It is extremely worrying that violence against women (particularly sexual violence) continues to increase and that too in drastically cruel forms. What is more, this has happened despite there being an increasing uproar in society, including demands for much more stringent punishment and acceptance of the same by governments. Several steps to improve public safety have also been taken.It is time now to realise the inadequacy of these steps and to concentrate on more basic issues which will create conducive conditions for significant and stable reduction in violence against women.
We propose a five-point agenda for countering the culture of violence against women –
i)Wide-ranging efforts to reduce the criminalisation of society at various levels. In a society in which street-level life is increasingly dominated by goons and where a large number of aimless, jobless youths are increasingly finding outlets in crime, sexual violence is likely to increase. Similarly a society in which higher echelons of politics, power-centres, even educational and so-called spiritual institutions are being taken one by criminalised elements, sexual violence is likely to increase. Hence it is very important to check overall criminalisation of society at various levels.
ii) More specifically it is important to check the consumption of alcohol and other intoxicants, Studies all over the world record that an alarmingly high number of crimes against women take place under the influence of alcohol. In our country, even a cursory look at various recent acts of sexual violence would reveal the high number of crimes committed under the influence of alcohol. Yet most governments have supported the spread of liquor vends even in remote villages. A broad-based sustained policy to reduce consumption of alcohol and other intoxicants should be prepared and implemented sincerely.
iii) The fast spread of pornography, particularly violent porn and rape porn is also related to the increase in sexual violence, particularly more cruel form of violence. This too has been confirmed by several studies as well as anecdotal evidence. Hence steps to check fast spread of porn with special emphasis on certain types of violent porn are needed. Well-informed balanced discourse at various levels of society on this issue is needed as also further careful research on emerging trends.
iv) There is need for increasing gender sensitivity and ethics at various levels in society on continuing basis, This effort will be more successful if it is not isolated but taken up as a part of a wider campaign of social sensitivity and ethics. This entire effort should be in tune with local socio-cultural conditions.
v) We are passing through times of extremely fast social change, but we are ignoring steps which are needed to carefully handle this tremendous pace of many-sided social change. Our concern has been more with economic and political change. It is time to correct this imbalance so that fast-emerging distortions of indiscriminate social change can be handled. Instead of taking the good elements of both traditional and modern society, at times we find a mix of the worst elements of tradition and modernity. For example, when you mix views of male-dominance with instant gratification trends, then you get a dangerous mixture which can lead to a big increase in sexual violence.
If such a program based on basic issues is prepared with care and taken forward with dedication, then this will definitely lead to a significant as well as stable reduction in all crimes and violence against women, including sexual crimes and violence.
Bharat Dogra is a freelance journalist who has been involved with several social movements and initiatives. His recent book on survival issues and people’s response titled Planet in Peril has been published by Vitasta, Delhi.