Editor’s Note: A woman gets raped. The story gets hidden. And if it comes out then the blame is put on the girl itself for wearing provocative clothe or going out alone at night. The atrocities continue. What a pity! Our member Absum shares more. Tell us what you think here. 

Mahatma Gandhi said, “If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. … We need not wait to see what others do.”

This is often expressed, apocryphally, as his “Be the change…” quote. I think these words are especially appropriate in the context of the furore over the Delhi gang rape.

There is an entire spectrum of dishonourable, diminishing, denigrating behaviour against women in India. It exists within individuals, families, communities, societies, and is even present in discriminatory laws and customs that a lot of people don’t seem to notice or mind.

It can be as “mild” as a mother-in-law verbally abusing her daughter-in-law (just because she can) or as terrible as gang rapes. I find the term “eve-teasing” particularly offensive, and a good illustration of the rather relaxed attitude towards the bad treatment of women. Why sugar-coat something as heinous as sexual harrasment by giving it such a playful name? 

Horrible events such as these do not arise out of a vacuum. They are the result of firmly entrenched mores and values that reflect a basic belief; women are inferior, and some women are more inferior than others (e.g. women of lower castes, women who have the temerity to be out at 9pm with a male companion, women who have invited trouble by taking a bus at night). 

Until this basic belief is banished, none of these evils will be. I find the wild keening and wailing for the death penalty, for the government to do something, for the “incompetent” Delhi police police force to atone for their sins, to be quite ironic, even laughable (not that any humour can be found in this tragic situation). 

When you try to solve a problem of this sort with capital punishment, punitive measures, stricter policing, all it teaches criminals is not to get caught, or else. Instead, how about teaching every person, man, woman, and child, to treat women properly? Instead of meeting violence with more violence, how about finding humane solutions that move towards a more morally evolved society, not a lesser one?

So, the next time you find yourself snickering at a woman with dark skin, or tut-tutting in private sympathy when a couple has a daughter instead of a son, or turning a blind eye when a woman is groped on a bus, or teaching your daughter to behave demurely and not to attract too much attention, or encouraging your daughter-in-law to obey her husband without question, or trying to find a husband for your daughter based on his money, good looks, and social status instead of character, or encouraging your sister to stay with her husband, even if he hits her, because of the shame of divorce, ask yourself how this kind of thinking feeds into the general, collective attitude towards women that manifests, in its most brutal form, in the kind of crime that has shocked us all, but really shouldn’t, all things considered.

And then be the change that you want to see in the world.