In India the recent surge in rape cases has shaken the conscience of every right-thinking Indian. People were outraged when, in December 2012, a young girl was gang-raped in Delhi and later died. A similarly horrific incident occurred in August 2013 in Mumbai when a woman photojournalist was gang-raped. After the episode in Delhi there were widespread protests and demand for tougher rape laws, but there continue to be incidents nonetheless. Unfortunately, when such horrendous incidents occur in metropolitan areas they are widely reported, whereas in small cities and villages where these things occur just as frequently they go unnoticed. Why is it that rape cases have become so common in India? And why, despite stringent laws and social ostracization of the rapists, is the situation deteriorating? The only solution the government, the people, and the media have proposed is to enact tougher laws. sadly, the fear of punishment has however not deterred the rapists so far.
Aggravating the Disease of Lust
The Bhagavad-gita (16.21) identifies lust, anger, and greed as the “three gates leading to hell.” Present-day society is unfortunately well equipped to aggravate the disease of lust. Obscenity has become so common in movies, TV, advertisements, Bollywood songs, and so on. some leading newspapers and magazines are stuffed with semi-nude pictures of women just to increase circulation. Internet and mobile pornography is at its peak. Even in cricket tournaments like IPL semi-clad cheerleaders are brought in to entice the audience. In fact, scantily dressed women are used in advertisements for virtually any and all products, be it shaving cream, shoe polish, electronics, air conditioners, or tooth paste. Women are portrayed as objects meant for gratifying the senses. Today the cheapest commodity available in India is condoms, which suggests to the populace that “You can have unlimited sex with unlimited partners, but just use condoms.” However, unrestrained sex does not satiate lust; it aggravates it, like pouring gasoline into a fire. Lust is an extremely powerful psychological and emotional force that produces intense craving. In the Bhagavad-gita (3.39) Lord Krishna explains that lust is “the eternal enemy” of all living entities because it can never be satisfied; indeed, He say that lust “burns like fire.” Vidura once told Yudhisthira that uncontrolled lust is one of the main reasons why people commit crime. sex addicts in particular will go to any extreme to satisfy their lust. On the fateful night of December 16, the perpetrators of the Delhi gang-rape were on the hunt for sexual satisfaction, and they could have targeted any woman.
If we promote, propagate, and advertise lustful tendencies so rampantly, how can we expect for sexual crimes against women to not occur?
Women, who once occupied a coveted position in Indian society, are now finding themselves in a dangerous place. Traditional Indian society, which has its roots in the Vedas, always looked at women not as objects of lust but as spirit souls, part and parcel of God.
Vedas on Women
The Vedas unequivocally attest to the fact that both men and women are children of God and have specific roles to play in this world. These wisdom literatures have always adored women’s roles as mother, wife, and social reformer. In the Vedic tradition, the onus of guaranteeing protection to women is entrusted to men. For example, we see how Lord Rama fought with Ravana to rescue Mother sita, how Bhima killed Duryodhana and Duhsasana because they tried to sully Draupadi, and how all five Pandavas took care of their mother, Kunti, and never left her unprotected.
Men and women both have distinct yet significant traits the Vedas instruct should be harnessed and harmonized. Srila Prabhupada appreciated the devotional qualities of women: “Women in general, being very simple at heart, can very easily take to Krishna consciousness, and when they develop love of Krishna they can easily get liberation from the clutches of maya, which are very difficult for even so-called along with her husband, as a queen, over the other members of the family.”
Modern Education Fails to Address the Problem
Today many are clamoring for women’s education, and this is commendable. But the schools and colleges, which are considered temples of learning, are not helping women understand their God-given virtues. Today, in the name of championing the cause of women, emphasis is placed more on making women see men as her exploiter or her competitor, and they are being trained to imitate men in toto be it in dressing, lifestyle, or type of work. such artificial emulation has hardly helped women. This idea that men and women are the same, in all ways equal, does not hold much weight. Even simple analysis shows they are different they look differently, they think differently, they behave differently, they speak differently, and their needs, wants, and concerns are also different. Real education is that which can help women understand who they are and what is their relationship with the supreme Lord. They should be taught that they are souls temporarily occupying female bodies. Thus men and women are equal only at the spiritual level.
The Vedic school of thought always encourages both men and women to see each other as souls.
Vedic culture pays the utmost respect to women and womanhood and considers them equal to men at the spiritual level. The role of a woman as a mother is highly revered; she is considered the child’s first guru and is entrusted with the responsibility of nurturing the child. History is filled with stories of mothers who were solely responsible for raising a child that later performed heroic deeds. Queen Kunti inculcated great virtues and a sense of valor in her five sons. And Jijabai’s inspiration and upbringing shaped the life of shivaji Maharaja, the great Maratha king. In traditional Vedic society men were taught to call all women, except their wives, “mother.” This practice is still being followed in ISKCON, wherein all the male devotees address women as “Mataji” (mother). “One who considers another’s wife as his mother, another’s possessions as a lump of dirt, and treats all other living beings as he would himself, is considered to be learned.” (Sri Canakya Niti-sastra 12.14)
As wives, Vedic women were supposed to share equally the responsibilities of their husbands and to participate in the decision making process. Mutual respect traditionally existed between the two individuals. The following quotes reflect the importance given to women:
“If one has a nice wife, he is to be considered a most fortunate man. In astrology, a man is considered fortunate who has great wealth, very good sons, or a very good wife. Of these three, one who has a very good wife is considered the most fortunate.” (Bhagavatam 3.21.15, purport)
“A wife is addressed as devi, not by her name. The husband should address his wife as devi. They must be like devi. Devi means ‘goddess,’ and the wife must address the husband as ‘lord.’ This is the system.” (Srila Prabhupada, lecture on Bhagavatam 1.15.51, Los Angeles, 28 December 1973.
Sir Monier Monier-Williams (1819–1899), an Indologist and the second Boden Professor of sanskrit at Oxford, has written: “Indian wives often possess greater influence than wives of Europeans.”
Men are not Born Rapists
The venerable position of women as depicted in the Vedas appears to be an oxymoron in today’s India. Not just rape but molestation, eveteasing, dowry deaths, bride burning, and other heinous and misogynistic crimes are also on the rise. Indian society today is failing to protect the dignity of women. Enamored by materialistic life, Indians have willfully given up Vedic standards. Materialism has spread its wings far and wide and is sowing the seeds for godless society. It is inciting people to adopt any means to satisfy their lustful desires. Men are not born rapists or molesters. The environment is mostly responsible for shaping the mindset of the people, and today the ease with which one has access to pornographic material is appalling.
If we seriously want to put a stop to these horrific incidents, then there should be laws to check vulgarity and obscenity. As we campaign against drug addiction, we should similarly campaign against lust addiction. sadly today’s educational institutions do not teach students to control their lusty propensities. Srila Prabhupada, one of the foremost saints of the modern era, explains in his Bhagavad-gita As It Is (4.1, purport): “The kings of all planets are especially meant for the protection of the inhabitants, and therefore the royal order should understand the science of Bhagavad-gita in order to be able to rule the citizens and protect them from material bondage to lust.”
Building a society in which Women Can Live with Dignity
The following three steps can help build a safe and secure environment for women:
1. Ban on Pornography: Pornography has been one of the major reasons for the increase in crimes against women. “The free availability of pornographic movies, on the internet and otherwise, as well as the sale of illicit liquor have both contributed to the recent rise in sexual crimes against women, says a survey by Delhi police.” (“Free porn, illicit liquor behind rise in rapes: Delhi Police survey” Hindustan Times) (http:// www.hindustantimes.com/India-news/ NewDelhi/Free-porn-illicit-liquorbehind-rise-in-rapes-Delhi-Policesurvey/ Article1-1063212.aspx). Two young men who raped a five-year-old girl in New Delhi have attested that it was a pornographic movie they were watching that instigated their crime. The government should enforce a complete ban on all sorts of pornography.
2. Emphasis should be on Value Education: In today’s competitive environment, schools and colleges focus mostly on making their students materially competent. Negligible importance is given to imparting ethical and moral values. The infamous Delhi Public school MMs sex scandal is testimony of the fact that even school students are indulging in unethical activities. Values and principles espoused by scriptures like the Bhagavad-gita, Sri isopanisad, and so on need to be included in academic curriculums. Once a person develops strong character by imbibing the pristine message of these sacred texts, his conscience will never allow him to indulge in any obnoxious activities. Lust should be nipped in the bud so that it does not escalate to sexual crimes.
3. Establishing Krishna-centered spiritual society: In a spiritual society all individuals have the deepest respect and love for each other and understand that each one of them is a child of God. Men in such societies do not see women as objects of enjoyment or exploitation but consider them spirit souls in female bodies. Srila Prabhupada explains, “The only way to permanently change the criminal habit is to change the heart of the criminal. As you well know, many thieves are arrested numerous times and put into jail. Although they know that if they commit theft they will go to jail, still they are forced to steal, because of their unclean hearts. Therefore without cleansing the heart of the criminal, you cannot stop crime simply by more stringent law enforcement. The thief and the murderer already know the law, yet they still commit violent crimes, due to their unclean hearts.” Chanting the Hare Krishna maha-mantra is the most potent way to cleanse the heart of lust, greed, and anger. In a Krishna centered society, women live with honor and dignity and have complete surety of safety and security.
Purushottam Kumar is a member of the congregation at ISKCON Kolkata. He works in Tech Mahindra, Kolkata.