By Ayathuray Rajasingam –
Today parents are concerned whether the freedom of movement of women & girls has become a burning issue. They have been the target of cruel punishment and torture. The recent rape and murder of Vidya from Pungudutivu sends the message that revenge is the emotion of anger coupled with the desire for destruction, in addition to many similar incidents earlier. Such heinous crimes are committed not only by barbaric citizens but also by the armed security forces and politicians, in spite of the celebration of International Women’s Day as well as the Convention on the Elimination of Violence Against Women. What is astonishing is that women and girls are gang raped as punishment for men’s crimes in some countries. Such a brutal form of violence perpetrated on women and girls, which is considered as a kind of wild justice to suppress their basic freedoms, has to be condemned by all civilized societies.
As against cruel punishment and torture there is a concept called loving-kindness promoted by Lord Buddha. Forgiveness is a quality in a human being which distinguishes a human being from an animal. Forgiveness is the essence of life. In Christianity, Jesus speaks of Christians forgiving or showing mercy towards others. Similarly, in Buddhism forgiveness is seen as a practice to prevent harmful thoughts and recognizes that feelings of ill-will leave a lasting effect on our mind. Likewise a number of Hindu Saints had preached at intermittent periods that practising forgiveness is the biggest boon to mankind from God. Lord Krishna states that forgiveness is one of the characteristics of one born for a divine state. Leading personalities such as Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Dalai Lama, etc have practised forgiveness to its extreme in their life. Practising to forgive will pave way to rise to a higher bracket in one’s life, than executing in a barbarous way.
Cruelty involves violence at the expense of the suffering of humans and even animals, where the offender enjoys pleasure in inflicting harm. Violence originates from the disrespect for love and compassion. In general, all religions discourage violence and promote love and compassion, though there were religious wars earlier. Though cruelty involves violence, sometimes violence need not be an essential element. Helpless persons are allowed to suffer when mighty persons remain doing nothing with disinterest especially in a country after an aggrieved community is defeated militarily after an uprising. The failure to realize the natural function of loving-kindness contributes to the existing situation.
It is sad when politicians celebrate victory after an aggrieved community is defeated, when, in fact, they should have shown mercy towards those helpless people. They have made such celebrations cheap without respecting the worthiness of the opponents, especially the womenfolk. Religion plays a vital role in this aspect. Soon after the victory at Kalinga War, Emperor Asoka was given a sermon by a Buddhist monk, which had a great impact of transforming him into a noble character. He realized that religion should not have the characteristics as a faith for military conquests, but a conquest of mind through love and compassion which discourage cruel punishment and torture. He realized the significance of Ahimsa. Ahimsa is a religious concept which signals the respect for human life. This is what is lacking in the minds of some politicians, armed Security Forces, religious leaders and some citizens in Sri Lanka, though they boast of 2500 years of Buddhist civilization. Ahimsa is the core of righteousness. Lord Buddha, Jesus Christ through his Ten Commandments and various prominent religious figures emphasized the significance of tolerance, love, patience, righteousness and discouraged any action by the sword. In fact, Lord Buddha, Jesus Christ, Swami Vivekananda, M.Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Dalai Lama and other leaders ruled out revenge for his followers for the betterment of mankind.
In developing countries like Sri Lanka, the violation of human rights cannot be separated from the struggles for power between rival groups. The removal of defeated politicians from the political scene are instrumental for the creation of a complex situation and cannot be ruled out for violation of human rights, especially when such defeated politicians are charged of mass corruptions. Violations of human rights such as rape and murder usually take place with the view to deviate the attention of the public to such heinous crimes. Such cruel punishments on women and girls compel the Government to lose the hearts and minds of the public because of the unruly and undesirable characters within the society who are instrumental for the distribution of illicit drugs, which is a challenge to social discipline. In such a complex situation the delay in tracing the suspected criminals tantamount to the maxim that ‘justice delayed is justice denied’
The remedy to neutralize the cruel punishment and torture resulting from evil thoughts and retaliation is to practice cultivating non-violence which is very effective. Retaliation stimulates wickedness which stems from the mind. Lord Buddha expressed that Universal Love is the greatest virtue which has the force of suppressing emotions. When wickedness and evil thoughts filled the world with violence and drenched with human blood, the existence of social discipline becomes a questionable issue. There cannot be any peace and solidarity until the petty-minded people give up the evil thoughts and retaliation.
It is natural that every person desires to have power and glory. But majority of the people desires to have power and glory in an improper way. They forget to abide by the teachings of religion. Religion means Dharma and Morality. Morality means adherence to truth and non-violence. If religion deviates from morality, it assumes the characteristic of a cult. They failed to realize that non-violence was emphasized to the word tolerance which is common to all religions. Moreover, the failure to realize that all religions are equal before God (because one is supplementary to the other religions), saw the lack of bringing the mind gradually and systematically under control. This, in turn, saw the birth of cruel punishment and torture on women and girls through man-made laws. It was also surprising that the lack of tolerance by petty-minded politicians was a disgrace to the country when unwanted pressure was applied on the former Chief Justice Dr.(Mrs) Shirani Bandaranayake signalling the lack of social discipline in the country. One ponders whether the elements of humanity, forgiveness and tolerance are ingrained in those in power.
Moreover, a faith should not move beyond a religion to become a political movement which seeks domination to the extent of discouraging other faiths and engage in cruel punishment. Accordingly places of worship are not expected to be transformed into a hotbed of extremism and centre of indoctrination. Religion should never call for death to unbelievers. Even the ancient Hindu scriptures (the Vedas) mentioned that there was complete equality for women. Unfortunately with the invasion of foreigners, women’s rights were robbed. But today with the introduction of equal access to education, women have re-merged and excelled in various fields and demonstrated the past glorified women’s role which reminds the will power and strength of Sita as found in Ramayana.
It is time to recall what Swami Vivekananda mentioned about women – ‘The highest of all feminine types is Mother, because Mother never deserts her child, whereas others at some point or other will tend to desert’. Further Swami Vivekananda mentioned that ‘all Nations have attained greatness by paying proper respect to women. Any country that disrespects women have never became great’. Canada, USA and the European democratic countries had endorsed the view of Swami Vivekananda where women are ensured equality and are prominent figures in their countries. If this truth can be taught at schools and places of worship, then it paves way for ensuring social discipline where women will be respected by all.
One of the goals of parents, teachers and religious leaders is to help develop children into well-adjusted members of society. They have a moral duty towards the younger generation to preach that forgiveness is a process of concluding anger aroused by something felt to be wrong as a result of a perceived offense. The teaching that tolerance gives spiritual insight which is far from fanaticism, is a must. Forgiveness is the essence of life. All religions encourage the disappearance of ill will from the mind. They also remind that if a woman or girl is educated, then the whole family is educated. If situations and conditions in society will not allow negative emotional feelings to be aroused, especially among the youth, then innocent women and girls including foreign tourists would have escaped cruel punishment and death.