Rape victims should not be addressed as 'bechari': Meira Kumar
Arguing that things have hardly changed even with stringent laws post the December 16, 2012 Delhi gangrape, Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar Saturday insisted that a rape victim should never be addressed in a subservient and disrespectful manner, by calling her 'bechari' (poor girl) or 'zinda laash' (live corpse).
When quizzed on the derogatory language used in parliament for rape victims, she emphasised on self-restraint by politicians.
"Victim should never be called 'bechari' or 'zinda laash'. How can you just condemn a person because she was raped? These words should not be used," Meira Kumar said at an interactive session organised by MCC Chamber of Commerce and Industry here.
"As far as language used in the parliament is concerned, there is a very big dictionary of language on parliamentary words and I always delete any word which is un-parliamentary (the proceedings come to me). That is a kind of self-restraint which should be there," she added.
Referring to the "very shameful" Delhi gangrape incident Dec 16 last year that led to strengthening existing laws on violence against women, the speaker questioned whether the move has actually ushered in change.
She stressed on altering the mindset of people to bring noticeable change.
"There was this very shameful act on Nirbhaya..in December last year in Delhi. Parliament was unanimous against this and whatever laws we had, were made more stringent, but has it stopped? It hasn't stopped," the speaker said.
She said: "Can any law be more powerful than society and the way that it thinks...no law can be more powerful...it can only help...if you think that it has an over-reaching effect on society...it doesn't. Society must change."
Stating that dowry is the "root cause of the deplorable condition of women" in Indian society, the speaker expressed concern over the "low position" of women today which is in stark contrast to the "exalted" position accorded to them in theory culturally.
Meira Kumar described the parliament as "the most powerful agent of social change", but pointed out that with respect for women's position, the "ground realities" were very different from the high moral standards.
"What is not really given in the Constitution, but if you read between the lines...the spirit of the Constitution directs that parliament is also an agent of social change...the most powerful agent of social change is parliament ...through the laws you make...the debates...the activities are meant to transform society for the better.
"In theory, we have given a very exalted position to women, but in practice we have given them the lowest position."
"There is threat to their security...their dignity...they are not empowered."
According to Meira Kumar, education necessarily does not pave the way for empowerment, though there is a "silent revolution" going on in rural areas where women's status are being gradually elevated.
She refused to be drawn into a debate on the spotlight that media has received due to the Tarun Tejpal sex assault case.
"I don't want to get into that...this thing is between politicians and media...these are all individuals...regardless of profession they belong to...as human beings they must first learn to respect others and must respect women very importantly," she said.
(Posted on 23-11-2013)