What we need to fix and how

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1.  How to Revive a Defunct National Commission for Women

LAST MARCH, when TEHELKA did a cover story on violence against women, National Commission for Women (NCW) chairperson Mamta Sharma told this reporter that what women wear isn’t the primary reason for them being raped but it IS a secondary issue. And that women “need to take their Indian culture along with them when they leave their homes”. While the recent mass outrage has pinned down every politician and religious leader for their misogyny, Sharma’s comments have so far escaped any serious censure even though she heads the watchdog for women’s rights.

The NCW was created in January 1992 out of a clamour from the women’s movements for a national-level advocacy bodycum- watchdog. But over the past two decades, women’s groups say its structure has rendered it practically defunct. Appointments to key positions are political and as gender activist and lawyer Malavika Rajkotia puts it, “even the politicians give it step-sisterly treatment and don’t care about who they appoint”.

Kalpana Vishwanath of the Delhi-based NGO Jagori says a serious review of the NCW is needed to revamp it. Akhila Sivadas, executive director of the Centre for Advocacy Research, remembers a time when the NCW did function as a proactive body that fought for women’s rights. That was 15 years ago when Mohini Giri was its chairperson. Since then, she and many others from the women’s movements believe, it’s only been downhill.

If the NCW engages with women’s movements again, it could be revived, say both Sivadas and Vishwanath. Another suggestion is for the NCW to liaise with government departments such as the home ministry and draw up a list of protocols to pass on to police stations, hospitals and trauma centres for all those involved, from doctors to beat constables, to follow. Now thanks to the public outrage, the NCW is finally developing a ‘Guideline for Rape Manual’.

NCW member Charu Wali Khanna says the commission has a skeletal staff and could do with an investigative cell to probe cases of violence against women. She also says part of the problem is that the NCW is only an advisory body. According to Khanna, the NCW chairperson only has a secretary-level rank whereas other institutional heads are given the status of Cabinet secretaries.

Others argue that this is precisely the problem. Looking for a better place in the hierarchy is equal to placing the NCW right in the middle of the patriarchal set-up it was meant to smash.

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Special Correspondent

Revati Laul has been a television journalist and documentary film maker for most of her 16 year career. Ten of those were spent in NDTV where her reports included everything from the aftermath of the Gujarat riots to following truck drivers into ULFA infested Assam. Then about a year and a half ago, she decided to tell her stories in indelible ink instead. Most people said she made an upside down decision but she firmly believes she’s found food for the soul. She was hired by Tehelka to write on politics. For her this does not mean tracking the big fish but looking closely at how the tiny fish are getting swallowed and by whom. On most days though, she can be found conversing on her other two favourite subjects – fornication and food. Fiction is another friend of hers. A short story she wrote called `Drool’ was published in an anthology of young fiction by Zubaan. She is also founder member of the NGO ‘Tara’ that looks after underpriviledged children.

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  1. Delhi Rape Case & How Islam Dignifies Women

    On the 16th of December 2012, Damini, a 23 year old Indian medical student fell victim to a brutal assault and gang raped by six men on a bus in the Indian capital Delhi. A fortnight after that she died from her injuries. Damini’s case sparked mass protests across India against the Indian police and government’s negligence and laidback attitude towards the protection of women from sexual violence.

    Rape has taken the shape of almost a cultural ritual, an everyday occurrence and the fastest growing crime in India, the world’s largest democracy. Many sexual assaults go unreported due to large numbers of women having lost faith in the system to protect their dignity as a consequence of the scale of the problem, a culture of impunity afforded to offenders by police, cases that drag on for years through the courts, and abysmal conviction rates.

    According to statistics, a woman is raped every 20 minutes in India, and 24,000 rape cases were reported last year alone. “Hindustan times” reported in a survey that 78% of women in Delhi had been sexually harassed in 2012 alone.[i]

    Increasing number of people as a result of this incident called for the death penalty as a punishment for the rapists hoping that this would become a deterrent for future would-be rapists. The government also rushed to ban buses with tinted windows.

    But would these steps really bring an end to this heinous crime ? To understand this there is a need to assess the reason why such a heinous crime has taken the shape of an epidemic in the first place.
    The root cause lies in the increasing embrace of the western way of life in India. The West offers individual freedom as the progressive basis of life. By individual freedom what’s meant is that an individual is completely free in how he or she lives his or her life.

    As a result of this, natural aspects within man are taken and put into the public life such that it is propagated everywhere – the sexual relationship. It is true that people have a procreation instinct from which we get the feeling of wanting to have children, of motherhood of fatherhood and also an aspect which is sexual.

    Sex is promoted everywhere from billboards, movies, music, adverts – everywhere. They have taken something which should be for the bedroom, for the private life and promoted it in the whole society.
    The nature of instincts is that reality agitates them – so if the image and portrayal of sex is everywhere then it is bound to agitate the instincts of men and women – what will this lead to?

    In August 2002 the Observer Newspaper in UK, the heart of the Western world published the findings of an Observer / ICM poll on sexual attitudes and behaviour of Britons. A total of 1,027 people aged 16 and above were questioned about their views of sex in the 21st Century. It found that more than half of Britons have had a ‘one night stand’ and that the average number of sexual partners in the UK stands at 10.
    If we take a quick look at the West’s record we find that in their societies the top five problems in the social and marital life are:
    Mistrust and Adultery – 70% of American wives commit adultery within 5 years of marriage.
    Divorce – one in three end up in divorce.
    Rape – 167 women are raped every day in the UK.
    Wife battery – a battery incident occurs every 18 seconds in the America.
    Child molestation and paedophilia – in Britain a quarter of a million people are known paedophiles!.
    The situation in India is much similar, in a survey conducted by OutlookIndia magazine in 2011,
    · 52.3 % respondents of the survey considered one-night stands as acceptable.
    80 % of respondents in Hyderabad considered casual sex as a great stress-buster
    53.8 % of Delhiites lost count of the number of times they paid for sex
    23.8 % of Bangaloreans have had casual sex with someone of the same gender [ii]
    These are the fruits of freedom and these should not be considered surprising but in fact are an inevitable occurrence since a solution proposed by man’s limited mind will never be able to address the intricacies of human life and its requirements.

    Therefore, we need to refer to the Creator (subhanahu wa ta’aala), Who is All-Aware of His (subhanahu wa ta’aala) creation and how it is that humanity should regulate their lives.

    The West views Women as sex objects. They value women by their looks – making women obsessed about looking the right way and how men perceive them.

    And this problem is not limited to the west, rather has been exported wholesale to countries like India who is trying to catch up with the liberal west.

    The Bollywood culture, along with other entertainment, advertising, and pornography industries sanctioned by India’s secular liberal democratic system have presented the woman as an object to play to the desires of men, sexualized society, encouraged individuals to pursue their selfish carnal desires, and promoted extra-marital relationships, nurturing a culture of promiscuity and cheapening the relationships between men and women. All this has desensitized the disgust that should be felt towards the violation of women’s dignity in the minds of many men.

    So the root problem is not just that India does not have sufficiently strong punishments or that there are too many buses with tinted windows, but it is a more deep rooted problem of a society
    – that has lost its moral compass,
    – that has encouraged sexualisation of woman in films and advertising,
    – that has encouraged free mixing as we saw on New Year’s eve and will see at Valentines
    – and instills concepts of freedom and the unrestricted satisfaction of needs and instincts.

    The Islamic view towards woman

    Islam does not believe in the ideas of freedom, liberation, or equality of the woman, for it does not leave the human being to decide how he or she should live her life according to her own desires or allow mankind to legislate their own laws for the society and create their own system from the ignorance, bias, greed, and limited understanding that they have of each other’s needs. The system comes completely from the Creator, covering all of life’s affairs: ruling, economic, judicial, education and the social system dealing with the relationship and duties of men and women within the society. As a verse in the Holy Qur’an states in a chapter entitled Ahzab,

    )وَمَا كَانَ لِمُؤْمِنٍ وَلَا مُؤْمِنَةٍ إِذَا قَضَى اللَّهُ وَرَسُولُهُ أَمْرًا أَنْ يَكُونَ لَهُمُ الْخِيَرَةُ مِنْ أَمْرِهِمْ وَمَنْ يَعْصِ اللَّهَ وَرَسُولَهُ فَقَدْ ضَلَّ ضَلَالًا مُبِينًا(
    “It is not fitting for a believer, man or woman, when a matter has been decided by Allah and His Messenger, to have any option about their decision. If anyone disobeys Allah and His Messenger, he is indeed on a clearly wrong path”. [TMQ Ahzab:36]

    Within Islam, the Muslim woman has contentment in her life, for the only expectations she has to live up to are those of the Creator and not the continually changing or unrealistic expectations of her husband, family, community or society. She is not expected to be the superwoman who has a successful busy career but at the same time has to fulfill the duties of being a wife and mother perfectly.

    With regards to the honour, respect, and security that a woman deserves, Islam establishes this in two ways. Firstly, Islam rejects liberal freedoms and rather promotes taqwa (God-consciousness) within society that nurtures a mentality of accountability in the manner by which men view and treat women. It prohibits the sexualisation of society as well as all forms of objectification and exploitation of women’s bodies, such that the relationship between the sexes is never cheapened or the woman devalued. It celebrates a comprehensive social system that regulates the relationship between men and women, and includes a modest dress code, the segregation of the genders, and prohibition of extramarital relationships – all of which directs the fulfillment of the sexual desires to marriage alone, protecting women and society.

    Islam commands that the man views the woman as an honour to be protected at all times and as a trust that the Creator has placed in his hand, whether it is his mother, daughter, wife, or any woman in society. He understands that his treatment towards her can bring him either reward or punishment in the Hereafter. In a hadith of the Prophet Muhammad (saw) he said, “The world and all things in the world are precious but the most precious thing in the world is a virtuous woman”.

    In his last sermon to the Muslims, he (saw) reminded them, “O People, it is true that you have certain rights, with regards to your women but they also have rights over you. Remember that you have taken them as your wives only under Allah’s trust and with His permission. If they abide by your right then to them belongs the right to be fed and clothed in kindness. Do be kind to them for they are your partners and committed helpers.”

    Within a true Islamic Society, the correct Islamic concepts will affect the men within the society at large, who will view the woman as an honour regardless of whether she has a career or not. This can be seen in an example at the time when there was a true Islamic society. The leader or Khalifah at the time of this example was Umar bin Al-Khattab (ra). A situation arose where a Jew was found assassinated. Umar asked the people if they knew about the matter, whereupon a muslim called Bak’r in Shad’dakh appeared before him and said, “I have killed him”. Umar was astonished and asked him for the reason. The man explained that a Muslim brother had gone on Jihad and consigned his family members to him to look over in his absence. When he arrived at the house of the brother, he had found the Jew inside reciting poetry slandering the reputation of the brother’s wife by implying that he had spent the night with her in his absence. As a result, he killed him to protect the honour of the woman who had been placed under his protection. On hearing all the details, Umar exempted him from paying any compensation to the family of the Jew.

    The second manner by which Islam protects the honour of the woman is by the presence of an Islamic State or Khilafah. The Khilafah is the ruling system of Islam that applies all of the commands of Islam that includes for example the prayer, the fasting, the zakat (obligatory charity), the economic laws, the social system that regulates the relationship of men and women within the society, and the punishment system of Islam. It is this true Islamic State that existed for over 1300 years but has been absent over our lands today for almost 80 years. This explains the increasing rape, domestic violence, shame, and humiliation that the woman faces presently within the Muslim world. It is only through the re-establishment of the Khilafah that will enable the propagation of the correct viewpoint and mentality to the individuals within the society through the education system and the media and have the authority to enforce the appropriate punishments upon those who dishonour the woman.

    [i] http://www.hindustantimes.com/Motor-Sports/Homepage-TopStories/78-Delhi-women-sexually-harassed-in-2012-Survey/SP-Article1-983731.aspx

    [ii] http://www.outlookindia.com/article.aspx?269999

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