Words seem inadequate… even hollow… in reflecting or imagining the anguish the family of the girl, who was so brutally raped and murderously assaulted in Delhi, must be experiencing. But the unprecedented outpouring of grief and anguish as an entire nation mourned her succumbing to the lethal injuries the demons in that bus had inflicted on her body, holds out hope.

On the one hand there was the continuing cacophony of sound on television channels where anchors fretted and fumed about the “lip service of insincere politicians”, “politicisation of a serious issue”, and so on. The next minute they were lining up more of the same fraternity to carry forward their “continuing live coverage”! It was shameful to watch the usual suspects – representatives of the two major parties, the Congress and the BJP – and a plethora of other political parties whose leaders have outdone each other in spewing gibberish of the “painted and dented” variety, giving sermons on what should be done. The Opposition parties bashed the ruling dispensation – the target clearly was the Congress – and we got a lot of homilies on how women should be “respected”.

But cutting through this tamasha, what was striking/heart-warming in the images that the same channels beamed into our homes, was the presence of mammoth numbers of young men in the groups that poured out at Jantar Mantar and Ramleela Grounds, as well as Munrika where the crime took place. They were mourning the girl with an indomitable spirit, who had told her family that she wanted to live to see her tormentors punished.

Indian women are tired of being lectured on how to dress, speak and behave. All these years the onus has been on them to remain safe. If they were molested or sexually assaulted they were to blame. A clear message that came out from young girls holding placards which said: “Nazar teri buri, Aur purdah mai karu? (You have the evil eye and I should stay covered?) or “Tu kare to stud; Main karu to slut”, was that today’s Indian woman has had enough of preaching and double standards.

The confidence and anger with which scores of young girls spoke before the cameras prove they are in no mood to remain the second sex any longer. Not only their words but their entire body language was screaming out for equality and justice. Granted these are privileged women who have had the benefit of the best of education to open up their minds and who know they are no less than men in any sphere of society.

But it is from these determined women, and the men who stood by their side, supporting them and urging society, government, the whole world, not to commit violence against women, that the future leadership of this country will emerge. The smarter of our netas will read the writing on the wall. These are not the women, and the men as well, who will tolerate their double speak and hypocrisy. They want action, gender justice, safe passage through our streets… and all this quickly. They are in no mood to wait. The anger in the eyes of the young girls said it all.

At another level, this is also a wake up call for all of us… not only to men but also women who indulge in gross hypocrisy and double standards when it comes to raising sons and daughters. To women who allow the slaughtering of the female foetus in the womb, to those who demand a line of sons, and those who trigger and cheer dowry deaths. And much more to women who remain mute spectators when they know only too well how the men in the family – husbands, fathers, uncles, brothers- continue to repeatedly molest or rape young girls/women in the comfort of their dark and dreary homes.

The face of these protests will need to change. By all means, let’s demand a safe environment for women on our streets, speedy justice for crimes against women. But that’s only a small part of the gender discrimination story. We’ll have to discard our outrageously hypocritical views on crap such as gaurav and izzat and speak up against the violence girls and women suffer within the sacred space that is called the home. Give the girl child a secure home first, with equal opportunities. The rest will follow.

Rasheeda.bhagat@thehindu.co.in

(This article was published on December 29, 2012)
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