BY FR CARLOS LUIS SAC
The atrocities faced by women in Manipur have made us realise that there is something seriously wrong with our society.
In Goa, despite the Directorate Of Women and Child Development taking sufficient steps to resolve the crimes against women, in the past seven years, there has been on average one crime per day, according to the data provided by the Goa State Commission for Women, district women helplines, block development offices (BDOs) and one-stop centres.
The Directorate of WCD has designated protection officers under the Domestic Violence Act, 2005, to all 12 BDOs to assist the victims in filing a complaint, make shelter available, provide information on their rights and make provision for the medical examination of the victim in case of any injury.
The directorate has also engaged 12 female officers to tackle impending issues as well as created one-stop centres and an emergency universal women’s helpline.
What more can we do to help rectify this drastic situation? In the apostolic letter Mulieris Dignitatem, Pope John Paul II celebrated the dignity and vocation of women, mentioning their equal worth and unique contributions to the world.
He hinted at all of us unitedly walking together as one family and not considering ourselves superior to the other.
The Pope further states in agreement that most often, “A woman is left alone, exposed to public opinion with ‘her sin’, while behind ‘her’ sin there lurks a man – a sinner, guilty ‘of the other's sin’, indeed equally responsible for it. And yet his sin escapes notice, it is passed over in silence: he does not appear to be responsible for ‘the other's sin’! Sometimes, forgetting his own sin, he even makes himself the accuser, as in the case described. How often, in a similar way, the woman pays for her own sin (maybe it is she, in some cases, who is guilty of the ‘other’s sin’ – the sin of the man), but she alone pays and she pays all alone!” This actually shouldn’t be the case.
In a letter written for the 4th World Conference on Women, which was held in Beijing in 1995, Pope John Paul II yet again emphasised and applauded the contribution of women as mothers, wives, daughters, sisters, consecrated women and as women contributing to art, economics, society, science, culture and technology.
He also strongly condemned every violence and exploitation they have to endure because of the hedonistic and commercial culture.
At the 61st session of the General Assembly of the United Nations on the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of women, Msgr Celestino Migliore made it very clear that there exists discrimination between men and women.
He pointed out two issues that are prevalent due to which discrimination occurs. He said that the attempts for equality between men and women have always met with an antagonistic approach and that there is a tendency in us to blur the actual differences that men and women hold.
Thus, he suggested addressing discriminatory practices and removing obstacles and helping women to integrate into the various sectors of society. We see Pope Paul VI affirmed in Gaudium et Spes no. 29 that though there are basic differences between men and women, their equality must receive greater recognition.
Pope Francis has been very sensitive to the contributions made by women. He commended their work when he spoke on the day of Consecrated
Life in the year 2022 and asked them to fight against all atrocities that may come their way being very aware of the victimisation women face.
And very recently, speaking on International Women’s Day, he also said that we need to give equal opportunity to women so that they contribute substantially to a peaceful world, create inclusive and integral world, and thus, we may all live a life of solidarity.
Thus, I believe that there is a serious need to move from our prejudices to an inclusive mindset. There is a dire need to be moved by love. As loving beings, we need to be able to strip ourselves of the stereotypes about women and change our perspective towards them.
We need to accompany and assist them in major decision-making processes. We need to employ newer techniques to build an inclusive culture where both men and women are given equal opportunities and are equipped with efficient skills.
Women as well as men need to be conscientised so that we walk hand-in-hand rather than consider ourselves superior to the other. There is also a need to create platforms for dialogue and reconciliation for the tragic incidences and violence of the past.
This effort must be taken up collectively. It cannot be achieved by one person. It requires efforts to be put in from all fronts, whether social, individual or institutional.
Given that there are very many instances of discrimination still happening there is a dire need to create legal protection for women to implement and enforce laws.
If we want to see women rise to great heights, we need to create opportunities for them to participate fully in all sectors of life. And then, empower them with the resources available to support them in achieving their goals.
Media, advertising and entertainment play a vital role in the creation of an image or a trend and, thus, there is a need to encourage these industries to positively represent women and get rid of gender stereotypes.
There is a dire need also to advance in one’s career, and therefore, despite bias, one needs to be willing to promote gender equality in workplaces. When it comes to the creation of policies one must take care to be inclusive rather than thinking from only one point of view.
As we have grown into a global village, there is a possibility to connect with people across the world. We can learn to cooperate and build a generous world. We can also help address gender discrimination globally by working together and sharing our ideas, talents, practices, solutions and resources.
When one gets rid of one’s ego, one will be able to share one’s ideas with the other and also be able to accept the other as she or he is and accept their viewpoints.
Yuval Noah Harari in his book Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind tells us that we are supremely capable of cooperating in extremely creative and flexible ways with numerous strangers.
For instance, the number of people who use Swiggy and Zomato are plenty. We do not know anyone who works at these companies closely, but we can cooperate and get our work of delivering food done.
If so, why not allow ourselves to accept the other gender without any prejudice and learn to cooperate and adjust to the beautiful creation God has made for our assistance?
(Carlos Luis is a priest belonging to the Society of the Catholic Apostolate (Pallottine) and is currently studying for a licentiate degree in Moral Theology. He comments on social and moral issues.)