Strange theories are floated to explain the depravity of Indian men – from greater access to pornography (that would have made Holland very unsafe for women) to a growing inclination towards noodles (think Taiwan, Singapore, Hong Kong) – but the truth is that at the root of it all lies a culture built around hierarchies, of gender, faith, colour, caste, region.
We are, quite simply, not used to people being equal – dark versus fair, Mongoloid versus Aryan, ‘chinky’ versus large-eyed are demarcations and rankings that have almost been internalized; in many cases institutionalized. Of course, female versus male continues to be the greatest division of all – and one that cuts across all other borders of the mind.
We at The Times of India in our edition today laid out a 6-point action plan to make India safer for women – harsher punishment, sensitization of the police force, setting up of fast-track courts, better patrolling, cleverer use of technology like GPS and CCTVs and a data base of public transport personnel – but what all these measures will not address is the mindset. A mindset that since the time of that deviant philosopher called Manu has refused to see “the weaker sex” as anything but property and the receptacle of male sperms.
Though many of my north Indian friends react in agonized protest when I say this, but in the end it is also a cultural and civilisational thing. In those societies that do — or have learnt to — respect women, and consider them as equal, incidence of rape, sexual harassment, molestation is very low, if not absent altogether. In Darjeeling, for instance, police stations across the district will tell you that in the last decade they have come across only a couple of cases.