By Abhinita Mohanty:
Noodles, fast food, westernization, ‘indecent dressing’, going out at night and many other ludicrous notions about the causes of rape often disgusts me for its absolute lack of sense. The Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal recently added another dimension by talking blaming sex and drugs as the causes of rape. I agree that sometimes drugs can lead people to do horrendous crimes, it solely cannot be only ‘rape’; and yes, rape is more than ‘just sex’. Kejriwal, I believe, failed to draw a fault line between the myths and facts about the actual causes of rapes. Breaking his silence on the unfortunate rape of a Danish national in Delhi, the CM gave such statements.
So, what are the causes of rape and why does it happen? It is never the victim’s fault, it is not the fault of food, drugs or lifestyle and it goes beyond sex. Rape is about subjugation and control. It is about proving your masculinity, even though resorting to a crime. It is also rooted in certain cultural ethos, which teaches that masculinity is the only prestige a man can have and that controlling women and their sexuality is the only means to prove it. These are the reasons why rapes occur in private sphere and even within marriages. Giving a theoretical framework, I would like to mention Judith Butler who says in her book ‘gender trouble’ that gender roles are ‘performative’ (i.e. it is to be performed and proved again and again in one’s lifetime) and it is for this reason that they are not ‘natural and normal’ and can be challenged. But most men and women fail to understand this notion that gender roles are only a part of our illusions. Both patriarchy and its agents (many times even women can be the socializing agents of patriarchy) embed into the culture that ‘masculine’ roles are superior, and this makes rapes or other crimes against women more prevalent.
The reason that rape takes place in public spaces can be inferred from the above reasons but there is a greater complexity to it. The way women are viewed in certain public spaces and the way these spaces are constructed need to be analyzed. Women are often resented in public space and masculinity cannot tolerate them as beingÂ ‘open and free spirited’. Women, in certain spaces, are seen as rebels who need to be ‘shown their place’. In certain other spaces, she is seen as a ‘loose woman’ always ready for sexual overtures. The way she behaves in a shop, a pub, bar or even roads is always scrutinized in the Indian context. If she ‘drinks and smokes’, she is seen as the ‘fallen women’. The spaces themselves are also constructed keeping in mind that it is a ‘male space’. In roadside ‘dhabas’, you will rarely find toilets for women because it is considered that women will not and should not be seen in these spaces. One can find dimly lit corridors, elevators and streets without lights; to deliberately discourage women to be in those spaces. If she goes to clubs and pubs, she has to go at her own risk and for her own safety she needs to be accompanied by men. In a 21st century democratic nation, nothing can be more unfortunate than this.
The remedy lies in telling our boys to view women as their equals, mass gender sensitization and ‘gender studies’ as a compulsory part of early school education. Attitudes and mentalities take time to change but it can happen slowly but steadily and perhaps after a generation or two, men will understand that ‘heightened masculinities’Â is nothing but a psychological disease. We must teach them most importantly that the quote of Gloria Steinhem “we’ve begun to raise daughters more like sons….but few have the courage to raise our sons more like daughters”. It is this courage that needs to be promoted and celebrated and boys should also be equally proud to be raised as girls or compared to them.
These are the complexities that need to be understood. Leaders who do not understand these intricacies need not comment on the reasons that lead to rape, instead they should just concentrate on the investigation and ensure that the culprits do not escape with impunity.