'Age cannot wither her, nor custom stale her infinite variety', wrote the famous Dramatist and Poet, William Shakespeare in his magnum opus 'Antony and Cleopatra'
A woman is quite an enigma and undoubtedly, there is more to her than what meets the eye. Popularly called the 'weaker sex' or the 'fair sex', they often find themselves at the receiving end of a warped power equation. Indeed, nature has endowed unique qualities in a man and woman, so distinctly different, yet perfect for a potent synergy. But like they say, 'power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely'! As a result of being physically weaker, women are often mute subjects to ill treatment, violence, and discrimination from the so-called 'providers' and 'protectors'. Not an exaggeration that women are sometimes unsafe even in their own homes!
Today we talk of technology in nanomeasures and the world boasts of monumental progress. Women have evolved from being classic homemakers to becoming women of the world. Not surprising that women have made inroads into erstwhile male bastions and many a time have transcended the proverbial 'glass ceiling'. So, is the violence against women that we so often hear about, mere media hype?
'Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned'
'A wrong against women every 3 minutes, one molestation every 15 minutes, a rape every 29 minutes, one murder every 16 minutes; a dowry death every 77 minutes, and a sexual harassment every 53 minutes'. Courtesy: The Indian National Crime Records.
Violence against women raises its ugly head in many forms - infanticide, elimination of female foetuses, domestic violence, sexual harassment, molestation, rape, trafficking and dowry murders. Even Nations that boast of development and affluence, like the United States, report dismal statistics - every 41 seconds a woman is raped. Worse still, is the grim scenario reported by WHO; 115 million girls and women are mute victims of various forms of genital mutilation, and are still grappling with its effects on their health. A 2005 UN Population Fund report found that nearly 70 per cent of Indian women do not oppose wife-beating, and seem to justify the circumstance for the violence. Clearly, there is no light at the end of the tunnel because 75 per cent of the victims suffer in silence, to salvage 'family honour'.
So this brings us back to the question, amid all the tall claims of emancipation of women, and national progress, of what use is this advancement, when the basic chip in the male brain is intransigent to change of attitude? The International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, widely called as White Ribbon Day, is an invitation to community groups, businesses and governments to concentrate on a worldwide phenomenon.
Several initiatives and campaigns have been spearheaded by women's groups, social organizations, government organizations and NGO's to take up cudgels against gender-based violence. These endeavours have led to the creation of public awareness and have initiated legislation to save the day for the victims. The legal reforms have no doubt influenced many changes, yet more needs to be done to alter the deep - rooted perception of women and violence. The United Nations campaign for the human rights of women and girls has made notable strides in increasing the awareness about the fallout of gender based violence on the economic, social and cultural health of a Nation.
In India too, we are not far behind. Oct 2006, was indeed a milestone period for the emancipation of women. A new law came into force in India to protect women from violence and abuse in their own homes. The new law has taken cognisance that marital rape, sexual, emotional or verbal abuse of a woman by her husband is indeed a crime. Now it is possible to prosecute a man for raping his wife, for it is not within the ambit of conjugal rights. The new law stipulates that a portion of the husband's earnings and property be given to the victim, which also includes medical expenses. Significantly, the recent law enables the abused wives, the legal right to continue to reside in the same home. Now, women need not worry about the risk of losing financial support from the husband.
All these efforts will not see the light of day if basic attitudes of men do not change. Indeed men are wired differently, not necessarily, wrongly. Before acting irresponsibly, it might be worthwhile to seek guidance from The Golden Rule, 'Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.'