The spate of an unprecedented cases of rape reported in the State is a major cause of concern as it is symptomatic of how a dyed-in-the-wool patriarchal society is finding it difficult to come to terms with questions of gender equality and women empowerment. Even if it is farfetched to attribute even the sexual coercion on minors to a systemic patriarchal order, it can only be said that men who for far too long have been riding roughshod over the fairer sex and enjoying the freedom to force themselves upon women without their consent under the social sanction provided by age-old traditions like Nupi Chenba are finding it hard to come to grips with the women of today who are more likely to take their own decisions.
Even if our society is extremely conservative, the winds of change are blowing as more people from the State are being exposed to different cultures. Cultural influence, here, is a double edged sword as people tend to pick up both what is worth emulating with what should be discarded.
The easy access to pornography is often cited as a reason responsible for encouraging men to force themselves on women. However, this observation is contentious as in some countries like Japan where there is a spurt in pornographic consumption, violence against women are reported to have declined.
Some biologists maintained that the tendency of sexual coercion among men is due to the human evolutionary process. Sexual coercion, or to put it more bluntly: rape, is believed to be widely prevalent among some of our nearest primates. A study done on more than 150 societies at the University of Pennsylvania revealed that men who were conditioned to respect the female virtues of growth and the sacredness of life were least likely to violate women. The study also made an observation that rape is rare in those societies where nature is held sacred.
It is for the trained sociologists or psychologists to find out the root cause of the spurt in reported cases of rape incidents across the State. We want to set the ball rolling in discovering why cases of violence against women, including minor girls, have increased exponentially these days.
Having said that, a small observation of our society will suffice to find out how poorly represented the fairer sex are in economic and political decision making. Even if we showcase Ima Keithel as a symbol of the freedom enjoyed by women in our society, they still occupy a low status. The fact that we have only two elected women legislators in the 60 member Manipur Legislative Assembly is evidence enough. The Meira Paibis are an aberration which in the ultimate analysis is not a cause of celebration. Meira Paibis are celebrated all over as symbols of true emancipated women but nothing can be further from the truth.
Coming back to the increasing incidents of reported rape cases, law enforcement agencies are to be blamed to a great extent as rapists are seldom convicted in the State. As a result, potential rapists are emboldened as they are confident of walking scot free.
Leader Writer: Svoboda Kangleicha