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’Violence against woman seen as assertion of power’

NEW DELHI, Feb 2: Living in a society where violence and social attitude towards women has become a major societal concern, historian Romila Thapar called atrocities against women as assertion of power to maintain the caste structure.

“Whether it is killing of a Dalit or rape of a woman, it is assertion by those who see social violence as a way of expressing power,” Thapar said at a panel discussion on violence against women organised by Centre for Policy Analysis at the India International Centre Friday evening.

“Controlling women has been a patriarchal way of controlling the caste society. Subordination of women becomes a requirement to maintain it.  

“When women chose to marry outside the caste, stability of caste society seems to be broken,” she said.

Thapar said that there is a need to make laws pertaining to women secular. “Laws have to be secular if women have to be given equality. Most religious laws do not give equal justice to women,” she said.

Veteran advocate Indira Jaising said there was urgent need for legal reforms as well as change in perspective. “The biggest problem is that crime against women is not considered a crime, it is considered a domestic issue,” Jaising said. “We need to see how to make law empowering for women.” Jaising said discrimination reflected in the marriage laws that have no account of rights of a woman.

“All marriage laws are personal... even if you go for a registered marriage, there are notices put in registrar’s office, and there are people who go around looking for inter–caste marriages and discoursing families against it,” she said. “There is a need to recognise the importance of a woman’s consent in a marriage,” Jaising added. Thapar questioned the panel on why Sita from Ramayana is seen as a role model for Indian women and not Draupadi in the Mahabharata.  Tracing the roots of discrimination against women, Thapar stressed it is important how we chose our role models.

Sita was the wife of Ram in the Indian epic Ramayana. She has been seen as the epitome of virtue and a role model for Indian women for her devoting and sacrificing nature over centuries. “Mahabharata was based on a clan society. Women in a clan society are more independent than a caste society. IANS

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