The statements said during a BBC interview by one of the rape convicts in Nirbahaya case have drawn huge criticism on social media. While the statements indeed are outrageous, it is important to ponder over as to what is that which makes him so confident about his stand even when he has been awarded with a death sentence? Will it be right to say that the lack of formal education and his lower socio economic background are responsible for such mindset?
The lawyer who is defending him is not uneducated, but harbours similar opinions with respect to the conduct of the women in society. Likewise, many people in society tacitly hold women responsible for all such atrocious crimes committed against them.
Article 14 confers equal rights upon all women of this country, laws like Domestic Violence Act and Dowry Prohibition Act have been enacted to provide protection to the so called weaker section of the society. But, do these legal measures really empower a woman?
All national dailies are quoting these days that every twenty minutes, a woman is raped in India. There are various causes for rape and most of the times, the convicts are known to the victim; they can be psychopaths like pedophiles who need counselling, some do it to take revenge from females who have dared to decline their proposals, or various such reasons which might have hurt a male’s sentiments in some way or the other.
But in this case, there is one resonating idea which has been cited by the convict and his supporters as the justification for his act and that is, the treatment based on attribution of character to some women who have shown the audacity to transgress the limits set by our ‘Indian culture’.
Culture is nothing but the shared beliefs, customs, norms and learning which are passed from one generation to another, and socialization by family is one of the important ways to realize it. Our value system provides us with certain guideline regarding our conduct in society. Whoever tries to transgress these cultural norms is considered as a misfit.
Women in India, today, are trying to carve out some space outside their traditional roles in the society. They want to get education and become financially independent. They do not want to be guided by those societal norms, which often consider them lesser to their male counterparts, and expect them to live a shackled life, or to keep others’ happy without considering their own wishes and desires.
The value system provides a different set of guidelines for an ideal woman. Satirically, an ideal woman is tolerant, works inside four walls of her house, brings dowry, raises her children and preferably produces a male child, and most importantly dresses properly, because the males outside have not been guided by the value system to control their instinct, and they never ever harbour wrong feelings for any woman who actually live by these ideals and conform to the social norms.
And thus, women are held responsible for going against the societal norms, the predefined roles and the customs they are supposed to abide by, which has made the men duty-bound to teach such women a lesson.
Convict is not showing any remorse for his act because this is how he has been socialized by his surrounding. It does not imply that men in this country are socialized to commit such heinous acts, but the thinking that only women are responsible for provoking males in such cases is applicable to most of the people in our society irrespective of the gender and the level of their education. Some approve it explicitly and some tacitly. The culture has such profound effect on the minds of the people that no formal education or legal measure can force them to change the way they ascribe the roles to the women.
Things would change only when the tools of socialization change. A person is trained by his family to become a socially fit individual. Steps at macro level will not bear any fruit unless there is a change in the ways of socialization at family level. But to bring about such change, the family system itself requires to accept the change first, which is difficult as every system on this earth likes to be in a state of inertia.
Cultural change is a very gradual process, and abrupt changes lead to the repercussion which Indian society is facing today; the change accepted by some sections of the society has not been accepted by the other sections which has led to the cultural clashes. The young people who came on roads of the national capital for Nirbhaya were seen as the change agents, however, it is difficult to predict this kind of change at pan India level.