Monday, April 22, 2013

A case for Brothels

Good societies are built on cornerstones of equality, fraternity, justice and transparency. The spate of rapes that have made the headlines in Haryana are but the tip of iceberg as over 80% of rapes go unreported. What’s worse than the rape itself is the attitude of the elders who constitute the khap panchayats, and who go on to justify it by offering solution in form of an early marriage for girls. The solution offered by khap is indicator of the medieval mindset and gross inequality that’s part of the local culture. The rural society it seems justifies the act by viewing it as purely sexual act. This couldn’t be further from the truth, as one hears of gang rapes where the victim is filmed by the perpetrators and videos made public to shame her and announce their own ‘conquest’. The depravity of the act while is mind boggling does make an interesting case study to discover all that is wrong with the Indian culture. One might argue that these are extreme cases, which occur in the wild west of Haryana. But only from a study of an extreme situation can the tenor of human societal behaviour be apparent. An article about a less attention grabbing problem like sexual harassment at workplace, eve-teasing, male bias within families do not anymore rankle the nerves of thick skinned animals that we have come to become. The contemporary Indian culture is a by-product of centuries old customs tempered by marauding Muslim armies, over 200 years of British rule, misinterpreted religious diktats, western influence from mass-media and last but not the least a glossy bollywood selectively reflecting caricatured reality for mass consumption. This potpourri has unfortunately resulted in a set of values that are diametrically opposite of what the original Hindu culture advocated. While the culture continues to call a woman, ‘ghar ki izzat’, the connotations that it has for the society are not of respect but vulnerability. ‘Respect’ it seems is for a woman to lose and a man to snatch away. It’s a heavily loaded dice in favour of the man in the equation with the ‘society’- a collection of you and me, the biggest culprit. Let me hark back on the four corner stones laid out at the beginning. Equality is clearly ruled out as social equality is unlikely to take root until women stand up financially to their male counterparts in an atmosphere that’s hostile for her. Fraternity is ruled out to a large extent as well, as the ingrained biases are so deep that one doesn’t even stand up for womenfolk of their own families in some cases- The honour killings are a point in case. Justice is and will remain a chimera in our highly populated country, a fact often used to their advantage by the perpetrators. The last attribute, Transparency is all our dealings is something that can be gradually built upon with advancements in telecommunication, social media and availability of forums unheard of in an earlier time. A closed society finds it very difficult to open up as acceptance from ‘others’ is primary consideration in any decision. It’s the views of ‘others’ that lead to one live in constant fear. The orthodoxy that we pride ourselves with is unfortunately a result of this sheepish living. In modern times, we have aped the west in convenient ways with no focus on the personal freedom that the western culture affords. So on the surface of it, we have begun dressing and eating western and even adopted the language they speak as our primary mode of communication but the collective soul of the nation hasn’t been able to shed the primacy of our medieval ways. At any other time in recent past, a moot point as the one which I am making would have led to collective finger pointing, allegations of religious sacrilege, whipped hysteria but not today as this is only a corollary of what the billion strong nation readily accepts as its headline without batting an eyelid. My point is of legalising sex trade. This move would protect the thousands of women who already are in this business, from the middlemen and corrupt policemen. It will also counter the skewed justification, such as “early marriage to protect libidinous youth from raping girls” that the elders and khap panchayats of Haryana offer as solution. It’ll also possibly prevent our left brains from lulling our conscience to such grisly news. ©

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