By Anshul Tewari:
A 6-year-old special needs child was gang-raped in Bangalore by a gym instructor and a security guard. The school tried to cover up the matter and did not inform the news to the parents of the child. After much hue and cry by the parents, and organizing protests, the principal said this was not a forum to express grievances. “We will provide an e-mail ID.”
In another news, a BSP leader’s son abducted a 22 year old woman and raped her in a moving car. In her police complaint, the woman said she was sitting with a male friend in his car in front of her apartment complex when the four men attacked them. The men drove the woman and her friend around the city in the car. One of the men sexually assaulted her, silencing her friend at knife-point.
How does a society breed such violence?
When I was a teenager, I was never sure about how to address the problem of rapes in India. As I grew older and studied the problem more deeply, I understood that rape is more than just a personal problem. It is a political problem. And more than that, rape is perpetrated through a culture that stems from patriarchy, power and the lack of understanding of what consent means.
Whenever I have been a part of peer discussions about the subject, there have been constant dialogues around how “all men don’t rape” and how “all men do not disrespect women” and saying that men are the problem creates a bigger divide in the solution that can be achieved while talking about gender based violence. Yes! All men do not rape, and all men do not disrespect women, but if you look at the statistics, a massive chunk of rapes all around the world are perpetrated by men on women. The difficult part about understanding this for men is that most of their opinions come from the perspective of a privileged individual for whom rape is not a pressing problem. For a man walking down the road alone at night, getting raped is probably the last of the worries he would have. For a woman in the same situation, rape is the first.
From the moment a child is born till the time he/she/they become adults, there is a clear demarcation that we as a society create – that men and women are different. That men are stronger, and women weaker – physically and psychologically – hence creating the burden to behave in a certain way, on both men and women. We do not lay focus on personal and political freedom, rather, we lay a lot of focus on how to abide by preset notions, and not question the status-quo.
Inequality stems in when young girls and boys are made to believe that they are not the same. It furthers when society demarcates the kind of freedom a man enjoys as opposed to what a woman enjoys. It further builds a sense of fear in women that they are the “weaker” sex.
This sense of ruthless power grows on to become one of the biggest reasons why many men believe that sex is their birthright, and they can use it as a tool to subjugate the “weaker” sex. What furthers this problem is the taboo we attach to sex, and the lack of conversations we have around it. When we refuse to provide adequate sex education to our kids at school, when parents refuse to inform a child that a person’s gender should not be the differentiating factor between people, when we as a society refuse to accept equality from the perspective of our privilege, we ensure that our children grow up in an environment where violence is easily acceptable.
Rape is a form of violence. To make it worse, it is a form of violence that represents the culture we hold close to our hearts. It represents an idea that inequality and differentiation is the way we wish for our society to grow, and that sex is and will always be used to assert dominance.
Coming back to the case of the 6-year-old child in Bangalore – and the thousands of others which happen daily in the remotest and the most urban places in the country – we see an oppressor and an oppressed, we see the lack of respect that has bred in the oppressor, and the shame that we will attach to the oppressed, and how our sympathy will ensure that the taboo remains with her for the rest of her life. It also showcases how respecting one’s personal space, deserving consent and demanding freedom without fear are all ideas which will either take decades to get accepted, or will only worsen as we grow as a society.
The next time when you crack a rape joke, the next time when you force someone to be a man or behave like a woman, the next time you detest someone’s sexuality because this is not how things are meant to be – think about the society you are creating, and think about your privilege. Think about how we have normalized violence, how our Indian culture has forced us into believing that a woman’s place is in the feet of her husband, and how subjugation is always, consciously or unconsciously, our first way to assert power.
This is the society we have created, and this is the nation we are proud of.
To know more about what I think, follow me on Twitter at @anshul_tewari.
If you are a survivor, parent or guardian who wants to seek help for child sexual abuse, or know someone who might, you can dial 1098 for CHILDLINE (a 24-hour national helpline) or email them at email@example.com. You can also call NGO Arpan on their helpline 091-98190-86444, for counselling support.