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The Violence Of Our Silence: When ‘Family’ And ‘Honour’ Are Used To Justify Abuse

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By Parboni Bose:

Rapes, harassment, gang rapes, Dalit rapes, and more rapes. Every day the newspaper is filled with such news, and the news that you see are of the relatively lucky ones. Because hiding in every second girl is a story, a story that has been meticulously suppressed over the years, a story that was stifled before it got a voice, a story that changed how she thinks, how she feels, a story that you and I cannot see, will pretend not to hear and will absolutely not narrate, but will secretly, in a dark room, in front of our mirrors, recognize, and understand that the story is just about you and me, and a hundred other girls having the same fate.

rape culture

When ‘Highway’ was released, it met with a lot of criticism, and it should have because it addressed what our society will close its eyes to. It erased the hope that every parent gives their child – “we will protect you”, “home is where safety is”, “your family will always love you”, and those another hundreds, or rather innumerable numbers of hopes that every parent gives to their child, and hopes that are choked in dark rooms with sentences like – “Don’t tell this to anyone, society will never accept you”, ”Don’t report the rape, she will never get married”, “it’s just harassment, not like you were raped”, “don’t react back to eve teasing, what if they throw acid?”. It was difficult to understand Alia Bhatt’s blood curdling scream in the end, because in our society, the gnawing sharp teeth of silence are never felt. Because silence is what a girl is thrown into when she faces life in its worst form, because support is withdrawn, and the only way to resume life seems silence, it is silence with which we are killing every girl around, taking their voice away and leaving them to survive lifetime of nightmares, shared only with their silence.

The family values hold so strong in India that no protests are made against a family member raping or harassing your daughter, rather she is asked to forget and forgive, and resume respecting that particular family member like she is supposed to. The family value holds so strong in India, that it is forgotten completely that your daughter is your family too. Domestic rapes are not protested against, and if protested the protest is stifled, after all, the institution of marriage is considered so pure that a girl once married is entitled to any treatment as deemed fit by her husband. The institution of marriage is so pure, that every year the statistics of dowry death, domestic violence, honor killing, marital rapes compete to acquire the prestigious top position.

Most of the crimes against dalits are not reported in India. Most of them are a variety of hate crimes and rooted in religious fanaticism, and well, our narrow mentality to think of ourselves as superior to others. Silence does a brilliant job of guarding their honors. Rapes? Of course it is chowmein! If you don’t think so, well , shut up! Because it is a girl’s crime, she should be hanged for it, as for boys, well boys are boys, “they commit mistakes”. Rapes, in our social mechanism, are not considered as violence against women, a violence of the most torturous and heinous kind, that might scar her physically, emotionally and socially, rather, rapes are termed to be spoiling a girl’s “izzat” or honor. It is in this basic terminology used for rape that comments about rapes being girl’s fault stem out from. And it is in the protection of this honor, that girls are silenced, sometimes killed for their body being violated by some man who knows he can do whatever, and the girl has to stay silent.

So, when Akhilesh Yadav wants to silence the media on the UP rape cases being highlighted, don’t pretend to be angry. Because we do exactly the same within the four walls of our houses! Silence is the iron beam of this societal mechanism, the day a cry is able to pierce this thick shield of silence surrounding us, this society will automatically crumble, and maybe, maybe then we can think of an egalitarian world and a feminist world, where every girl can be as loud as guys are encouraged to be, where silence is frowned upon and dismissed, where life is considered more important that the fictional concept of honor, and where finally we can live, and breathe the air of freedom, the freedom from this overbearing, oppressing, depressing, hopeless silence. So the next time people around you tell you to be silent, don’t, because this fight is not for the society, not for the people who will struggle to remember your name 2 years later, not for your parents who fear for your honor, but the fight is yours and yours alone, where you will win and you will lose, and it will always be about your choice to be silent or to be the voice of yourself and hundreds around you who are still shackled in the fictional concept of honor and the self-constructed society.

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  1. Bankim

    I am touched.
    Hope every girl in India will break this curse of silence and carry freedom wherever they go.

  2. muft

    I appreciate for mentioning about the ‘never ending’ assaults faced by Dalit & Adivasi women. In Central-west India (Chattisgarh, Jharhand, North AP etc), a Congress backed group called ‘Salwa Judum’ (People’s resistance movement) used to conduct ambush in forest villages, burning houses upside down, raping the women & stealing their money, chicken & any other possible assets. It was an unofficial ‘experiment’ done by the government to displace those forest dwelling Adivasis & ‘sell’ (we know for how much! ) the forest land to corporate mining giants for ‘developmental’ purposes. It was perfectly orchestrated with the ‘negligence’ of ruling party BJP in Chattisgarh & the ‘raping’ labors of UPA backed Salwa Judum (at least there they unite! Jai Ho). So many women have joined Maoist movement just to protect their dignity, avoid their children getting raped & houses getting burnt.

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