|HER WORLD||Sunday, January 18, 2004, Chandigarh, India|
drives women to crime?
THE policeman’s favourite quote:" Behind every crime there is a woman" is finally coming true. A recap of sensational crimes in recent months will explain why. A rather plain-looking woman murdered a well-known Delhi doctor at the beginning of December. In August, the Mumbai police launched a massive hunt for two women involved in the bomb blasts that left 50 dead. A little earlier, a Bollywood starlet was held in Lisbon in the company of an underworld don. Recently, India issued an Interpol alert notice against seven most-wanted women criminals for the first time after attaining freedom.
Why do we have more bad girls amidst us now than in the past? Sociologists and criminologists are working overtime the world over to figure out what drives them to crime. And the research results are shocking to say the least. Studies have related the dramatic rise in female violence in the last three decades to increasing stress on gender equality.
Sociologist Penelope Hanke, of Auburn University in the USA reviewed records from an Alabama prison from 1929 to 1985. She found that 95 per cent of the murders by women were committed after 1970. Another distinguished professor of criminal justice, Illinois State University’s Ralph Weisheit, found that women were becoming more stereotypically male in their reasons for murdering. He found that robbery-murders by women accounted for 42 per cent of the cases in 1983, compared to 18 per cent in 1940. He concluded that though males commit the vast majority of street violence, females seem to be catching up.
A number of experts have concluded that the increasing incidence of crime among women shows that women have the natural capacity to be as violent as men. The difference, behavioural studies suggest, is that women need greater incentives to become violent. And, social changes over the years, especially the gender equality movement, have provided these incentives. The first confirmation of this came from Dr Freda Adler, Professor of Criminal Justice at Rutgers University, who has studied female criminality in depth. She has termed this dramatic social change as "liberation hypothesis". She has concluded that "as the tightly constructed sex roles of previous years start to weaken, women simply have more and more opportunities to break the law. Women are more involved in what’s going on in the world than they were a generation ago. You can’t embezzle if you’re not near funds. You can’t get involved in a fight at the bar if you’re not allowed in the bar."
The incentive theory has been scientifically proven too. It is now known that though men are intrinsically more violent, women can be as violent provided there is an incentive. A well-known psychologist studied the behaviour of a group of boys and girls. In a series of experiments he designed, these boys and girls were shown adults hitting inflatable dolls. Thereafter, the children were provided an opportunity to hit these dolls. The boys did it more than the girls. But the picture changed when the girls were offered a reward for hitting the dolls. They became as aggressive as the boys. This explains the genetic factors. Men, having the responsibility to shield the family are more aggressive. But a female of any species will go to any length to protect its young ones because there the incentive is saving the progeny. So the incentive factor is promoting criminality among women.
The new wave crime is changing the pattern of dating violence with more and more women looking at themselves as "no longer members of the weaker sex". A recent survey in the USA by a psychologist threw up startling facts. It showed that 58 per cent of the girls interviewed admitted to hitting their dates as compared to 55 per cent of boys. One girl explained why. She said, "Well, it makes me feel strong and powerful when I hit my boyfriend". The psychologist says girls can get away with this behaviour because the men will never strike back. The men don’t take the violence seriously, because little of it causes serious injuries. Though the world over domestic violence continues to be a predominantly male domain, but the scenario is changing here too. Criminologists say very few men get injured in domestic violence as compared to women. Besides, very few incidents of male battering make it to the police records. So that numbers we are looking at are misleading. Studies have shown that women seem to be competing with men in equalling their spouse-battering records.
Men, over the ages, have been conditioned to be more violent. Boys always had guns and Robocops to play with while girls got dolls. However, with the recent surge in movies and television serials showing women wielding weapons and the female incarnations of Robinhood attracting the attention of young girls, the buried female aggression is beginning to find expression. The wrong messages to the girls in the West like the "height of feminity is slapping your boyfriend" are also contributing to increasing violence among women, sociologists say. The media too is misguiding the bad girls. A crime by a woman invites much more publicity than a similar crime by a man. This in turn glorifies criminal women and the incentive theory comes into play.
Women’s groups contend
that the judicial systems are not yet geared to give justice to women.
"Male chivalry" in judicial systems all over the world
especially after the gender equality movement gained a foothold, is
working against women. They say "increasingly, those females who do
not act in a ‘feminine’ way — that is, those whose behaviour
indicates an erosion of traditional female gender roles — are viewed
as stereotypically nontraditional and, therefore, deserving of
punishment". So they say women get punished twice—once for
breaking the gender role and then for breaking the law. The debate on
what prompts women to commit crimes and whether they are discriminated
by the judiciary will go on as the society changes, but the plain fact
is that more and more women are taking to crime now. The reality is
already there. More and more governments are looking at setting up
exclusive correctional facilities for women. The male-female ratio in
police forces around the world is being reviewed to meet the situation.
Signs of changing times and gender roles!
Today, Hema Malini, Rekha and Shabana Azmi are playing new-age slim-and-fit screen mothers wearing designer sarees! Reel mothers have changed irrevocably in the last few decades to keep pace with real mothers in India, says Vimla Patil.
"BREAK the rules to build new brand identities," declared superstar Amitabh Bachchan on the opening day of the recent media-blitz called Ad Asia 2003, held in Jaipur. The conference, attended by 1400 delegates from more than 20 countries constantly discussed the issue of effectively reaching out to Ms India — the quintessential consumer. But while the advertising and marketing gurus harangued on this subject at the conference, the Indian woman made a rare presentation of her fast-emerging, powerful brand through popular Bollywood films. As Baghban, starring 55-year-old Hema Malini, was declared a hit all over the world, the new persona of an Indian mother was launched for the 21st century. During the year, evergreen Rekha made a pitch for the 21st century mother by etching out the strong character of working mother who supports and stands up for the mentally challenged son played by Hrithik Roshan in Koi Mil Gaya, another super-hit. Further, Shabana Azmi, also in her fifties, is now poised to reaffirm this new persona of the Indian woman in the forthcoming film Tehzeeb, as is the 55-plus Jaya Bachchan in Kal Ho Na Ho.
With women like Hema, Jaya, Rekha and Shabana playing mothers of substance, the crying, whimpering image of the Indian mother has been finally buried in the dust of bygone ages. "The age of grey-haired, sacrificing mother who is willing to be a doormat in her son’s home or suffer mutely when ill-treated by family or society is over," says Ravi Chopra, director of Baghban, "Today, Indian mothers are educated, well-groomed and active. They hold powerful jobs in many businesses. They head companies, run business organisations and are knowledgeable, powerful wives and mothers. They are well turned out, attractive and efficient. They cannot be taken for a ride by their families or society any more.It is fitting therefore, that Indian films should reflect this epoch-making change in women." Karan Johar, whose films have always shown power-packed women, endorses this opinion, "Today’s films reflect the mindset of our society. No Indian will now accept a crying, moaning woman who is pushed around by her family. She lives with dignity and her confidence shows in the way she looks."
What is shown in fantasy films, believe it or not, is turning out to be the fantastic reality in women’s lives today. Take the case of Gurpreet Kaur, a savvy woman who is an income tax commissioner climbing the ladder of promotions. "I was in a meeting with the Board for Direct Taxes," she recalls, "When I got a call to say that my daughter-in-law had been taken to the hospital for her delivery. I excused myself from the meeting and arrived in the hospital just in time for the baby’s arrival. I saw that the mother and baby were safe and returned to the meeting within a few hours." Anupa Lal, a younger mother, planned her own delivery in such a way, that she could take exactly the required leave and report back to work within weeks of her baby’s arrival. "There are CDs, internet sites, books and classes which give all information about pregnancy and childbirth," she says, "I was totally confident and even conducted my office work on the cell-phone from my hospital bed. The mystique of a pregnancy is lovely. But today’s women are practical and make their own decisions about surgical procedures, doctors, hospitalisation and other matters."
This is not unusual. Women in high-profile jobs are pushing their careers with rare vigour. They also handle their family responsibilities with elan and style. They are aware of their health, time, resources and energy and use all these to enrich and enhance their lifestyle and achievements. "Women have discovered the concept of stretchable energy," says Gayatri Singh, a Computer Engineer, "Earlier, they only worked at home and grumbled all the time about their exhaustion and boredom. Their work was repetitive and trust upon them by tradition and social obligations. Today, the picture is different. Women have options and they can choose their work to suit their personalities and skills. They can have only one or two children and bring them up in the manner they choose. They can use their knowledge and skills to pack in more activities than women of former generations. For example, young career women today plan lives to such fine degree, that they marry only when they want to and choose partners whom they can trust with their future. They are not scared to seek counselling when a marital or family relationship begins to irk them. They are willing to negotiate for time and money and generally, are extremely aware of ‘people-oriented’ skills which take them that much further in their careers and family life."
Devika Khanna, who is an award-winning creative director in an advertising and public relations company, feels that modern parents give their daughters equal opportunities of receiving higher or specialised education. "Why should I deny myself the fantastic world of opportunities which my parents have opened up for me? Life is a rich experience when one does what one loves. I love creating ad campaigns that hit the bull’s eye! I have recognition, a clean and creative platform and every chance of getting the top position. My family is proud of my achievements. My husband and children know that my work and the money it brings are important to me and they never come in my way unless there is an emergency. I know my priorities and can handle them most of the time.I can never be the stay-at-home, subservient mother or wife. I feel embarrassed to ask others for money. I have always been self-reliant. I feel that every woman should have her own financial and emotional security."
"The bogey that mother-in-law and daughter-in-law cannot get along should now be finally buried," says Sulabha Dev, who runs her own entrepreneurial project, "Today’s mothers-in-law are educated, active and often have their own careers. They are supportive and appreciative of other women’s aspirations. The common myth that ambitious mothers’ children are under-performers has also been trashed. A quick look at the school and college results every year show that most students who top the merit lists, are children of working mothers. Such mothers can be teachers, bank officers, entrepreneurs, professors, doctors, IT professionals, politicians, artists or creative media persons and increasingly, financial experts. Smartly dressed, aware and thoroughly contemporary, they are seen everywhere — in urban and small-town India — driving their own or family cars, doing banking, shopping, home-making and child-rearing chores with a rare energy and sense of responsibility."
However, in this promise-laden heaven of women running at breakneck speed to be successful career women and mothers, there is often a surprising hiatus of silence. A recent example was provided by no less a celebrity than Julia Roberts, Hollywood’s number one star, who earns millions of dollars per film. In a recent interview, she chortled, "I guess I’m preaching one thing and doing something else. But sometimes, I do want to stay home and cook dinner for my husband."
widely quoted by the world Press, once again raised the beaten-to-pulp
debate as to whether women who lead driven lives as successful career
persons and wives or mothers sometimes feel nostalgic about their
lifestyle and yearn to be like their mothers or grannies, whose path to
contentment lay only through the stomachs of their loved ones. But women’s
reactions to Julia’s momentary nostalgia have been practical and down
to earth. "She has the freedom to quit films and do exactly what
she wants," they say, "But in truth, she will never give up
her position as the number one star in Hollywood. Her recent romantic
marriage to Dan Moder has prompted her romantic longing," says most
women, "We can’t turn the tide of events now. They have no time
to romanticise the past with nostalgia. What’s more, women can cook
dinners whenever they want to.There is no need to give up anything in
life merely for cooking dinners!"
THE evils of the idiot box have often been discussed but how great it is I realised only when my child refused to move from one room to another at night. When I explained to her that there are no ghosts she queried, "Are there no fairies either". Per force, sadly I had to break the childhood concept of fairies, and consequently of Santa Claus. Alarmed at the change in her hitherto courageous temperament I decided to investigate. The culprits turned out to be the "famous" television serial Son Pari which has completed two and a half years of its ageing life recently and has in the process done irreparable harm to the psyche of not only my child but many others, as I discovered. It is not this one serial alone. Shaka Laka Bum Bum, is another one that deals with witchcraft, gory murders, tantra. Parents mistakenly believe that serials which are being advertised as for children are genuinely for children. All these serials need reviewing by the parent and only if the parent genuinely believes that a particular serial is not harming the child in any way should it be allowed to be viewed.
The first requisite for a serial meant for children is that it should contribute towards developing the personality of the child. Serials like the above do not encourage scientific temper. Even a highly educated person does not hesitate to consult horoscopes, wear stones or even go to persons who are considered to be "blessed". These traits are transmitted while bringing up or exposing children to these beliefs. Shalu, a homemaker while criticising the above serials explained that though they might keep a vigil on the child while he is watching TV but sometimes it so happens that a few minutes of delay might cause a massive damage. " Our guests had come over and while we were sitting outside we put cartoons on for him. When we came in we were shocked to hear him tell us the entire story of Vikraal Aur Gabraal which he gathered through the snippets that they show in between the breaks ." What repercussions it had on the four year old, time will only tell.
The second element to be observed is the vocabulary. "The kind of language they use in some of the serials is pathetic," says Gurpreet, mother of an eight-year-old boy. "We keep telling our children to be polite and the television is portraying a different brand of cheeky kids who are too smart for their boots". hildren who are observing it lap it up without realising whether it is good or bad. It is for the parent to judge and negate this element by explaining to the child the rude element there and then and thereby explaining the concept of being polite. If in a serial the crass element persists then the children should be discouraged from watching them altogether.
The third content is the violence in it. Many times one can see a gangster brandishing a dagger and swearing revenge. If one keeps observing violence it will generate violent feelings and that which is not ordinary will appear normal. Hence, the tendency of some of the kids to become violent.
What with so much of materialism, morality has become a blind spot. Is the serial driving home a truth. One was heartened to see some lessons being delivered in Chacha Chaudhuri but how many of them are there like these. Children need to be put into some kind of sport and physical activity rather than letting them idle away in front of television, says Deepali.. "Are the children learning something, is the question. I let my children watch only cartoons and those also selected few. Discovery and National Geographic" are good.
"Childrens’ serials are no longer any fun.", says Anubha. "Initially Inayat was hooked on to Son Pari but she herself stopped watching as she started having bad dreams afterwards. There is no longer any "fun"element in any of the serials for children. Life is not about supernatural and magic." A few serials like Shararat and Miri Biwi Wonderful are there where the magic and comic is compounded in a rather healthy way and does talk about sensitivity as well but these are sparse.
To clinch the issue I talked to my daughter and her friends as to what kind of serials they wanted. The answer was very clear." We don’t want scary serials. Serials can be those of lions, tigers, cats and dogs and where they can be friends with children. They should be something like the stories our teacher tells, of being kind to others, "of nice things", or maybe stories told by grandfather. Even aliens are welcome but they should be nice aliens.We would love to have serials on Guru Nanak Dev Ji and Jesus Christ and Lord Krishna , especially on what all they said and serials in which we can learn new things like those of Discovery." Somebody is being deprived, is anyone listening?
Tips for parents