The struggle will be long

Somehow, the issue refuses to go away. The trial itself will take its own course; even in such a well-publicised case, the law must take its course if we are to get justice. But the larger rebellion which the episode has set off is continuing to expose the fissures within modern Indian society. And yet, this is the most healthy development because, for once, we can see how deep the malaise is.

The doyens who believe they guard Hindu orthodoxy and the honour of Bharat have been perhaps the most transparent in exposing what patriarchy really thinks. Asaram Bapu is a certified holy man and his picturing of what happens in a rape situation is obscene in its ignorance. A woman only has to call her assailants brothers and they will immediately treat her as a sister and if not, it is her fault. Most rapes, after all, occur within the family. The poor man does not live in reality.

Nor does Mohan Bhagwat if he believes that Bharat has fewer rapes than India. The notion that a bharatiya nari should stay at home and devote herself to the well being of her husband is a view that only a brahmachari can hold. For one thing not all women are married. Outside a few uppercaste middle-class families, women work, both at home and outside—in fields and factories and construction sites. Indeed, India has too few women in the labour force; only 29 per cent compared to China's 70 per cent. We waste a lot of human potential thereby.

Then there are the people who fall back on the epics and talk about lakshman rekha, yet another device to shift the blame on the woman for being raped. Within the Ramayana, the wanton disfiguring of Shurpanakha by Rama and Lakshman is a horrible episode. This was done for no offence on her part but as a sort of joke by the two brothers, one of whom is a maryada purushottam. Sita, abandoned as a child by her parents and later twice by her husband, commits suicide in despair.

... contd.

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