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ARE WOMEN SAFE IN INDIA? ARE STRINGENT LAWS ENOUGH TO CURB THE SEXUAL OVERDRIVE?

The condition of women in India has always been a matter of grave concern. Since the past several centuries, the women of India were never given equal status and opportunities as compared to that of their male counterparts. The patriarchal nature of Indian society, which even though gives respect to women as they are our mothers and sisters, has greatly hampered both the independence as well as the safety of women.

One of the main reasons of violence against women is the mentality which deems women inferior of men and merely limits their importance to the maintenance of the household, the upbringing of children and pleasing their husbands and serving other members of the family.

Even in today's times of modernization of society, many working women are still subjected to immense pressure to shoulder the dual responsibility of a housewife and a working woman simultaneously with little or no help from their husbands.

It is the same mentality which, some generations ago, used to think of women as mere objects of attaining sexual pleasure and a servant of the husband, who was considered "parameshwar" which literally translates to "supreme God".

Times have changed but the mentality still prevails in the mindsets of several narrow minded Indians.

The recent incident in which a 23 year old paramedical student was gang-raped by 6 men inside a moving bus near a posh Delhi locality and thrown off the bus naked after herself and her male friend were beaten and assaulted with an iron rod has undoubtedly shocked the nation to its core.

This was reflected in the massive protests that followed the incident, demanding justice for the victim, who unfortunately succumbed to the damage caused by her body by the assault (a major part of her intestines had to be removed due to the spread of gangrenous infection) in a hospital in Singapore.

Although it was a most heinous case of cruelty, it is ironical to note that such incidents are not actually rare in our country. There are several such cases happening everyday where females (from infants to old ladies, from upper middle class women in metro cities to dalit women in villages….the list can be endless) are subjected to horrendous sexual torture by lustful men who are, in most cases, known to the victims. One cannot generalize the victims or those guilty of sexual crimes in India; they come from all strata of society and from every part of India and belong to all the age groups.

Making stringent laws is necessary to ensure that the guilty in such cases get the punishment that they deserve and don't walk freely due to the weak provisions or loopholes of the existing laws. But asserting that stringent laws will be able to curb male sexual overdrive in India cannot be justified.

Unlike the cases of sexual molestation registered in police stations, there is a large portion of women in India who are subjected to rape and other forms of sexual assault on a daily basis and still their cases go unnoticed.

These women are the unfortunate wives who have to indulge in sexual intercourse with their husbands even if they don't want to (non-consensual sex is nothing but rape). They don't actually have a say in front of their husbands when it comes to sex, they have to comply with the needs and demands of their husbands.

Another category of such women who are bound to indulge in sexual activities against their wishes are the hundreds of thousands of sex workers in India who are visited by numerous men everyday and even tortured by many of their clients. They are compelled to do as their clients say as they have no other means of feeding themselves and their children other than selling their bodies to the sex-hungry men of India.

If we take account of all these women and then collectively see the scenario of sexual crimes against women, it can be easily seen that stringent laws alone cannot do much. What really needs to be done is the moral overhauling of the minds of the masses by means of education and awareness.

Strong and stringent laws are definitely necessary as the existing laws have proved to be inefficient in ensuring swift justice and appropriate punishment to the guilty. But the actual need of the hour is a revolutionary change in the mindsets and conscience of Indian men so that they stop seeing women as objects of sexual pleasure.

Akash Sharma