ARE WE ON THE SAME BUS?
The gang-rape of the twenty-three year old physiotherapist has left us Indians anguished and restless. We see how sick our society is! Finally, our eyes have opened (hopefully) to see how our own role in the home and in the society has contributed to the rise of these monsters called molestation, rape and murder. Since the conscience of the nation has been stirred by these cruel acts, we have a golden opportunity for bringing about a change.
As Indian Christians, we thank God for this awakening and wish it would bring a real, lasting change. What is scary is, the massive fire of this social awakening may be doused by some more glamorous and less guilt-inducing issues!
How, then, do we keep this amaanat alive? Will we let her and a thousand others be raped again, and again, and die brutal deaths by letting the issue fade away? Should we allow the mentally and morally depraved people to continue in this sort of evil?
I say, NO.
Anguished And Angry
Men and women of India, if you care even the slightest bit for your people, or indeed, for yourself and your families, and for God's world to run in God's way, you will keep the issue of women's rights alive and in the public space for longer - as long as it takes for us to see a drastic change. Otherwise, we will sink even lower, because it will take a more horrific crime to wake us up the next time. What will it be next, and frankly, which of us would like to volunteer to be the victim? Or give up our own daughter as the victim? Would she have her brains pulled out this time, after she is raped twenty times in half an hour by an even larger horde of monsters masquerading as men?
Yes, I am angry. And so should we all be. In particular, Christians should be angry, because we proclaim that God is just, does not show favouritism, has made all humans, men and women, in His image, is loving, kind, merciful - and we are called to be like Him. In evangelism, we call people into a relationship with this God, to be transformed into His image.
We are anguished and angry. Let us then keep the issue alive. Talk aloud about the truth that women are as human as men, that they are homo-sapiens, that they are equals. Let us be vocal in affirming the truth that women are made in God's image, as are men, and they are valuable and precious to God; that Jesus died for women and men, just the same. Let us remember that women are equal citizens in law and have the same rights as men; women have the right to freedom, to choice, to work, to education. Woe to us when we de-value and spit on the image of God in women. Women are denied these fundamental rights every day in a million homes!
Let's forget the rapist-murderers for a while and introspect: How have you and I denied a woman or girl any of these things? Let us be frank with ourselves and realise that often under the guise of social customs, Biblical interpretations (faulty ones) or safety or finances we ourselves are complicit in denying our own daughters, sisters, wives and even mothers these rights.
We do not allow a girl the freedom to live - we kill her in the womb. Hatred for the girl child is seen in a thousand ultrasound clinics, as we reject and abort the baby.
We do not feed her as well as we feed our boys, and we do not give her the same healthcare and education. The first and the last gulab jamun, the best piece of chicken, are always for the son. The best education, the best school and college, the best medical care - all for the son. But for the girl, the local GP or home remedies will do.
We restrict her and neglect her in ways we seldom restrict our sons, whether it is in friendships, clothes, pocket money, freedom to drive vehicles or go out of the house. We tell her early that she has no real place in our house and must go elsewhere. We prepare her for a life of slavery by lecturing her that she has to submit to the demands of her husband and in-laws and give up her own dreams for the sake of her children. We discriminate against her if she is dark-skinned, (let's face it, we are racist) or has any physical blemish.
We do not trust her with money; we do not want to see her empowered as an adult, with the result that she is forced to live even with an abusive husband because she cannot support herself.
We give her no share in family wealth. We do give a huge dowry for her wedding, but not to her! Even 'her' dowry is given to others for their use. She has no control or say over it.
When it comes to family property, very little goes to her; a thousand brothers persuade a thousand sisters to sign the will to usurp properties. Houses bought by families are usually registered in the husband's name. Very rarely do we write wills dividing the property and business equally between our sons and daughters.
We give her no permanent share in our family name, nor do we allow her name to exist beyond herself. She can be renamed at will by her husband and in-laws. She has to take first her father's, then her husband's name. The child she bears in her own womb for nine months and delivers in intense pain, bears no name of hers. Her child belongs, in public, solely to the father. The mother is unknown, seldom acknowledged.
We give her no rights of decision-making even when she is an adult, married, or a parent. Man of the house, schooled as he is by society that he is the mukhiya (head of the family), takes arbitrary decisions; the woman can only plead and beg for some say.
We are reluctant to admit that women and men need to work together in policy-framing and law-making to build a nation that is strong and prosperous. Men fight among themselves for Parliament seats, trying their hardest to see that reservation bill for women in parliament does not come through, while paying a lip service to the need for more women in public life.
In our churches, we ensure that women are given supporting roles only. We keep to ourselves the right to be priests, pastors, elders, decision-makers, clinging desperately and self-righteously to a few badly-understood verses in the epistles to justify this male dominance, while negating the larger picture of Jesus' role in the emancipation of women and in giving justice and mercy. 21st century Pharisees, indeed!
All in all, we tell the woman in clear terms that she is not really a human as men are. She has no rights except what we allow her, in our 'goodness'. We tolerate her presence here and there at certain times for procreation, for our pleasure, for housework, for getting a male heir. If she dares to resist injustice done to her, we are furious and accuse her of being a bad daughter and woman. Not surprisingly, the rapist-murderers' first taunt was: What was she doing out there so late with a boy? (Ironically, it was nobody's business what they were doing out there - drunk, robbing, raping, torturing and murdering!)
Christians, Wake Up!
How much of these do you and I see as fundamentally unjust and discriminatory? Are we willing to re-examine our fanatic, absurd ideas, shaped as they are by our patriarchal Indian culture, and our own desire for power and privilege, in the light of the guidance and direction the Lord has given us in the Bible? Are we willing to loosen our selfish grip on the rights, privileges and power and share them with the women - in the home, in the church, in the society? Are we willing to change, step by step? If not, maybe we are on that bus!
Am I exaggerating? I don't think so!