People's Democracy(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
July 02, 2006
An Open Letter To Madhya Pradesh Women's Commission
MY dear women’s commission of Madhya Pradesh,
We have been trying to reach you and bring to your notice the growing incidence of crime and sexual assaults on women in the state. Unfortunately we were unable to meet you as we learnt that you are very busy in tailoring the dresses of girls as per your whims. We were rather surprised at your concern about the hemlines of skirts when you have to concern yourselves with empowering women. On enquiry we came to know that your interest in tailoring is a response to your concern about the "undue liberties" the "roadside Romeos and loafers had taken" due to the "excessive leg show" of the girls.
We realised your business acumen when you have asked the girls "to pay price" for the "skin show" and for "fanning the animal instincts" of the opposite sex as it would be very difficult for them to "exercise self-restraint in these bad times". We were left speechless on this 'intelligent reasoning' to control the growing crime against women.
We have some questions for you so that we too can get ‘enlightened’ by your ‘reasoning.’ Why are infants and kids as young as 3 years and less who should arouse ‘paternal instincts’ being sexually assaulted? Why are elderly women older than 60 years of age and who should arouse ‘parental instincts’ being sexually assaulted? Can you blame Sita and her dress for arousing ‘animal instincts’ in Ravana that led to her abduction? In the little Ramayana that we were taught, Ravana was depicted as the villain and blamed for having evil intentions on ‘maha pativrata’ Sita.
Why are you blaming the women and girls when their modesty is outraged and their democratic right to life is attacked and leaving the perpetuators of the crime? Under what law are you accusing the victimised women and girls for the crime committed upon them? Manu dharmashastra?
Simple commonsense and facts tell us that women are sexually assaulted at home-by relatives as close as fathers, brothers, uncles etc; in workplaces by colleagues, superiors and in educational institutions by fellow students and teachers. What has a daughter done or worn to arouse ‘animal instincts’ in a father ‘in these bad times’? What has a nurse, an employee in the BPO, student done or wore to arouse such cruelty on them? We would have appreciated your efforts and sincerity if instead of concentrating on the hemlines, you had concentrated your energies to think about the ‘bad times’ and those responsible for them.
The bad times are a product of the bad policies that are being followed by the governments at the centre and the state. The neo-liberal policies are projecting women as commodities and are marketing them as objects of desire. The recent advertisement of a soft drink company, cashing on the soccer fever and that of a company to relieve ‘itch’ are the latest among the many examples that can be cited.
The saas-bahu soap operas not to speak of the films demean the dignity of women. Either they project women as objects for satiating sexual pleasures or one whose duty is to remain docile and servile. Assaulting women is projected as the right of men. The BJP government in the state is a classic representative and proponent of both these values. It unabashedly opens the market and allows the objectification of women and on the other hand poses as the custodian of its version of Indian culture.
Unfortunately Indian education system, which has to remedy this anomaly also has failed. The stereotypical projection of women in the curriculum reinforces the patriarchal ideas of the society. BJP spiced it up by changing the curriculum confining women to the kitchen and bedrooms. They are the abhinava Manus who blame the women for all the evil to befall on the society. But unfortunately for you, my dear women’s commission, Manu is outdated and so are you as ‘tailors’ for the society.
Sita is rescued not by imposing a dress code on her but by fighting Ravana. The same is true for today. The animal instincts of patriarchy have to be fought against. The ‘bad times’ resulting from the neo-liberal policies have to be fought. Let us leave it to the individuals to dress according to their convenience and request them to join our fight against these 'bad times'.