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For Indian men, a woman is just a sex object

Jul 27, 2012 11:04 AM IST India India

In a horrific incident in Patna, a young girl was gangraped by her boyfriend and his classmates. And what's worse was that the heinous crime was shot on a camera and circulated on MMS. Below is the full transcript of CNN-IBN Deputy Editor Sagarika Ghose's chat with experts over the issue: Sagarika Ghose: Hi there. Good evening. Everyday seems to bring a new crime against women, rapes, sexual assault and molestation. Today let’s bring you a report on the truly horrifying gang rape of a schoolgirl in Patna, a rape which the rapists then made into a MMS and circulated. And in another case of sexual assault, a senior Forest Service official has been arrested in the US for allegedly molesting a hotel maid. The 1985 batch officer Surender Mahapatra was part of a group of 34 officers who had gone to the US for a training workshop at Syracuse University. The joint-secretary rank officer has denied the charges. What is going wrong with the Indian male? Is he unable to deal with modern women, does he feel he can get away with crimes against women? Joining us tonight, Pramila Nesargi, Senior BJP leader and advocate and former chairperson of State Women's Commission of Karnataka. Pooja Bedi, actor; Sangram, radio jockey, columnist and activist as well. Dilip Cherian, founder and consulting partner of Perfect Relations. Let's put it to Pooja Bedi, when a rapist, gangrapes, films the rape and circulates that gangrape on MMS. When molesters on a train molests a girl and when she resists they push her off the train, these are men who feel that crime against women are not crime, they are recreation. Are they simply unaware that these are crimes? Pooja Bedi: Sagarika, you are absolutely right and you know this is something I have been speaking about on all public platforms. The problem is in India, statistics are that one woman is raped in every 30 minutes, and these are the reported rapes we are talking about. The fact is we don’t see an equal number of people hung for their crimes, or being severely punished. The victims are dragged through court procedures, dragged through all these procedures for years. People are scared to report because eventually they feel it is hopeless, nothing comes out of it. He have never heard in the media that the perpetrates have been hung for it, or castrated for it, I know it is very extreme, but personally, I think, if there are severe punishment people will be scared. The problem is there are no severe punishments. If there is rape every 30 minutes, we don’t read in a newspaper that even one man has been severely punished for it. At the end of the day if you don’t read that people are being punished for it, crimes will persist. Sagarika Ghose: So men are feeling they can get away with it. Sangram but what is the reason that men are acting this way, as Pooja Bdei says they feel they can get away with it. But is it also because men are using sexual assault to sought of dominate society, to dominate the modern women? Does he feel threaten, does he feel that his hold on society is challenged by the modern women? Sangram: For sure Sagarika, I’m no physiologist but this 5000 years of history that I as an Indian man has to deal with… we all know how Manusmriti talks about the Dalits and the Harijans, but Manusmriti also calls women the fifth cast. One example from Manusmriti itself, if a woman can’t bear you child for eight years, after the 8th year you should let her go. If she misbehaves with you she should be left immediately. So that is my (Indian) history. Sagarika Ghose: The quarrelsome woman is rising woman and that is the woman you have to putdown which ever way you can. Sangram: And there is also media, I know, I keep coming back to the same point all the time but most of our biggest grossers for example ‘Rowdy Rathod’, see in where the hero hits the heroin for the first time and proceeds to pinch her stomach, if this is the kind of entertainment kids are exposed to... Sagarika Ghose: Let me put that to Pooja Bedi, Pooja Bedi how responsible is the entertainment media? You know, today we have a situation in Bollywood where top heroines instead of competing for big role are competing to be item girls. There is a certain sex symbol that is carved into Bollywood, it dominates Bollywood. The sexuality of the woman dominates Bollywood, is this sex oriented Bollywood films influencing men to do that? Pooja Bedi: Sagarika, let us not even go that route that says women are provoking, or women are being overly sexy and that is why crime against women are rising. I’m sorry, no man has the right to touch a woman. A woman can be as sexy as she wanted to be but no man has the right to touch her. Over the last 40 years crime against women has risen over 790 per cent. Sagarika Ghose: So it is not a question of a woman, it is the question entirely that men cannot deal with the modern women. Let’s look at the kind of men we are engaging in these kind of acts. As we were talking about earlier, youth delegation chosen by the ministry of sports harassed women during their tour to China. Diplomat Anil Verma of the Indian high commission in London was recalled after assaulting his wife. Drunk Indian diplomat Alok Jha recalled from US for misbehaving with crew. Fashion Designer Anand John sentenced to prison for sexually assaulting young women. Sexual harassment cases Infosys US global sales head Phaneesh Murthy. Now the sexual harassment against a civil servant. These are educated middle class men, are they also not able to appreciate that man-woman relationship is now based on gender equality. Dilip Cherian: I think you have touched on three different kinds of subjects, one is that the empowered man thinks every woman is a fair game. What worries me is that they think that every woman is a fair game and second they can get away with it. Which is even more worrying thing, because as Pooja was saying that there is something wrong with our law enforcement system The third think is that if you actually look at the statistics, the sad and horrific thing is that the women they are picking on are not necessarily the empowered women. They are picking on low hanging fruit. You know, women on train, some classmate. So what worries me is that women are becoming more and more vulnerable in India. And this should be frightening us as a society because there almost no women is safe, empowered or otherwise man think he can do anything and get away with it all the time. Sagarika Ghose: Gets away with it all the time because not only does the man take that seriously, nor does the police, the judiciary, and courts take it seriously. You know we are looking at a situation were crime against women are simply greeted by apathy by the police as well as by the courts and as well as by politicians. Pramila Nesargi, let me bring you to the kind of quotes that have been stated by politicians on the dress code of women. CC Patil, Women and Child Welfare Minister of Karnataka said, "I personally don't favour women wearing provocative clothes. I always feel they need to be dignified in whatever they wear." Mamta Sharma, NCW Chairperson said, "Women should be careful about how they dress." The politician (CC Patil) says, "Women should know how much skin they should cover." Now these comments about cloths, as Pooja Bedi is saying does it then makes sexual assault, crime against women, the fault of the women. Pramila Nesargi: Certainly not. Sagarika, I’m happy that you are having this programme. My blood comes to boil every time I hear about it. The dignity of women, the reputation of women, everything is at stake to day. I do not know if we are going to Mahabharata time when Draupadi was harassed. I think we are repeating that same in India. It is high time in India that all our women must unite and fight this ill. We won’t allow culprits to go away with this, be it with the court of with the police. We have to take a stand and tell police to do their duty. This is an offence which is cognisable. Look at the police which is saying that no complaint is launched. When it is a cognisable office it is the duty of the police to recognise and register a case but instead of that they are waiting for all these excuses. High time that we unite and say enough is enough. We will fight it out and we will see if time comes hoot you out. Sagarika Ghose: But do the women have to fight. Sangram let me put to you, do the women have to fight because, you know, we always see that in public crimes against women, the other men do nothing. Men assault woman in public, the other men do nothing. Why is there this culture of being an onlooker? Do they secretly admire men who are molesting women? Sangram: Sagarika, Indians have been very frightened of even helping accident victim because again Bollywood told us that you would get into trouble with police if you did that, in spite of having laws to the contrary. Changing laws is necessary and changing criminal justice system is also necessary. But what happens there is a massive shame involved in a sexual assault for a victim. So before changing the laws the victim has to come forward. And doesn’t come forward because society, her family, her relatives, think for reason that it is probably her or she brought it upon herself. Or even if it was not her fault she should instead of inviting more trouble by going to the law, forget about it. I think that is the mentality, it is shocking but that is how it is. Sagarika Ghose: We were told about the police, the courts, and the fact that punishment never happens. Do you feel that looking at the court, looking at the police proceedings, there is in fact no recognition how serious crime against women are. Dilip Cherian: The investigation is completely missing, the police are following she ancient rule that we have to go by this process. They have to recognise, the MMS, and in fact there are other instances which have happened are actually will documented. They don’t need to go and file reports. The perpetuators are visible and have no fear. But I think there is also a point which we need to look at is that, as this plays out how much of a copycat crime is also going on. Sagarika Ghose: I want to come to Pooja Bedi on the morality question. You know every Indian man… I got a tweet from someone, his name is Adhir Kumar Sinha, aks0077 that is his tweeter handle, he says “suppose I see a girl with hot pant and shot stop on the road at dead of night, what should be my reaction.” Is this the morality question we were eluding earlier, that is handing over crime against women? That men are not to blame, it is the women who are to blame. The women are wearing hot pants and short tops, the women are going out I the night, the women are drinking, it is the women’s problem. Pooja Bedi: And that is the most absurd argument that I have every heard Sagarika, there are more girls being raped in Salwar Kameez and Sarees then shorts, and that is statistics. And the fact is if a child of 18-months-old can be raped, we are talking about bad people just being bad people. And that will not deter them whether women wear bikini or parda, it makes no difference. A crime is a crime, it just be tackled with efficiency, and there must be stiff sentencing for that. And certainly media will have to play a major role in that. More the media puts out there that the perpetrators are being judged severely. That fact that it is on their TV screens, it is in their newspapers people will realise that they won’t get away with it. Like for example drinking and driving, a lot of who used to drink and drive earlier, the moment they started cracking drinking and driving, started arresting people, taking away their licenses, they stopped drinking and driving. We need stringent laws, we need severe punishment and we need swift sentencing. That is the only thing that is going to work. Sagarika Ghose: And do you that from the point of view that the mentality of the Indian man, is he still trapped in that virgin, whore duality. That the virgin is the pure woman she is in the woman at home, but when she steps out she is a woman of easy virtue. Is that the mentality that the Indian man has still not snapped out of? Pooja Bedi: Well if that is the reality so be it. My point is not what they want to take home, my point is who it is they are costing on the streets. That is inappropriate and unacceptable. If they would want a certain kind of woman for themselves that is the reality they choose but they have no right to go out there and cost a woman because she choose to live her life differently. Dilip Cherian: To come to the point of the morality thing, the big question that nobody is asking in the room is, lot of these criminals are very young people. They come out of homes and schools. What kind of education are they getting? Do they not have women at home, do they not have mothers and sisters? Sagarika Ghose: That is a very good point. Sangram I want you to pickup what Dilip Cherian was saying, how boys are socialised. Now you being a man, did you grow up with feeling that you could do not wrong, that your family centred around you, that what every you did was alright. Is that the problem – is the problem how boys are socialised, how men are socialised? Sangram: Personally not perhaps as other families because my sister will really kick me if I say otherwise. But yes, what happened in most families men will see that their mothers, sisters, daughters, if not tortured but at least relegated to a second class citizen level. Like they would eat after the men. So basically women have been treated as second class citizens. And school doesn’t help because school has taught me how much or which state produces the most wheat, and how does an amoeba look like, but I was never taught how to deal with women and respect them. Sagarika Ghose: You were never taught how to deal with women. That’s a very good point. He is never taught, he has mother and sister at home but in the real world he sees so called hot women, he simply doesn’t know how to deal with her. May be the Indian mother, the family has to educate their son more. Pramila Nesargi: Undoubtedly Sagarika, what I feel is in their childhood they should be taught how to behave and in school they must be taught how to behave. And women must be taught how to defend themselves in such situations. It is only then we can teach our men how women can safeguard themselves. I only think of ‘Jhansi ki Rani’ and other ladies, how they defended the country. Sagarika Ghose: But why should every women be ‘Jhansi ki Rani’, why does the man not change his mindset? Let me come to you at the point we were talking earlier. There is also a problem in the manner in which a certain kind of sexuality is being thrust in a society which is not ready for it. There is a certain sexual culture that has come into our society but we are not ready for it. Many Indians, most Indians will find it difficult to accept a women wearing short dress. Dilip Cherian: Now as a society we have gone through two major changes, in quick rapid successions and some of them simultaneously. The first is the emancipation of women, women in work place, women in social place, as you said in bars, in nightclubs and their portrait in entertainment media. And the second is that this has been thrust upon men without them being properly prepared. So society has changed, men have not been prepared for it. And to add to it our laws are all antediluvian. So we are really talking about a huge social mismatch. Sagarika Ghose: It is a social mismatch and it is leading to social anarchy. Pooja Bedi but should young girls, the constant refrain of how to behave, how to dress, should there be some amount of restrain? Should there be a certain kind of dress code which women should follow in public knowing that this is the situation? Pooja Bedi: Firstly Sagarika it is not how women dresses which attracts a rapist to come and rape. As I said earlier a women in salwar kameez is just as easy to rape as women in shorts. Statistics say that more women who were salwar kameez are raped in villages and small town then girls in bikinis and sorts in cities. Having said that I certainly think that Indian women has come a long way, no double, every generation takes one step forward. From parda they started covering their head that is a big change, from covering their head to wearing sleeveless clothes that is a big change. Every generation takes it one step forward. Dressing in a certain way in not an indication of how immoral you are, but you when you go to certain institutions there are certain dress codes that you adhere to. And for example if I went to a village I would not wear shorts there because I would be offending their sensibility. But if I went to a club I will certainly wear a pair of shorts. And if I went to a pool, or beach I would wear bikini. In metros you would tend to wear a little freely then in towns or villages. As I said if a woman dresses... Dilip Cherian: I have a feeling that we are ducking the issue there, you know, I take Pooja's point that women have the right to dress the way they want and women in salwar kameez are raped, the fact is just as we are talking about socialisation of the Indian males there also needs to be a recognition that the environment outside has changed a lot and has become hostile for the average Indian women... and laws need to change, society needs to change... I’m not saying that the women should dress in some other way... Sagarika Ghose: There needs to be a recognition, a reality check what the world is. So just as we need socialisation of the boy, we also need the socialisation of the girl. We had some very enlightened views. It all comes down to how you bring up your son. We are a son-worshiping culture, we are a son-centred culture but we can’t bring up our sons to believe that they can get away with molestation, they can get away with breaking the law. Thank you very much Pramila Nesargi, Pooja Bedi, Sangram and Dilip Cherian.