By Devika Mittal:
With due respect, I am writing this letter as a citizen of a country whose tradition accords the highest honour to women but where she is blamed for cruelty meted out to her. Lately, there has been an increase in rape and molestation cases across Delhi and NCR. But what is more shocking is the attitude that the police have shown towards these cases and the rape victims.Â
Through this letter, I would like to draw your attention to the attitude that people and particularly, the police have towards rape victims.
Instead of victimizing and dishonouring the accused, the police have beenÂ blaming the victims. Sting operations conducted by many news reporters have revealed the disgusting thinking of the policemen across Delhi and NCR. The policemen haveÂ blamedÂ the victims of having aÂ “loose character”.Â They try to prove that the girl was a sex worker. They say that the woman calls it rape when it’s a dispute over money or when she is forced.Â Another general tendency has been to prove that the girl knew the accused and the intercourse was on a consent basis. They also try toÂ raise the age of the victim, in the case of a minor. In the Noida case of a teenage girl being raped in a moving car, the police had even revealed the identity of the victim, putting her future in danger.
But the most shocking and disgusting attitude has been theÂ remark on the clothes and “behaviour” of the victim. The victims have been accused of “deserving” rape. The policemen argued that the victims should have “expected” rape when they wore “inappropriate” clothes or were out in night or went to pubs. The peak of this sickening attitude was reached with the 8 PM curfew for women imposed by Gurgaon police whereby women were asked not to go out after 8.
This attitude of the police is unacceptable and nauseating. The remark about the “inappropriate” behaviour by the victim leading to rape is barbaric and illogical. It shows the mental level of policemen. They should be asked to do a compulsory study on rape cases and the psychology of rapists. Studies across the world have revealed the psychology of the rapists on how they select the rape victim. The rape victim is generally a weak-looking or less-confident female. The rapist is not interested in women who would fight back. They look for women who can be easily over-powered. A woman wearing “inappropriate” clothes is far from being the less-confident female. But a more important question is the definition for the “inappropriate” clothes. What is “inappropriate”/”indecent” and who defines it? Are jeans “indecent”? If it is, then what is saree? It is a fact that today saree is the most sensuous piece of clothing. Blaming jeans for rape is not only insensible but also reveals another dimension, which I will discuss in a while. Even if we accept for a moment that jeans and other “inappropriate” clothing leads to rape then are we arguing that women in kurta pyjama do not get raped? If this is the case then there should be no rape case in rural areas because women are “fully covered” there. Women in burqas do not get raped? Then there should be no rape cases in Muslim-dominated areas. But this is not true. The policemen should see the statistics, use their brain and then conclude.
Another point is that even if women wear “inappropriate” clothes, is it license enough to be raped? Is this the reality of 21stÂ century India? In the “modern” society, women do not even have the right to decide what they should wear. There is no connection between rape and clothes. The females in the Jarawa community of Andaman and Nicobar islands have remained uncovered for centuries. Do rapes happen there? If they did then at some point of time, they would have started wearing clothes. But this hasn’t happened. It only shows that this link is a societal construct, in favour of men. It is just an excuse.
Regarding the point on the “inappropriate” behavior leading to rape. Women who go to pubs or drink should “expect” rape, according to policemen. What about men? What should they expect? Or is it that ‘moral’ restrictions are only meant for women? What is the link between women drinking and rape? It is argued that women who drink or go to pubs are of “loose character”. What about men? What character do they have? What exactly is “loose character” and who defines it? If I am not wrong, some centuries back, woman going out to work was also not “proper” and meant that these women were of “loose character”.Â Â It was assumed that if they went out, they interacted with men and this interaction may also be sexual in nature. It was basically a fear. A fear that women would do what men has been socially ascribed to do. This assumption has been fading away to some extent but “Loose character” pertaining to going to pubs or drinking is still there. And the same principle applies here. Women are trying to enter into the “man’s domain”. Liberal ideas, drinking, prostitution is a man’s domain. The fear is that of equality. Women are ceasing to be submissive and sub-ordinate to men. They are doing what men do, whether it is ‘morally’ right or wrong. And this is unacceptable to males. Hence, they come up with such notions of “inappropriate” behaviour and clothing. So jeans, which are a symbol of modernism and liberalism became a target.
Again, the question arises. If going to pubs and drinking means rape then what about the rapes in within the domestic sphere? How will the police explain them? What about rapes in rural areas? In rural areas, women definitely do not go to pubs or drink but they still get raped.Â But even if the woman was raped when she was drunk, can rape be justified? She was cheated. So is cheating justified?
The Gurgaon police came up with the “8 PM” rule? Do women get raped only after 8 PM? If, for a fraction of a second, I accept this then I want to ask, if the police knows that rapists are out after 8, then why can’t they do anything? Instead of restricting women, they should ban men from going out after 8. What about women who have to be out for work? What about women in call centres? And how can they issue such a notice in a country which is run by some prominent female politicians? Does this also apply for them?
A general tendency is to prove that the victim knew the accused. What do the police want to prove by this? Even if women knew the accused, she was cheated and then over-powered by him. What was her fault in this? What are the police trying to say? Should a woman stop speaking to men? Because rapists can be anyone — her friend, boyfriend, neighbour, brother or even her father? In date rapes, why is the victim at fault? Is it a crime to have a boyfriend? The woman was clearly cheated by her boyfriend. Isn’t cheating a crime? She had trusted him. So is trust a crime?Â
What about minor girls getting raped? Recently, there was a case where a six month old was raped. What about old women? There was a case where a 70 year old woman was raped. So how do they “invite” rape?
There is no relationship between looks, clothing, behaviour and rape. They are just excuses given by rapists and the police. Rape is seen as a shameful crime but the shame is reserved only for the victim. The women first get dishonoured by the rapist and then later, when she dares to report it, by the police, the media and the society.
What is her crime? Daring to go out? Daring to work? Daring to speak? Or daring to be born?
Thus, I request the Government to kindly take appropriate action to curb this barbarism in 21stÂ century modern India.Â Â I suggest the following actions that should be taken:
Rape and eve-teasing cases can be reduced by changing the attitude of the people and the police. Most of the victims do not go to the police because of their insensitive and harassing attitude. If the police force becomes serious, the rape victim would at least not be ashamed; which she should anyway not be, as it is not her fault that she got raped. If the police become serious, the rape cases would definitely reduce as instead of victim blaming, they would go after the accused. Giving excuses and directions to women is not only demeaning to women but also encouraging to rapists who can easily get away with the charge.
It is a sincere request to the Government to kindly work in this direction towards ensuring the protection of the country’s women. It is unacceptable that the country which is run officially by women, with the President being a woman, treats them in such a horrendous and barbaric manner.