it still remains a patriarchal society that discounts the actions of men and wrongfully transfers the accountability onto the women.  In a country like ours, the problem lies with the fact that women are still, for all practical purposes and sundry, secondary citizens and not for a second of their lives are they allowed to forget that.  In a country like ours, the problem, simply put, lies in the fact that people, men and women alike, in more ways than one, still help feed the rape culture.
For women in India, rape is not the only thing they need to worry about.  There are countless other things.  Will having a gun help a woman who is being forced to undergo an abortion because she carries a female foetus within herself ?  Will having a gun help a woman who gets nudged, felt up or pinched in any of the public transport systems in the country ?  Will having a gun help a woman who is leered at on the roads or will it help one who has her bottom slapped or her breasts fondled by pathetic examples of men who scoot past on motorbikes or bicycles ?  Will having a gun help a woman who has songs sung to her by groups of men (songs like “chalti hai kya nau se bara” and others are notoriously infamous) in any given corner of a road or the bus stops or the train stations  ?  It is not just rape that the womenfolk in India are at a risk from.  It is all of the above too.  All of these too, leave women feeling violated.  Unfortunately, these things are pretty much “sanctioned” by our society as “unavoidable” or “better than what could otherwise have happened”.  Therein, lies the main problem. 
Societal attitudes is where it all needs to begin.  Menfolk and womenfolk need to realize and more importantly, accept, that they are equally to blame in fostering this culture.  People need to realize that actions have to bring with them, accountability.  Women need to start respecting feminity and drawing strength from it, rather than looking upon it as a curse and turning upon womenfolk themselves.  People need to take a long, good look at the so-called, self-proclaimed godmen in our country, who vilify women in the name of religion or even better, as a form of medicine or a cure.  What is needed is an approach aimed at the grassroots, not a 500 gram titanium alloy gun in a velvet box.
Take a good look at the USA.  People are allowed to own firearms, they are allowed to carry firearms for their own protection.  How much safer has it made things there ?  Has it helped prevent crimes in general or against women in specific ?  One look at the statistics and the answer is more than clear. 
Another very scary prospect, if India goes ahead with Nirbheek, is the accessibility that common man would have, to a firearm.  Thefts, pickpocketing being so very common an occurrence in the country, the possibility of guns being stolen and misused, is mind numbing, truth be told.  How about guns falling into the hands of children ?  The USA still remains a prime example of the number of things that can go wrong with the common man being allowed to carry arms.  Yet, this is seen touted as a solution to rape in a country as populous as ours. 
Even in this 21st century, so-called “developed” world of today, where fingers are bizarrely pointed at rape survivors instead of the perpetrators, the focus, unfortunately almost always, completely shifts from the committer of the crime to the survivor.  People and media alike, have made it a habit to feed on tidbits of information which are increasingly being viewed as “tasty morsels”, thus shifting accountability from the wrongdoer to the offended.    
Over the past, women have been given countless number of inane “solutions” to avoid rape - don’t drink, don’t go out late at night, don’t have boyfriends, don’t dress provocatively are some examples.  Let’s not add to that list, shall we ?  Let’s not set out one more piece of advice for 
“rape avoidance” towards the women in the country saying “carry guns in your handbags”.  

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