In recent times, India has been shaken through a number of serious cases of violence against women, which re-initiated the discussions on women’s safety and the role of women in Indian society.
In a recent gender equality survey by the International Centre for Research on Women, it was reported that 86% of Indian men today believe that changing diapers, bathing, and feeding children is a woman’s job. Almost an equal number do not participate in household work. 65% of Indian men reported they believed that women should tolerate violence to keep the family together. These statistics ranked lowest in gender equality among the six countries surveyed.
The U.S. Senate reports that domestic violence was found to be the leading cause of injury to women between the ages of 15 and 44 in the United States, more than car accidents, muggings, and rapes combined. The FBI reports that a woman is beaten by her husband or partner every 15 seconds in the United States.
Issues facing women are not confined to any one country or region and women have to work together to create harmony in society. Globally, women face the need to educate their societies, provide economic stability for their families, promote gender equality, and erase violence.
In fact, this is not a women’s rights issue but one of the human rights. If women do not feel safe, the very fabric of society is torn apart. Both men and women have to stand up together to fight against this injustice and come up with solutions. It is my firm belief that we have to join hands and raise our voices in a collective manner globally to re-establish human values and prevent violence and abuse against women.
The Indian tradition honors both men and women as equals in all aspects of life. This honor has also been expressed as Ardhanaarishwara, where the Divine is depicted as half-male and half-female, indicating that they are equal partners in the protection and sustenance of Creation. Even at the cellular level in our body, each one of us has genes from both the father and the mother. There is a balance of both energies in each individual. It is this same concept that is represented by Yin and Yang. For a healthy, progressive society, the balance within each individual must be maintained. We have to respect women and honor the role they play.
The growing number of incidents in metropolitan cities is a cause for concern and cautions us to take proper action towards violence against women. We fully support victims of violence fighting for their causes. This shows great strength. They want to fight. And their voices must be heard. We need to support such voices asking for justice. However, the solution requires a more comprehensive approach.
While the media has an important role in creating awareness of the incidents, it can also help steer the conversation around solutions. Often, focusing on the negative issues alone creates a vicious cycle of fear and anxiety. We also need to focus more on human values and the role of spirituality in our lives. We could help create an atmosphere of friendliness and compassion. When we feel connected to those around us, we are more likely to take action to prevent injustice. Additionally, strict laws to punish the guilty have to be reinforced.
We also need to address the menace posed by alcohol in society. Alcohol consumption is often promoted as a fashion or style statement. The reality, however, is that even an educated, cultured person behaves in an uncouth manner when under the influence of intoxicants. Alcohol abuse is at the root of several incidents of violence against women even in highly developed communities.
We also need to understand that anxiety and aggression will not lead us to a solution. We need a calm mind and in that space of clarity, decide what we want to fight for and how we want to do it. Long-lasting sustainable solutions will emerge only when we tackle issues with calmness and clarity. Spiritual knowledge and practices can help us find this space of calmness within each of us.
We can benefit from the teachings of great teachers who dedicated themselves to preserving and restoring human values in society. We need to rekindle the spirit of compassion in men and women everywhere. This is where meditation, breathing techniques, and other spiritual practices help. They free us from the accumulated stress and allow our minds to be refreshed and re-energized, enabling us to make the right decisions.
Researchers at the University of Oslo found that nature walks and music-driven relaxation changed the expression of 38 genes in circulating immune cells. In comparison, yoga and breathing techniques produced changes in 111 genes clearly highlighting that the beneficial impact of yoga and meditation is far greater than other common relaxation techniques.
Independent research conducted on a powerful breathing technique, Sudarshan Kriya and its accompanying practices have shown that they can significantly reduce stress levels through reduction of cortisol – the stress hormone, support the immune system, increase optimism, relieve anxiety and depression, provide relief from PTSD, enhance brain function through recovery from stressful stimuli and, as a whole, enhance our well-being and peace of mind. These simple, yet powerful techniques have a unique advantage; they are free from unwanted side-effects, can cut health care costs and are easy to learn and practice in daily life.
Most importantly, however, is the fact that it is time for us to recognize that the root cause for societal ills is the erosion of human values. Each one of us needs to come forward and take responsibility to re-establish a caring and sharing attitude, a sense of belongingness, a commitment to serve — the core spiritual values that are the basis for a healthy, happy and harmonious society.
We may not be able to change the past but we have to learn from it and take positive steps to prevent and eradicate such heinous crimes. Spirituality is the clear answer to this. Yoga and meditation are no longer a luxury. It is the basis for both physical and mental health. It is a necessity in our society now if we really want our daughters to be free and happy.
Bhanumathi Narasimhan is the Director of Women Empowerment & Child Care Programs (WECCP) for The Art of Living Foundation (AOL), which is a volunteer-based, humanitarian and educational non-governmental organization.
This article was first published on www.thenorthlines.com