A short search on the internet, looking for ‘recent violence against women in India’ turns up a Wikipedia page, listing 25 other pages dedicated to specific incidents which have taken place in the recent past.
For this British female writer with Indian roots, these represent a series of terrible undoings which are holding India back and keeping half of its population in the dark. India is famous for being progressive and forward going, but in order to stop violence against women, it needs to look at itself internally and ask itself, if cultural values cause the life and body of a woman to be no more important than that of a common implement or tool; if men can only use them and throw them away, like unimportant replaceable objects, then, culturally, is there anything to be proud of?
Of course, India has a heritage and a culture to be proud of. But all of this means nothing without including the rest of the hidden population, without exception. Not just the women who will go on to be prime ministers, but all of them.
So what to do, and how to improve the situation?
Female emancipation in the West was won only through the stubborn insistence of a few who carved out the ideals of equality for the many, and from this, Indian women can take hope. They already have the trappings of freedom: the possibility of education, ownership, and freedom of decision (in some cases). It is now time for overarching cultural change.
In order to change cultural values, the process needs to begin at home, in infancy. Mothers must teach their sons to respect women; their sisters, their mothers, their teachers, seamstresses, shop owners … every single woman. Their sons must see this respect in the behaviour of their fathers.
It could be argued that courtesy is given, while respect is earned, but sons should be urged to look at their mothers’ choices and decisions as being worthy of respect. The organisation of the household, the dinner, looking after children, taking care of the father, all of these things represent a life given over to others, and for this respect can and should be earned.
Women do not seek to be better than everyone else; they seek only equality. The power to make decisions, to make mistakes and to carve their own ideals into the same rock upon which men also work.
India, please wake up and take responsibility for the changes you must make.