Mousumi K Sachdeva
You are never born weak
But as the most mighty and dynamic
Not to be conquered
You are born to conquer.
Women since the ancient days in India have proved their impregnable strength and power standing against the impracticable societal norms without having any idea of the so called term ‘feminism’. It was, nor is anything about feminism, but the realization of self-respect which every woman must carry. Yet, today in the twenty first century, the complete freedom to voice against the wrong and stand for self-respect seems to have been hidden under a gloomy veil.
If we turn the pages of ancient India, we find exceptional women who tried to bring in a difference to the society and thus marked the beginning of women empowerment. Now, what is this women empowerment? Is it just getting hold of few degrees and a well-earned job? It is beyond and above that. It is the realization of an identity with self-respect- an independent being having an unrepressed voice.
Razia Sultan, daughter of Sultan Iltutmish was the first and only female monarch who ruled Delhi Sultanate, thus showing the enormous strength a woman can possess. She was a brave fighter and a just leader who equally encouraged the preservation of Hindu Cultures. When the whole country today is seen to waste their valuable time in discussing the building of a temple or mosque and spreading hatred in the name of religion, Razia Sultan long time back had established the perfect example of unity, peace and happiness.
Draupadi, if at all the stories of Mahabharata were real, stood as the first feminist of Indian Mythology. The requisite of women power for a successful kingdom and a peaceful earth was best proved by her when she had determined to walk with her own choice. Even though she was born to a father who wanted a son, nothing could shatter her courage and desire to live her life by her own choice.
Savitri Phule, the first female Indian Teacher could gather all nerves to voice against the prejudices during the British Rule. She could pluck her courage to stand against the societal norms and thus became the first woman in the History of India to lit her husband’s pyre. And, today in the post-modern state, women still are seen to be imprisoned by impractical man made social rules.
Do we really need to read about Rani Lakshmibai today when her acts of bravery have become the songs in every child’s lips? Every single mother should know her strength and capabilities to face the world without being overpowered by the patriarchal societal norms. Justice Anna Chandy, the barrister had endorsed women’s rights and is known as the first generation feminist. Captain Prem Mathur who was rejected by eight private airlines successfully won her space as the first woman pilot in the history of India. She was asked if she would be able to sleep in close quarters with men, and she boldly said, “You will not regret hiring me.” Such is the power of women! The list goes on with the open and brave women who dared to dream, desire and determine to stand bold in the society proving their capabilities no less than men.
Women remain the same, whereas today our society has become more educated, enlightened and digitally smart. Yet, our societies are not ready to accept the freedom of women and their voice. Women still are taken as weak victims and a subject for sympathy by many. Their open voices speaking the truth are regarded as shame and against the societal norms. Their views and voices are still kept hidden behind a dark curtain thus restraining the women to come out and fight for their own rights and safety. Women have been subjected to harassments at every sector, irrespective of age, caste, religion, educated or uneducated by men, yet the shame rests on the face of the female. Their voices are buried; humiliations are embraced silently torturing the mental status and finally they are found to kill their inner self by wordlessly strangulating their emotions and self-respect. Why don’t they find words to protest, to fight, to speak up and get mental justice? Why do they miserably end their lives with the pain and remorse quietly piercing the soul? Why do they feel helpless? Who are to be blamed here?
If we deeply delve into the recent rise of the #MeToo Movement, we see a very sad state of the past where women were compelled to dumb their voices against the sexual harassment they suffered. Fear of losing a job, fear of being outcast by the society, fear of family, fear of shame and embarrassments, lack of just people in the leading chairs and the protectors of law and order and most importantly lack of knowledge someway or somehow compel women to embrace silence and live with the acceptance of a shattered inner self. However, will silence lead to justice? Thanks to the movement which could motivate women to open up and fight for themselves thus taking the steps to protect their inner self and of course their self-respect. Yet how many girls/women could dare to be a part of this movement? Fear and shame still rule the minds to publicly expose the culprits.
We must emphasis on a very important reason behind the restriction of women’s voices against the wrong and that is lack of knowledge. Many are of the view that only a rape case is considered to be a case of sexual harassment, whereas sexual harassment doesn’t stay limited to sexual assaults (rapes) or physical molestation.
Section 354A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) deals with offences related to sexual harassment, which includes physical contact, unwelcome and explicit sexual overtures, demand or request for sexual favours, showing pornography to a woman against her will and making sexually coloured remarks. The National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) categorises ‘insult to modesty of women’ under section 509 of the IPC. This includes workplace harassment. The offence could be uttering a word or sound, making a gesture or committing an act intended to insult a woman.
Females suffer harassments in many ways and at different places and different situations. Either they do not think it to be serious and ignore some harassment, or they find none to state their plight due to lack of information and knowledge. The statistics show that every year the rise of harassment in India is increasing, yet only two cases are reported every day. What stops the complaints against the assaulters? Sexual abuse and harassments stay as stigmas and women embrace mental trauma than to report against them.
Sexual abuse may be faced at homes, schools, work place, playgrounds and even on social media sites. The more we try to accept silence hiding the pain in fear of social stigmas, the more do we give opportunities to the sick minds to continue their detestable actions. Merely ignoring the sexual overtures and blocking them on social sites would never help anyone to seek justice and ensure protection of girls/women. Women need to be bold enough to expose such faces so that they do not get the encouragement to continue doing the same with some other female. Silence protects the culprits and affects the inner peace of the victim. The insults never die without justice and to win justice, women need to come out of the doors of societal stigmas. The nation has witnessed many women ending their lives by committing suicide to be free from the insults they faced through molestations and harassments. Ending a life unnaturally again is never a solution to find peace and justice. The inner peace can be attained only when the felons would be severely punished and a lesson would be thrown to such sick minds before they think of taking such odious steps again.
Such profiles must be reported to cyber cells, if within an organization approach the Internal Complaints Committee established under Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act (the SH Act), 2013 with a written complaint, lodge a complaint at the nearest police station, approach Local Complaints Committee and further take ahead for punishments with the help of media. The barbaric incidents can only be stopped with increasing awareness and the bold voices of women. Know the Law, know the rules, follow practical approaches, and be fearless as women must learn to fight for their own safety and identity rather than waiting for Gods to punish them in the hell. Let your child know what sexual abuses and harassments are, teach them to speak out shedding all fear and shame and never ignore the slightest complaint uttered ever by your child.
It’s high time we stop impugning the dresses of women, their openness, their freedom to work and party and their outlooks of life. It’s high time we break our silence and put our bold steps ahead to fight, to protest, to secure the self-respect of women as an individual and equally the same as men living in a society. Stop letting your voices to get supressed by the tyrant of power; tyrannical power will come to an end only with the strong and fearless voices of women. Let us stop such sick minds to open freely and enjoy intolerable pleasures. Learn to say NO and do not wait for #MeToo campaigns to rise years after you have suffered for long, rather act immediately to clean the dirt of our nation and set an example of women empowerment.
Mousumi K Sachdeva