Saturday, December 29, 2012

Not politically galvanized…

As a woman I am devastated that in this age when women are working harder to achieve the unachievable, in areas of education, sports, politics, service sectors, science and technology, they also face routine abuse both mentally and physically. Today a 23-year old medical student lost her life after a thirteen-day battle against physical injuries inflicted on her. She was a girl like any girl next door, who woke up one fine morning, left home to watch a movie, but sadly never returned. She wanted to live like any twenty-three year old youth with aspirations to make it big…someone who wanted to live an exciting life ahead. But her battered body asked her to give-up her fight to live. She was called a gang-rape victim in death. She was severely beaten, gang-raped and thrown out of a moving bus.  Even wild animals are so well-behaved. What has happened to sections of society in my India? How can they commit such insensitive inhumane crimes? 

If I was in India today, perhaps I would also join thousands of people in India who have come out to express their grief for the girl who was sexually assaulted to death. This is not the first time that a girl has been raped in India. These heinous crimes on women happen almost every single day across India. Then, what is different in this crime that has galvanized middle-class citizens across the length and breadth of India, especially the youth, to come out in solidarity to grieve over the death of a braveheart? Let me say it loud and clearly, it is the hope for change. 

Safety of women is an issue all across the world. Sexual assaults happen all across the globe. Every nation has laws to punish the guilty who commit such heinous crimes, and so does India. The Indian Penal Code (IPC) already has strict punishments for rapists, but in spite of having a strong comprehensive code that covers all substantive aspects of criminal law, the time until the guilty are punished is delayed, and justice delayed is justice denied. 

The justice delivery system in India is in bad shape. 30 million cases are still pending in various courts and it takes an average time span of 15 years to get the dispute resolved through court system. This is what is different in India's judiciary from the rest of the developed world. People who commit such heinous crimes are not afraid anymore. In these thirteen days that this girl has been battling in different hospitals at New Delhi and Singapore, none of the leaders gave any assurances to fast-track the case. There was no action plan chalked out by our leaders. Worst, none of them came out to speak to the outraged crowds. It doesn’t take much to speak to people who have been hurt…all it takes is a conscience! 

Apart from this, our society needs to grow up with these changing times. A woman is no longer just a homemaker 24x7, rather she is a career-oriented woman with loads of aspirations. She wants to make it big in today's world. Hence society needs to grow up to this very fact. Women are no longer just mothers, daughters, wives, or sisters...they are independent women of today. And to support their aspirations, the executive, legislative, judiciary, you and me, need to support her by assuring her safety at any time of the day. More so, equal status for women should begin at home. Moms and Dads should instill an equal status for a child whether boy or a girl. 

Even today rape survivors are stigmatized by society. These heinous crimes have unfortunately also driven rape victims to suicide in shame. It is good to see that this one braveheart girl has changed this status-quo. Hope, we will have many women coming out openly to speak about the injustice and atrocities done to them. Media is the reflection of society and not the other way around. Media violence equally poses a threat to public health in as much as it leads to an increase in real-world violence and aggression. I am ashamed at this shame. We talk big about our booming economy, make significant contribution at world economic forums, but, we can’t protect our women.

Whenever I emphasize on the pressing need for women empowerment and her representation in the government, institutions, and corporate world, I am labeled as a radical feminist. So be it. When I talk about the need to do more for women in a predominantly patriarchal society, I don’t mean giving her extra privileges or honor of the quota system at all. It is about giving equal status to women, by assuring her of safety and justice at all times. 

A thumbs up to women who came out in large numbers to grieve over the condition of the girl and demand change, but more so, I salute the men folks who joined the crowds to speak in solidarity for women. Salutations!

Post script
Anna Hazare steered the non-violent movement in India in demand for a strong Lokpal Bill. The Bill may have not been employed, but Hazare has been instrumental in awakening the people of India, especially the youth, to come out on the streets and speak up for their rights.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

The innocent lives lost

The world is battered and ailing with terrorism of a different kind. The terrorism of gun shooting incidents, in which, an individual who has been living a normal life like one of us suddenly comes out on a mass shooting rampage killing people randomly is hard to fathom? Today public areas, educational institutes, and places of worship have become places that we fear going to. What if? Is the question we ask ourselves? What if, someone comes on a rampage while we are enjoying a film? What if someone puts the gun to our head while we are attentively sitting in a class and taking down notes? What if someone creates a chaos while we are praying at a temple or a church? What if….and my list goes on?
 
I’m not a mother, but I am a daughter, a grand-daughter, and a sister of my parents, my grand-parents and my siblings, and I exactly know how it feels to lose a loved one. Even more, it pains, when victims of these gruesome mass shootings are six and seven year olds who don’t understand why someone out there is hurting them. These crazy routine incomprehensible mass shootings are only increasing by the day, be it the April 1999 incident when two heavily-armed teenagers went on a rampage at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado, killing 13 students and staff, or the July 2011 incident when a gunman blew up a government building in Oslo and then opened fire at a youth summer camp of Norway's ruling political party, on the holiday island of Utoeya, killing 77 people.
 
The worst gun shooting recorded in history is the one that happened the day-before-yesterday which took the lives of babies at the Sandy Hook elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut. These babies have gone straight to heaven still not knowing why their lives have been cut short on earth. This horrific thing that happened has shattered their parents for life. They say wounds heal over time, but I don’t think these deep wounds will ever heal. The scars will always remain and their parents will never know why their babies were taken away from them forever.  Thank God for God, parents can give their pain to that someone above us and maybe, maybe make them feel better. God is our best counselor in moments like these. An emotional President Barack Obama so rightly said that these are babies had their whole lives ahead of them…birthdays, graduations, careers, weddings, and kids of their own. 
 
These reoccurring heinous crimes have raised the most controversial gun control laws and policy around the world yet again. It has raised the intense debate with proponents generally arguing the dangers of widespread gun ownership, and opponents generally arguing individual rights of self-protection as well as individual liberties. Even in the Connecticut heinous crime, many debated the need for urgent gun control in America, while many opponents argued that had the school kept guns for self-defense there wouldn't have been so many deaths at the elementary school in Sandy Hook at Newtown. In the past, when similar incidents occurred, promises to make changes to the policy were made, but then it was soon forgotten with other agenda's taking center stage.
 
This time, President Barack Obama himself has said that meaningful actions will be taken to prevent reoccurrences of such incidents. People in the United States have admitted that the society is becoming violent and people are getting distanced from each other. We cannot change people’s mental state of mind, we can provide them help by making help available to them, but yes America can do one thing and that is reform its gun laws for now.  Many experts have said that they completely support the Constitution but there is need that it evolves over the right to bear arms. They say that a driver's license cannot allow anyone to legally buy a gun. In the month of November itself 2 million guns were bought by Americans, of which many of them were bought on Black Friday.
 
While the general public is divided by being for and against gun control, the politicians too avoid bringing up the issue of gun control for fear of rejection by the public, just in case the future trend becomes such that most people’s opinions are opposite the politicians’. Hence, once again, the politicians are caught up in the spiral of silence where they have to succumb to present or future trend of public opinion.
 
Furthermore, we cannot even ignore the relationship between media violence and real-world violence and aggression. Violence is portrayed almost every single day through television, video games, movies, music, toys and other media. Studies show that people – children and adults – who watch a lot of television behave more aggressively. Not only does it make them aggressive, but they tend to use violence and aggression as a way of solving conflicts they encounter in life. Video games are clearly capable of producing an increase in aggression and violence in the short term. It has also been found that the gunner in the Connecticut incident was a videogame addict. 
 
I respect the Constitution of the United States. It is the beauty of this Constitution that gives me the right to state my opinion about the umpteen number of senseless gun shooting incidents that are happening day after day. I am not an American and I certainly have no right to demand reforms. I understand that very fact. But since I am currently living in the United States and as a human being with a conscience, I also know that I am terrified about the way innocent lives are lost for no reason at all. Six and seven year olds becoming victims of such gruesome murder is incomprehensible. I am horrified. I still can’t believe it.
 
My heart goes out to families who have lost their babies in the Newtown incident. All I can do is pray for you and your family. God Bless!