Recently, I was at a meeting with women leaders in Washington, D.C., seeking to find solutions to domestic violence against women. The issue of violence against women is not just India-centric. In fact, this is simply not a women's rights issue but a human rights issue. If women do not feel safe, the very fabric of society is torn apart and 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 voice 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 since ancient times. 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 as well. We have to respect women and honor the role they play.
The growing incidents even in metropolitan cities like Mumbai and Delhi in India where literacy is not the issue caused concerns and cautioning us to take proper action towards violence against women. We fully support the Mumbai victim fighting for this cause. This shows her great strength. She wants to fight. And her voice must be heard. We need to support such voices asking for justice. However, the solution requires a more comprehensive approach.
We need to know 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 Masters who dedicated themselves towards 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 mind to be refreshed and re-energized, thus enabling us to take proper decisions.
The abuse of women is a disease that afflicts societies the world over. 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. Instead, if we can 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-abuse 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.
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.
The author is the chairperson of the International Women's Conference "Harmony: Evolution towards Perfection" Feb. 7-9, 2014 . For details and to register, visit http://iwc.artofliving.org/~iwc/
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