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I try not to be cynical about International Women's Day: Nandita Das

Mar 08, 2013

Nandita Das, a critically acclaimed actress and a human rights activist is better known for offbeat cinema and the unique characters she plays. At present she is the chairperson, Children’s Film Society of India. Nandita tells Ashok Kumar that society needs to stop stereotyping women and change its mindset that a woman’s job is just to appease the man.

Nandita Das

Every year on March 8th which is celebrated as International Women’s Day, we wake up to the issues of women. And, I try not to be cynical about it, because I think it is important to be not only optimistic but to do whatever we can (to raise these issues) on whichever day it is possible.

The spontaneous response to the recent Delhi gang-rape in the form of public uproar suggested that a tipping point has come where the collective consciousness is shifting.People are now actually screaming out that there has been enough of violence (against women).

What was strange about this reaction was that people reacted as if no such abuse has happened ever before or it is not going to happen again.

The gruesome Delhi gang-rape was not a case in isolation. From the time I started reading the newspaper, I remember seeing this kind of cases being reported. Unfortunately, what is being reported is just the tip of the iceberg.

These days we are coming across more reports about abuse of women because thankfully more people are speaking up and giving more space to write about such issues. But, it cannot stop at that and there is urgency for a dedicated action.

It is worrisome that 85 per cent of the perpetrators are those that the victim knows of. When such crimes happen behind closed doors, it is very important that each person takes the responsibility of speaking up about such heinous crimes.

When it begins, be it in the form of an abuse, molestation, foul language or even a bad touch and at that point if one does not react, it encourages such crimes.

Of course we need the government to bring better policies and the police and the judiciary to hasten the process of justice. We as individuals need to become fearless in speaking up against such abuses.

The whole stigma about the victim, the person who has suffered is made to feel ashamed is a crazy thing to happen. Instead of the victim it should be the culprit or the perpetrator who should be ashamed of his misdemeanor. Why should the victim who has been abused feel ashamed?

Because of the delay in bringing the perpetrators to the book, most of the culprits stay as alleged criminals and make a mocker y of the law. Women have a long battle ahead, but we as society need to understand the urgency of addressing these issues.

We have to stop stereotyping women and change our mindset that her job is just to appease the man. Sadly, we have failed to treat women as human beings.

With more and more women speaking up, the situation now is gradually changing and is not as dismal as before. But the working woman has a double burden as she also has to take care of her household chores.

Men need to think about giving more space to women if they want a more civilised and developed society. The Delhi gang-rape victim ‘Nirbhaya’ too, like Bhanwari Devi (gang-rape victim of Rajasthan in the early 1990s) has become a symbol for a larger cause.

There are many women who have fought courageously. Look at Bhanwari Devi of Rajasthan. Even after 19 years, she is living in the same village and the perpetrators are roaming freely and still troubling and exploiting her.

It is also important to involve men in fighting crimes against women. Somewhere, perhaps, the feminist movement failed because we have not really worked with the men. The gap between men and women has actually increased and therefore both men and women need to be part of such movements. (As told to Ashok Kumar/OneWorld South Asia)

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