The heinous violation of the human body and dignity that was perpetrated on a young woman in Hathras, Uttar Pradesh, has aroused public sentiments deeply. A controversy, however, has broken out regarding this incident as the forensic investigation has yet not confirmed if there was a rape committed. Whatever be the truth, it is a bitter reality that the cases of rape in the country have been on the rise since the last one and a half decade or so.
Considering that the crime of rape is a socio-cultural phenomenon, a few questions pertaining to the causes for the increasing incidence of rape arise. Also arises the importance of Value-based education, for nipping the crime in the bud itself.
Violence on women, particularly that which culminates in rape, is primarily associated with the erosion of social, psychological and cultural values, which today, the entire country is suffering from. From Uttar Pradesh to Rajasthan, Bengal, Jharkhand, Bihar, Punjab, Haryana, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and almost all parts of the country, incidents of rape or sexual harassment are reported. These incidents are not limited to just one region or class but cuts across all sections of society irrespective of caste, class and nationality. However, it cannot be denied that due to their weaker economic and social status, women of lower classes or castes are in a more vulnerable position. In order to build a proper perspective to this disturbing issue and its causes, it would be pertinent to understand the cultural-sociology and social-psychology behind these incidents.
According to social-psychologists, the foremost provocateur for crimes against women is the patriarchal mode of thinking, which objectifies women as inferior and views her as a commodity. This is the reason why in a rivalry, many a time, women are targeted.
According to sociologists, social disintegration and a gradual decline in community feeling is another big factor promoting this kind of depravity. There was a time when in our society the neighborhood was like an extended family, with whom we shared our happiness and sorrows. However, the modern way of life entrenched in materialism, a product of liberalization and uncontrolled urbanization has given in to loneliness, extreme individualism and a continuous rat-race. These have weakened the community spirit, replacing it with a potential minefield that threatens to rip apart the very foundations of the social system, which was once upon a time the pride of the nation. The reduced social pressure or sanction has increased bestiality.
Social disintegration and a gradual decline in community feeling is another big factor promoting this kind of depravity. There was a time when in our society the neighborhood was like an extended family, with whom we shared our happiness and sorrows
The phenomenal rise of technology has further escalated the problem inadvertently. It has birthed and promoted a new life style whereby the child and youth, in place of playing physical games and sports, which fostered the team spirit and bonding, are gradually being confined to TV, video games etc. which lead to isolation and rising individualism. Besides this, provocative advertisements, from that of chocolates, bikes to even tractors, objectifies woman and they are represented as a sexual object. Such a change in the methods of marketing goods and change in lifestyle plants thoughts in minds suggesting new ideas of what is permissible.
The last nail in the coffin of values and ethics is driven by the internet and social media. Easy availability of pornography and sexually inspired content, especially on social media, are perverting the immature mind. It is not without reason that the rape victims are not just young women now, but a large number of minor girls, many a time even the girl child of 2 to 10 years. Old women are also not spared. It was a dark day for Delhi when an 86 years-old woman was raped just few days ago.
In curbing these incidents, the law machinery; police-administration, judiciary or law have a crucial role to play. However, they have their limitations. There have been times though when the attitude of the Indian police has been very insensitive. On the other side, the judicial process is also wavering. The stringent law that came in 2013 after the Nirbhaya incident, has also not proved very effective in dealing with crimes against women and the girl child. We cannot, however, look for solace in the fact that even developed countries like the US, Canada, Sweden and the UK, despite having a relatively more sensitive police, stringent laws and a quick judicial process, have not been able to control such crimes against women, and count among the top counties having the highest incidence of rapes; that according to a report, 83 percent of girls aged 12 -16, in the US have been sexually assaulted in some form.
The adverse effect of social media, the internet and changes in lifestyle can also be contained with the promotion of physical sports augmenting physical and mental health, inculcating the team spirit and a feeling of tolerance and sensitivity towards others.
Changes in the mind-set of people is the soundest solution to prevent such crimes against women. Value-based education is the right step towards such a change. There is a growing need to review the academic and extra-academic curricula for incorporating lessons, texts and narratives, reinforcing the positive essence of Indian tradition like- “Yatra naryastu pujyante ramante tatra devatah (यत्र नार्यस्तु पूज्यन्ते रमन्ते तत्र देवता:)”- meaning the deity resides where women are worshipped, or the message of ‘Matrivat pardareshu (मातृवत् परदारेष)’ meaning women in general are like mothers.
There was a time when value-based education and moral science, an effort towards character-building, had been an integral part of the educational curriculum, which, unfortunately, got marginalized under western influence or west-influenced academicians. There is once again a growing need to sensitize young minds towards women, instilling in them noble emotions and a sense of respect for them. Same should be applied in context of various extra-curricular activities too, such as debates or other cultural programs. NCERT, currently, is deliberating upon the new 'National Curriculum Framework'. These points must be included while formulating curriculum and creating textbooks. One hopes that the NCERT will not let this opportunity go waste, as today it is supported by a government which firmly believes in value-education.
In the current age of internet and globalization, it is difficult for children and youth to escape from its negative influences. But these effects can definitely be reduced with serious academic discussions, and engaging young minds sooner than later, on how to mitigate these side effects. An effective method would be to develop such apps or online games which are value oriented and infuse sense of respect for women.
The adverse effect of social media, the internet and changes in lifestyle can also be contained with the promotion of physical sports augmenting physical and mental health, inculcating the team spirit and a feeling of tolerance and sensitivity towards others. A welcome change has been brought about through the adequate emphasis laid on sports in the New Education Policy.
Besides, Value-education is very much needed in academic programmes related to media and advertising also. There is a need for courses to be designed and implemented for marketing professionals that uphold women dignity, and not present them as an aphrodisiac and consumption item, while making an advertisement. Lessons, projects and practicals on these lines should be a part and parcel of these courses.
Last but not the least, politicians also need to be educated and sensitised regarding their role towards the society as crimes against women are on the rise all over the country. Instead of solving the problem, politics of selectivity, and for selfish interest, is only misleading the people. In such a situation, however, the public teaches them the right lesson.
It is time now that all come and work together and work sincerely towards a beautiful, new dawn.
(Niranjan Kumar is a Professor in the Department of Hindi, University of Delhi; He has taught earlier in various US universities)