Is society gender-sensitive enough?
The report that a young woman had been gang-raped by four men is extremely shocking and ghastly. It is a very serious crime of bestial nature. The beasts hidden behind human faces of the four rapists came to the fore when they committed the heinous crime. Such criminal acts which challenge the very foundation of human civilization must be dealt with a very firm hand, and all the culprits must be awarded exemplary punishment. Rape is no longer an uncommon crime in the State although cases of gang-rape are few and far between. Rape is a highly detestable crime and one cannot speak about gang-rape in Manipuri society. Yet, rapes and gang-rapes have been reported from different parts of the State, the latest being the case of March 7. As much as the report about the gang-rape is shocking, it also demands a candid introspection into the degrading morality, ethos and value system of our society. Called it hypocrisy or irony, women in Manipur are elevated to the high pedestal of being champions of all kinds of socio-political issues and at the same time they are being reduced to wretched, discard-able sub-humans. Male chauvinism and hypocrisy have reached its zenith in the troubled State of Manipur. Rapes and murders are no longer isolated criminal cases. Rapes and murders have been fast evolving into some sort of a deadly infection which is eating into the vitals of the society. Any keen observer would have noticed unfailingly the disgusting admixture of womenfolk leading in the forefront many mass movements whether it be for implementation of Inner Line Permit System or repeal of AFSPA etc with reports of rape and murder (of women).
When violence has become a way of life in Manipur wherein the weaker are at the receiving end, specially women, and in the light of the ever increasing incidences of violence against women, there is a growing need for active and sustained engagement on the issue in the form of collective people’s movements with the necessary doses of gender readings of the situation as well as the movements. Such an engagement becomes crucial all the more on account of ever increasing violation of the body of the women and her life in various spheres such as economic, political and social – or in short, in the everydayness of her existence. What is being proposed then is the need for women specific political agenda. If within a broader frame or condition of life, the category of women is put central and a gender reading of such life is being attempted, then it will not only be about empowerment but also of justice. For that matter, women empowerment cannot be confined within the limited scope of imparting education at par with males. Yes, education is crucial but it is not enough. Women empowerment needs to encompass the capability to defend and protect themselves from all kinds of violence committed by not only military personnel but also male civilians. It is a tragedy that despite the rich and long tradition of women’s movements, Manipur is yet to witness any gender-centric mass movement. Its absence is conspicuous by itself given the fact that domestic violence, rape and murder of women have been disturbing the collective psyche of our people more frequently than ever before. The latest report of gang-rape and past cases of rape, murder and violence against women put a big question on the earlier understanding of our society as gender-sensitive where women are accorded a higher status as compared to other societies.