It’s the twenty first century and we are living in a world which is modernizing every day. Infact it is more like a global village nowadays when no distance seems too far when it comes to connecting to people living in different corners of the globe. And India especially has witnessed a lot of change lately in the way people think and behave. People are now aware of their rights and conscious of their duties, maybe not completely but at least much more than earlier. The aftermath of December 16 mishap was quite a proof of the fact that the masses and especially the youth is not ready to settle with anything less than equality and justice. But in this hue and cry for demanding rights and privileges from the government, courts and the police workforce, let us take a minute to listen to the voices within. Isn’t it highly paradoxical that on one hand we are demanding egalitarianism while on the other hand are indulging in petty acts of discrimination based on very sensitive issues as in a person’s skin color, gender etc. Judging people and treating them unfairly by attaching stereotypical limitations to their identity is something that most of us consciously or unconsciously do. Its not a baseless allegation. A minute of self-interrogation will be all it will take to prove the truth of the fact.
Discrimination against women is a well-known reality of the society. No matter the progress and development, still it happens that the women are denied even the most basic of all rights. Right from the moment a girl is conceived by her mother, efforts are made to slay the innocent life. Female foeticide and infanticide are still a reality in many parts of the country, as horrifying it may seem. If the girl escapes these blows somehow, greater evils are committed against her life and happiness. As she grows a bit older and attains the age of nine or ten, meant to attend school, she is married off to a person who may be a lot older to her and sent away from her home. The social evil of child marriage gives birth to another horrible crime. The little girl child is sexually abused by the people who are supposed to be her guardians. This sexual abuse in the childhood leaves scars on her body as well as her mind that are too difficult to heal. If somehow, she even escapes the trap of marriage, in many cases she is sold off by her family for a meagre sum of money. Treated nothing more than an object to be used and thrown away, she gets trapped in the clutches of cruel traffickers who dump her in the hellish world of forced labor and prostitution. In better circumstances, if she grows up in her family without being married or sold off, it is rare to escape the discrimination prevalent at her home, between her and the male children of the family. Still somehow, she struggles and manages to study, she has to step out of the house to earn a place for herself. At this juncture it can be imagined well that when the walls and boundaries of her home did not comfort her, how dangerous the outer world can be. She steps out to walk across the street and becomes a victim of eve- teasing and molestation. Moving further down the road the risks of violence increase too. Savage men with inflated egos and patriarchal mindsets find it difficult to swallow down their throats her success and achievements. They trample her body and violate her in unimaginable ways. And sometimes, these acts of brutality (Rape and sexual harassment) are just an outgrowth of lecherous minds who mistreat her merely to satiate their lust. If it so happens that she escapes such ordeals too and is even married at a proper age, it does not mean that the challenges are over. The house where she goes to live after marriage becomes her grave when the people she devotes herself to, don’t hesitate even once before burning her alive or inflicting brutal tortures on her for money (dowry death). If she, by some chance or due to some reason does not become a victim of dowry offences it is not guaranteed that she will escape the agony of domestic violence. This being the face of our society and we still expect the women to stay quiet for the false pride of their family members. Why is it that we blame the girl and overlook the faults of the guilty? Is it because we can’t think beyond the stereotype that we have assigned to the ladies. The stereotype that women are meek and docile and no matter what the situation they must obey their husbands, their family. The belief that women are nothing but a burden on the family is both the cause and consequence of the social evil of dowry. And its repulsive to even think that girls who wear western clothes and go to pubs with their male friends are easy or unchaste. But it doesn’t end here. Discrimination on the basis of skin color too is quite a disease plaguing the society.
And the majority of victims here too are the girls. It is deeply tragic that the fairer sex is expected to be fair in the literal sense too. Maybe its nothing but hypocrisy that people who are ready to participate in candle light marches to demand justice for a girl killed in a brutal assault don’t even rethink when they reject a girl for marriage just because she has a dusky complexion. Now among all this, it is also true that the scene is changing. We have surely come a long way down the road to progress and empowerment but still there is further to go. Time has changed and changed a lot. Victims are refusing to stay as victims and are coming out of their shells to speak up about the injustice meted out to them. But till the evils like child labor, racial and gender discrimination, dowry deaths, slavery, bonded labor etc. are the faces of reality, it is evident that the race is yet not over. But what needs to be understood is that the burden of creation of an egalitarian society, rests not only on the shoulders of law makers or law enforcers but also on the masses. What needs to be done is that the orthodox beliefs, like women are inferior to men or women need to be subdued by men etc. must be renounced at all costs. Sensitization of the masses is the basic step towards the fulfillment of this goal and work in this regard has to begin from the confines of each and every house of the country. Everybody needs to do their bit, no matter how insignificant the change may seem. And keeping in mind the clichéd saying that little drops of water make the mighty ocean, let us contribute in our own ways. And breaking stereotypes can be a great beginning. So let us start by changing our thoughts and beliefs which will change actions and that ultimately will lead to a brighter future.