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What we need is a cultural revolution

As the wheelchair-bound companion of the late 23-year-old Delhi gang rape victim testifies in court as a witness for the prosecution against the five accused, more and more news of rape, gang rape, and many of them leading to murder of the victims, keep flowing in from all corners of the country. It is as if the nation as a whole, even within the biggest metropolises where the massive protestations have been staged, is carrying on without the bat of an eyelid, with rapes and other forms of sexual torture continuing unabated. Despite the persistent demand for tougher anti-rape laws and provision for greater and more comprehensive security for women, it is simply not enough a way to keep rapes and similar brutal crimes from happening. What we clearly need, in addition to the bolstered legal frameworks, is an across-the-board transformation of sexual, sociocultural and psychopathological mores that keep us tied to the hackneyed orthodoxies and entrenched violence pervasive in our system. Radical changes are required not only in the established mindsets that derive their legitimacy from continuing hold of patriarchal values and male sense of ubiquitous sexual entitlement, but also in the institutional spaces such as in the state, family, education, service and the media that are still grappling with the pace at which our society is undergoing a monumental transmutation.

Let us all, in the name of that late unknown-known, venerated-anonymous, heroic-vulnerable, citizen-woman, pledge that we will exceed our own expectations in bringing about systemic and enduring juctice and freedom, not only to women, but also to men, children and other human beings who do not want to identify themselves as any of the above. Let us believe that sweeping and progressive changes are not an impossibility in this country. Let us try to build a nation in which fathers, brothers, cousins, uncles, friends, acquaintances, bosses, supervisors, soldiers, policemen, political office-bearers and fellow travellers do not turn rapists and sexual predators at the sight of a solitary woman, an adolescent boy or girl, or a child in their power. Let us reclaim the inherent idea of the republic, repossess the basic tenets of liberty and freedom, reacquire the negelected sovereignty of every individual residing within the territory of this ‘democratic republic’, so that one does not get branded a prospective rapist if one is indeed a ‘foot-loose migrant, or a woman does not get tagged eminently ‘rapeable’ if she goes out in the night to have fun with her friends or happens to be a sex worker. Let us also consign the ragged bones of the ancient patriarchs, whether Indian or not, to the dust where they rightly belong, along with their discriminatory scriptures, prescriptions, edicts and testaments, and create, with our sweat, and the blood of our dauntless heroine, who refused to become a victim as she fought for her life in the hospitals of Delhi and Singapore, a brave new world of real and realised freedoms.
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