By September 10, 2013 Read More →

The Power of Women for Creating a Culture of Non-Violence

In the midst of the silent ambience of the Om Shanti Retreat Center, about 70 women gathered to discuss the burning issue of violence against women since the world’s vision was turned toward Delhi by the heinous gang rape incident of 16 December 2012.

“Our purpose”, said Conference Facilitator BK Denise, ” is to open up and bring light to a taboo subject embedded in the prevailing cultural views that can be traced back to Manu Smruti, which has shaped the attitudes towards women in India for centuries. We need to open up conversations within the context of an escalating global culture of violence in which the power of women to create a non-violent culture is virtually nil because of unethical, inequitable norms that permit violence against women.”

Dr Janice Darbar, HE Honorary Consul General of Montenegro, in her inaugural address, said: “It is time to evolve and act. We are individuals moving towards the light, and when illuminated souls come together and contribute to society, change is possible. We can begin by closing the gaps in communication and making resolutions in our close family and community circles. Conflict resolution is only likely when people are not self-centred.” She called for women to focus on creating a new society rather than criticizing the existing one, and cited the example of Sankaradeva, founder of Assamese Vaishnavism, who through literature assailed the seemingly unassailable tantric practice of worshipping virgin women and then sacrificing them. Due to his influence, a culture of equality is still evident in Assam today. In particular, she revealed that the prevailing definition of the word “Modern” refers to women who dress inappropriately and immodestly. When a teacher wears jeans, is the children’s attention drawn to the blackboard or her contours? Is it more important to teach or be hip? Do children touch the feet of a teacher wearing jeans or a skirt?” she remarked.

Mrs Bina Jain, President of All India Women’s Conference, said that she has been working towards the upliftment of women for 46 years, but feels that the time has come where we can expect equal rights. “We neither need to be worshipped as goddesses nor to be suppressed,” she said, “but we do need respect. Women have a nature of acceptance, but on occasion we should revolt as we did recently with the incident that shook the country. Yet, since then several further atrocities have not been reported. Unless men also recognize the urgency, we will not see change” she said. “Ours is a country of values, but we are moving far away from them. The media too can be held highly responsible for perpetrating a culture of disrespect.”

Mrs Sujaya Krishnan, Joint Secretary, Health & Family Welfare, Government of India, reminded all of the saying: Where women are revered there the deities abide. “Where there is respect”, she said, “it is as if the world is supported by the combined hands of woman and man. Our culture arises from what we do. We need a global culture that goes back to our former humanity, which can be advanced through better communication. Through listening to each other and understanding each other, we can dispel the biases that we carry. She called for each one to make a resolution to be a light unto the world by being a light unto oneself.

Dr Manju Gupta said that man and woman are designed to move like two wheels of the same vehicle, but we have lost the grace of Lakshmi and Narayan. Men and women should be complementary not contradictory. The mother is the first guru. If she were to bring up a boy and girl equally there would be no question of disempowerment stemming from the family itself. It is said that violence begins in the minds of men. When a woman is pure the vices cannot touch her, as mythologically attested by Draupadi when Duryodhana tried to disrobe her.

“India is a place of dichotomy,” said Dr Sujata Sharma. “On one hand we elevate woman to the status of goddess while our social systems disempower her,” She explained how physical violence actually stems from the subtle violence in our minds that could be arrested at an early age. We need to educate both males and females with values so that we can build a society that treats boys and girls equally.

Nitima representing young women said, “I am a fan of woman power and would define woman as a wonderful omni worker who encourages with love and never gives up.” She viewed that the feminist movement had mistakenly tried to assert the ego when it would have been better promoting values. As a result, females face more problems from other women. Self-protection ultimately means to protect my aura.

BK Geeta closed the plenary session sharing her experience of how attitudes have changed. In her childhood, she had been conditioned to believe that men were capable of doing much more than women and was told to follow the men. “I had much less self-esteem then”, she said. “in learning Raj Yoga, I understood that the soul is powerful, no matter the gender of the body. The shakti is shown riding a lion, which symbolizes our power. We can enforce this spiritual power by particularly paying careful attention to our thoughts before they become words and deeds.”

In the ensuing group dialogue, BK Denise raised a number of issues on which she invited deliberation. Four important questions were offered for discussion.

1. How can you change attitudes towards women in Indian society?

2. How can you educate parents to protect and prepare their daughters adequately for a hostile society?

3.How can you get the media, government, law enforcing agencies and social organizations to promote respect for women?

4.How to strengthen the self in challenging times?

Posted in: Women

Our Privacy Policy   |   Our Cookie Policy