(This column is dedicated to the memory of Nirbhaya who was battered and gang raped in a Delhi bus on the 16th of December 2012. May her soul rest in peace.)
The mating game – Are animals more civilized than humans?
In the beginning, the mating game was supposed to be fun. It still is, for a lot of species on this planet. The entire process that includes first spotting the object of one’s desire, then courting and wooing him or her and eventually having one’s affection accepted and reciprocated is a fascinating process that pales everything in comparison. Nothing beats the feeling of being in love. It makes the unpleasant aspects of life tolerable, and makes the pleasant ones more pleasant.
If one turns to nature for examples, it is amusing to watch birds and animals during mating season. Some birds, for instance, construct and decorate nests to impress their potential mate. Other pre-mating rituals include singing, displaying flamboyant plumage, dancing, preening and offering food. The male among animals such as the lion and giraffe follows the female around when she’s ovulating. She takes her time deciding whether or not she’ll accept this particular male as her mate, swiftly swiping him with her claws if he gets too close. It doesn’t matter if the two are in captivity, and he’s the only male available to her. She’ll complete her ritual of walking around with an air of importance and enjoy her power over the meek male following her around. The male proceeds to mate with her only if and when she’s ready. The constant theme in all these instances is mutual attraction and mutual consent.
All this makes one wonder; what the heck went wrong with the human species. Because, the fact is something must terribly be wrong with the race that arrogantly struts around after assaulting and abusing the female of its species. When did mating change from an act of love to an act of violence and violation? Sex was a gift – the acts of courting and lovemaking were supposed to be fun and beautiful. When did this turn into a gory display of aggression and dominance? We seem to be devolving into a species that is regressive and repressive.
Getting really angry and asking for vengeance is one way of seeking justice for the unspeakable crime that India has witnessed against its daughter, Nirbhaya. Of course the culprits deserve the worst punishment possible. But if we step back for a moment and look at the bigger picture, we will notice that this crime is not an isolated incident. Rather, it is a reflection of a mindset that is prevalent in several parts of our country.
The Khap Panchayats are a reflection of this regressive mindset that believes in curbing the individuality of women. The fact that the Sharad Yadavs and the Aasaram Baapus of this world condone these repressive beliefs shows that as a nation we’re in deep shit. When the social and political leaders of a country know no better, that country is going straight to the dogs. A society that cannot respect its women, cannot thrive.
When a group of people believes that a woman needs to dress herself in baggy, unattractive clothes in order to protect her dignity and that she’s asking for trouble if she likes to look good; when a group of people believes that it must keep a tight rein on its women so that they do not become independent and hence ‘misguided’; When a group of people believes that a woman who gets assaulted is somehow at fault; when a group of people believes that a woman who fights back should have instead started praying and begged her assaulters to have mercy; when a group of people believes that women should not have fun and should not go to nightclubs; Well, this group of people is precisely the one that poses a grave danger to civilization and specifically to women.
These are the people who drag down a nation to the depths of hell and make its culture a regressive and repressive one. When a culture believes in quashing any voice that opines a different viewpoint, that culture is headed towards doom.
How then, will we deal with this mindset? Instilling the fear of law in the minds of people who are potential criminals is one way of curbing potential crime. But what does this really do? All it does is inhibit an ignoramus from committing a crime at a given point in time. But given the opportunity to commit a crime, he just might cave in to temptation and create another victim. The long-term solution to dealing with such crimes is education. Education is one weapon that can reverse this horrible trend. Here, we’re not talking about qualifications, but about educating people about how to live and evolve as a civilization that respects the rights of all citizens including women.
Trying to understand what the culprits were hoping to achieve by sexually assaulting a person can also provide insight into how one may tackle the problem at the root. Were they seriously only seeking sexual gratification? If it’s just about that, a person who is incapable of finding a consenting female can resort to paying for sex. No, it’s not about sexual gratification. One can only guess that the act of sexually assaulting a woman has more to do with self esteem and control or power issues. A person who feels helpless in other aspects of his life may resort to sexual assault for his ego boost, not dissimilar from a husband who batters his wife in order to feel adequate in a world that makes him feel inadequate.
Another possible explanation for why some people feel it’s okay to molest or rape a random passing woman could be cultural conditioning. If a little boy has grown up in an environment that makes him feel that women are to be treated like possessions and that it is scary to empower women because then they start thinking for themselves and doing all kinds of things that reek of independence – why, they almost start behaving like men! Then what will the men do! No, this can’t be allowed – they must protect their women from themselves!
Other than that, cases of molestation by groups on streets such as the Guwahati and the New Year eve incident indicate that it may be simply a case of joining into the mob and have some fun. Yet, not every man on the street joins the mob to molest a hapless victim. The differentiator here is upbringing and attitude. If our education system aims to sensitize little boys towards others, respecting the rights of all human beings including their female counterparts; and shows them that females are not threats to them; we may achieve a truly safer and civilized society – a society where the act of wooing and lovemaking are joyful aspects of life, and not a means to control or humiliate someone.