Sadly, you are gone. But don’t you worry. Each spark out of the fire which was lit to consign your mortal remains to flames carries a luminous glow which would keep us introspective and acting upon the deficiencies in our system for a long time to come.
The Accused Are Bound to Suffer
You are lucky to have escaped a tormented and difficult life. Had you survived, life would not have been hunky dory. Media would not have left you in peace. Your relatives would have repeatedly questioned you as to why you had to stay away from home so late at night, indirectly blaming you for the brutal ordeal you had to undergo. Repeated visits to hospitals would have become tortuous after some time.
Not so for the accused. For a few moments of vicarious pleasure and sadistic revenge, they would atone throughout their remaining lives. Given the pressure which has got built up, the system would ensure that they receive the harshest punishment possible, that too possibly within a fraction of the time it normally takes to get a conviction announced.
The Hope You Have Generated
You have left behind a definite hope that our system would change for the better. Once the initial anguish and revulsion has subsided, meaningful action will get taken to ensure that India becomes a safer place for women in the days to come. The judiciary is awake, and so is the legislature. There is a realization that tightening laws alone will not help. The primary challenge lies in their interpretation and delivery, in ensuring that justice is swift and is also perceived to be inevitable. This involves not only sensitizing all arms of our republic better but also ensuring that there are more women occupying senior positions in the hierarchy.
Changes We Can Expect
From a heavenly perch, your soul must be watching in amazement the kind of contradictions our multi-layered society keeps coming up with. Politicians of all hues have decided to use your case as another scoring point with their eyes firmly fixed on their vote banks. But that is precisely what will ensure that we get tougher laws in the days to come.
Those responsible for enforcing the laws are presently claiming that they are under-staffed, under-paid and over-worked. Sheer public pressure will ensure that suitable changes happen over a period of time. As to our abysmally poor conviction rates – close to 25% in rape cases – your case is set to raise the bar. Our leaders are also coming forward to forego a part of their security staff, which would mean better per capita availability of police personnel for the common citizen.
Our self-anointed guardians of religious values and the great Indian tradition have not so far thought it fit to make an appeal to reform the gender-bias inherent in our society. There is no call as yet to reinterpret our scriptures to make them more progressive in their thought, in tune with the times. Our spiritual masters are yet to react to the underlying malaise in our society which does not provide a level playing field to females – whether before or after birth. Slowly and steadily, these changes would also come about.
Our advertising honchos believe that they cannot survive without using sexual innuendo in the ads they create. But brands which persist with obnoxious campaigns will eventually suffer in the market place. Our movie makers think that they can get the box office registers tingling only by putting in raunchy item songs, lewd lyrics and coarse dialogues. Admittedly, movies that one can watch with the entire family at home can be counted on finger tips. But, come to think of it, there is no dearth of such movies as well. To quote only a few of recent origin: ‘Chak De, India’, ‘Well Done, Abba’, ‘Do Dooni Chaar’ and ‘Ferrari Ki Sawari’, besides a host of others which have steered clear of pandering to the front rows in a theater.
You can readily see through the argument that provocative dresses and influence of ads and movies are responsible for the gender bias prevalent in our society. If the males shed their chauvinism a wee bit, and instead develop an inner resilience, these external factors would hardly make a difference. This can only be done through a sustained campaign directed at parents and bringing in an education system which places greater emphasis on moral aspects of life.
Business, even though it sustains itself on resources pooled in from the society, is too busy to bother about ensuring an absence of harassment at work or even in transit to and from the place of work. Often one sees a makeshift crèche coming up only when a buyer’s inspection is to take place in a manufacturing establishment. But progressive companies which take care of gender issues do end up attracting better talent.
The Rising Female Power
Economies the world over may not be in the pink of health. But the pink collar brigade has already made its presence felt in so many spheres of our lives. Right from the armed forces to civil engineering, from banking to pharmaceuticals, from medicine to management, from space exploration to music and fine arts – look at any field of expertise and you would find the finer of our species leading the pack. Until two decades back, women were found only in the jobs of receptionists, stenographers and laboratory technicians. Now, they hold sway over executive and managerial positions as well.
According to Grant Thornton’s International Business Report, percentage of Indian women in senior management roles had gone up from 9% in 2011 to 14% in 2012. Globally, however, the percentage has remained unchanged at about 21%. Global average of women chief executives rose from 8% to 9%; in India, it has gone up from 1% in 2011 to 10% in 2012! As per the same report, globally, less than 10% of businesses have female CEOs, with women largely employed in HR and finance functions.
You may be aware that for some time now, EU has been planning to introduce a law that would impose penalties on companies that do not allocate 40% of the seats on their boards to women. It has met with opposition from Britain and other countries and stands blocked, as of now. But the day is not far off when this will eventually get done.
The Real Challenges
The most difficult change is going to be that of our patriarchy oriented value system. The next would be to ensure that delivery of justice is swift and inevitable. Above all, we need to ensure that the pressure of public opinion is sustained; that your case does not fade from the collective public memory for a long time to come.
Rest in Peace
Rest assured that positive changes will come about. The pace and the contours of the change may not exactly delight us. But your supreme sacrifice will not go in vain!