#Opinion

Not Only Government But Families Too Responsible For Caste Based Crimes Against Women

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It was disgusting when I saw the family Purohit ogling my breasts when I trying to tell him something important. One day he crossed his limit by pulling me towards him, to an uncomfortable closeness, when no one was around in the room. But even today he comes every month to my house to conduct the puja, seek Guru Dakshina and give my family his blessings. Even today I am asked to touch his feet, serve him food, pick up his plate and wash it. But why didn’t I speak up against him? Why didn’t I tell my mother about his ill behaviour with me? Not just because he is a man and my patriarchal family wouldn’t do more than asking me to be quiet. But also because he is an upper-caste man who is bestowed with power over lower caste people like us.

Each time I come across the caste-based violence on women, like the Hathras case, my wounded conscience is revived. It reminds me how a crime against women based on their gender and caste finds its root in the family and the upbringing. Since the death of the Hathras case survivor, everyone is pointing fingers on the government and the leaders of the survivor’s state. While there is no denying that the government has failed women, but, it is not the government alone who is responsible for the rising crime against women. The family, gendered upbringing and cultures have an equal role in perpetuating the rape culture in the society.

In Indian families, girls are conditioned to assume a silence on every small harassment that they face which continues when something grave like rape happens. They are forced not to question and criticise when they are not treated as equal to the male members in the family. They are indoctrinated with the idea that women are subordinate, sacrificial and that they have to face harassments because it is men who hold the power. Fear for safety and lack of freedom is normalised as they grow up in an unsafe haven. Added to this are the ideas of caste discrimination that altogether portray a picture of the society that has a hierarchy with women in the lowest position.

Also Read: The Hathras Gang Rape Exposes The Control Of Brahmanical Patriarchy In Indian Society

I belong to one of the extremely backward classes of Bihar and a family that firmly believes in the caste divide of the society. My family respects Brahmins and upper caste families while keeps a distance from marginalised class who are alienated as the untouchables. Serving the Brahmins is a blessing, disrespecting upper-caste men is blasphemous while giving even a glass of water to the untouchables is dirty. Yes, I raised a voice against the shameful practice but the reply was “Caste division is God’s rule. We are the lower castes and it is our duty to serve the Brahmins.”

These words pricked my ears like a needle but what brought the tears is the realisation that the caste system is deep-seated in my reality. Would my mother even believe if I said that the purohit that she respects so much misbehaved with me? Would she confront him and ask him to leave at once after knowing all this? No. Because, as a lower caste, raising voice against a Brahmin will mean disrespecting God and being cursed by the Brahmin. And that seems to be too high a cost paid for the safety of a woman.

How then a girl of a lower caste and those in general, step out in the society with confidence that they are safe?

Will they even dare to dream being aware of the fact that it will be stifled and there will be no one to hear their cries? Will they ever know that they deserve equal respect, freedom and opportunities in a society that is just? Coming to the conditioning of men, the normalised gender and caste discrimination creates in their minds a sense of impunity and dominance over women and marginalised sections of the society. It will not be wrong to say that crime begins at home and if not stopped there, it can never be. When girls and boys have been brought up in an environment that is rooted in inequality and discrimination on the basis of caste, colour and gender, it automatically becomes the norm for them. And how many people care to question the normal?

But that is exactly where we need to start, as an individual, family and society. Patriarchy, misogyny and caste discrimination are literally dissolved in the normality.

We have learnt to adjust with them rather than raising a question. Until and unless we open our conscience, listen to cries and question the normal, the change cannot begin. We need to raise voice against the injustice that we see in our own realities- families, neighbours and peers. We need to question and change the way families bring up their children, the general perception about women and the discrimination based on caste, gender and colour. Yes, the government and law have equal responsibility for curbing the injustice against women. But all the efforts will be a waste if women are never told that they are respectable and equal beings of the society, irrespective of their caste or colour. And that is possible if they are not brought up as unwanted daughters of a lower caste.

Also Read: Dear Parents, Bring Up Your Daughters As Empowered Beings Not As A Burden