One of the most distressing condition at present in India is the violence against woman in various forms, from sexual harassment at the workplace, domestic violence at home, child abuse to more gruesome forms of violence like rape and murder.
There is no easy remedy to the malady. The major souce of the problem lies in some intrinsic fault-line in the lower nature of man, in the average male phyche, with its base instincts for power and pleasure, domination and violence. A holistic approach to the problem requires a combined effort of men and woman, government, civil society, NGOs, law enforcement agencies and above all and the most important from a long term perspective , right kind of education which can eliminate, sublimate or transform the causative instincts in human nature. This education can begin in the classroom, in schools and colleges, but it should also continue in the work place, in training and development programmesfor workers.
Since the long-term solution to the problem has to begin inward with education, let us begin with this inward approach. But the traditional systems of mental education is inadequate to tackle the problem. For example, mental education on the ideals of man-woman relationship, like how they are equal and complementing parts of the human whole and the need for mutual respect for eachother and many others are helpful but not enough. This kind of mental idealism doesn’t have much impact on the basic vital instincts of nature. Most men who indulge in violence may know all these ideals in their mind. We need another kind of education based on self-knowledge and self-mastery.
The learner must be given a clear understanding of the causative factors in the social environment, like media images of woman, and how it openly and subtly influences his perceptions, feelings and attitudes to woman. He must be taught how to observe his inner moments with a scientific objectivity and detachment which leads to a deep understanding of the sexual or sex-related impulses like compulsive infatuation or the urge for power, domination. He must see and feel how much he is driven like a slave by these impulses and the inner freedom which comes from inwardly stepping back from them. Another factor which can bring about a deep inner change is aesthetics. A wholesome aesthetic education through cultivation of the sense of the beautiful and harmonious in thought, feeling, behavior and action can bring about a deep refinement in our vital and emotional being, especially in the sexual impulses. This psychological and aesthetic education, combined together, can lead to a beautiful and harmonious relationship between man and woman.
This is for men. On the part of woman, she must learn to manifest the strength within her. We tend to associate woman with soft factors like love, beauty and compassion. Undoubtedly, these qualities are the central cone of the inner potentialities of woman. But in the present condition, there must be an equal emphasis on the other aspect of strength. There is also the power of Durga-Mahakali in woman. Sometimes back I read an article in a reputed magazine on self-defense techniques for woman. The author narrates an interesting anecdote about a remarkable woman. She was an old woman with rheumatic legs, walking on crutches. Three hooligans came and demanded her to part with whatever money she has. But the courageous woman refused and confronted the thugs with her crutches with an intense rage. She stuck the first one so hard that he fell down with broken ribs. She pounced on the second with her crutches and sat on his chest until the police arrived. The third man fled in terror! The way she confronted the hooligans with an unflinching courage, might have invoked the Durga power within her and also in the universal Nature or the Divine.
Here is another example from the autobiography of Muhammad Yunus, the well-known founder of Grameen Bank. In his system of micro financing, the women loaners are formed into small cohesive groups. A member of the group has a husband who used to beat her constantly. When she reported it to her group, all the woman in her group confronted her husband and warned him, “You must stop it. If you beat her next time, we will come again and become nasty.” When the women of India display this kind of courage and strength against the agents of violence, individually and collectively, then it will act as a powerful deterrent against the offenders.Woman should depend not only on her own strength but invoke higher divine powers by prayer when she is under attack.
In the outer life, we must try to create an environment of harmony and mutual respect between men and women. The media images of woman, especially in commercials and movies, instead of treating woman as glamour figures, must evoke respect and admiration for woman. Law enforcement agencies must provide protection and speedy justice. In treating violence against women, the “long arm of law” is slow, lethargic and inefficient. The arm of law should not only be long but also deliver justice with a firm swiftness.