The response to the gang rape of the young woman in Delhi has been unequivocal anger by citizens across the country over the innumerable atrocities against women. The people are appalled at the state of affairs with regard to such heinous crimes and they are searching for solutions to the problem. There are various schools of thought on how to curb these incidents. One needs to find an inclusive solution that takes all these schools of thought into account and not exclusionary.
The stress by the educated, urban, younger generation has been twofold. One, is an inherent emphasis on better parenting and nurturing equal values for both sexes, and two, a robust change in the law and order system in the country.
The overriding concern in the entire discussion on rape has been the upbringing of young adults, especially men. In a society that thrives on commoditizing women in television and cinema, how parents raise the younger generation is a very important factor. The raising of individuals must focus on imparting the right values, treating women with dignity, parity and self respect, on par with the rest.
Another major factor that the younger generation is urging is an increase in deterrence in terms of a better law and order system in the country. The conviction rate for rape is an embarrassing 26.6 per cent, that is, not even ¼ of the cases in the country reach conviction. According to the National Crimes Records Bureau, 733 rape cases happened in Haryana in 2011, which is an average 61 cases a month in that state alone.
This has to drastically change with fast-track courts convicting the criminals in a very short period of time. The severity of punishment would be a major deterrent too.
While these aspects are important and have been extensively discussed, the older school of thought on fighting such crimes is different from what young India is thinking just now. (Here, I am referring to some sane ideas from the older generation and not the absurd comments that have been made by some leaders recently.)
There is an older school of thought – kind of conservative – that argues that women need to be more careful while traveling at night, even avoid wearing skimpy clothing, and such. This, to the modern generation might sound unreasonable and even absurd. But this aspect of cultural degeneration, which the older generation seems to reiterate eternally, is not something that should be completely discarded. It is a point of view of a generation that was brought up with values that are in line with their arguments. In my view, the assertion that popular culture is commoditizing women to a pathetic extent is agreeable and this needs to be addressed for a long-term solution.
But there are areas of common ground between the two generations where we can find an inclusive solution.
Unfortunately, popular urban discourse has, at times, ignored and rubbished the reasoning of our elders. It has become “Young India vs Old India”, not seeking to find common ground. This serves no purpose, for, whether we like it or not, the elderly population constitutes a significant part of our social framework. As much as they have something to learn from the progressive ideas that we suggest, it is time for us to try to understand the source of their ideas and to learn to acknowledge their perspective. This mutual integration is imperative, because it helps to reduce the generational gaps that exist between the older and younger generations.
In retrospect, there has to be a more integrated and tolerant approach to the older generation’s viewpoints and vice versa. Common ground between the generations needs to be part of the solution that we are seeking to eradicate the occurrence of crime from society. While ideologies may vary and differ between generations, the purpose is the same, to keep Indian women safe and sound. This purpose could be best served by an inclusive debate that takes into account the viewpoints of various generations.
Sriram Balasubramanian is a journalist and writer. The writer is on Twitter: @Sriram316 and Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/srirambala.fanpage