Christine Lagarde, the Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund at the World Economic Forum in Davos last week explaining the connection that gender equality has with economic growth put forth, “But you will ask what it has to do with economy. It is indeed about economy and equality and bringing in prosperity. Gender inequality is very important and the policy makers have not paid enough attention to it. The fact is when women do better the country does better and policy makers need to understand this. The IMF Chief was of course harping on the ill-treatment and status of women in the Indian subcontinent. However Swami Vivekananda more than one hundred years ago in his message on women empowerment wrote, “All nations have attained greatness by paying proper respect to women. That country and that nation which do not respect women have never become great, nor will ever be in future” (Vol. 7: Conversations and Dialogues: From the Diary of a Disciple: XVIII). Much before that Manu among the earliest known rishis of the Indus Valley civilisation and who can very safely be classified to have lived more than five thousand years ago had stated, “Yatra naryastu pujyante ramante tatra devatah” – the gods are pleased where the women are held in esteem. Very consistently the principle of equality and respect for women has been in existence in India since ages and so also its connection to development and prosperity which is undeniable.
Since the time he had lived in caves man has clearly understood that he cannot exist without the women and to put it bluntly he exists only because of the women. Concepts like family and marriage were put in place simultaneously along with village and nation. When a nation is safe and happy a village is safe and happy, when a village is safe and happy a family is safe and happy and when a family is safe and happy every individual is safe and happy. Every family, village and nation is made up of man and women and their roles as equals was well acknowledged. But sadly all men and women are not of the same mental and emotional makeup. Some are weak, psychologically immature and emotionally insecure. Thus came in distinctions of class, caste, duties, gender, social norms, speech, dress code, ease of movement and many others.
The task of maintaining a fine balance between the natural and higher state of gender equality and the unnatural and weak tendencies of distinctions was caste on the policy makers in the society who inadvertently were the rich and the powerful. Unfortunately whenever this category of individuals succumbed to emotional and material greed and allowed corruption to seep into social behavior and practices, the balance was disturbed and people suffered. From the top, corrupt practices percolate to the lower rungs of society. When war, murder and theft become unchallenged and rampant it disturbed the lives of ordinary people pushing them into instability for both life and living condition. To evade some of these pains society and groups like the Khap Panchayats in India start making stricter and crazier caste and gender based distinctions.
This craziness is the present situational story in India. The short sightedness of the powerful class since independence has badly impacted the entire society in India over the decades. Most (and not all) of the politicians and the industrialists have behaved as if there would be no tomorrow. Their behavior has been in total betrayal of trust and faith in themselves and in humanity. As a result today hurt, anger and also despair can be seen in the eyes of the middle and lower class Indian and this has therefore lead to more crime of which some are also against women. A plain assessment of ground realities drives home the conclusion that today India has become a country of rapists The Delhi gang rape in December is not a one-off incident but such crimes have become so common that finally this time people were exasperated. Their ire was against the lack of sensitivity amongst the political class to the consequence of their action as well as inaction. It is apparent that the political parties in India and their politicians have lost their relevance in the present time; they have lost all connectivity with the needs of the people and serve more as a pain in the arse and also as a source of entertainment.
India too revers its mothers and sisters, wish to see them flourish in their chosen field of endeavor. However the corruption perpetrated in society needs to be reversed, crime has to be controlled and criminal justice has to be addressed. The onus of this responsibility lies on the shoulders of the rich and the powerful alone. They have to understand the consequence of their actions on society and therefore take remedial measures while there is still time. Gender inequality is not the cause of the problem but a symptom of the ills of society.