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Honour, Shame And Revenge: It’s Not Just The Rapists We Must Fight To End ‘Rape Culture’

By Deepthi Unnikrishnan:

The unprecedented public outcry after the ‘Nirbhaya’ case instigated a much needed revision of outdated rape laws and several amendments in the Indian Penal Code. That being said, being content with punishments means staying content with relieving the symptoms, and leaving the root cause intact. If the punishments were enough, it wouldn’t be difficult to curb crimes. Rape is a symptom of what lies beneath the minute details that make up the cultural codes and behavioural patterns that prescribe an ideal ‘female model’ and a ‘male model’. At this point, our culture continues as the one that treats rape as only ‘her’ problem, with significant repercussions to the community.

india_s_rape_cu10091_0

As officials put it, there has been an increase in the number of rapes being reported willingly. In the background, a phrase had caught on–‘rape culture’. There was a furore, questioning the audacity to sum up the entire culture in a single negative phrase. Phrase or no phrase, the situation demands an interrogation of the subtle and the not-so-subtle aspects of the cultural constructs that continue to forgive and forget rape. Punishments have relevance, but only a supplementary relevance, along with the usurping of certain behavioural patterns and attitudes that permit violence against women, sexual or otherwise.

The Construct of Honour, Shame, Revenge

About a month back, a 14 year girl was ordered to be raped by the village headman as a fitting revenge for an alleged misbehaviour by her brother to another woman. Not that long ago, in West Bengal, a 20 year old woman was gang raped, as the village did not approve of her relationship with a man from another community. I picked these instances from the plethora of sexual crimes in our society, because of the obvious constructs of ‘honour’, ‘revenge’ and ‘shame’ in them.

The patriarchal construct of ‘honour’ for the female is tied to her body, her sexuality and virginity. By ‘shaming’ her, the family’s honour is irrevocably lost as she signifies the family’s ‘honour’. And what happens to the rapist? He scored some points on the honour scale as he carried out the revenge. Is the man’s honour is the capacity for ‘revenge’?

Such heinous crimes are condemned nationwide, and decried on television discussions. These do mark the public outrage well. There is also a subtle response that emerges in these discussions. It is the tendency to distance ‘us’ from ‘those’ who are ‘remote‘, “the crimes happened in a remote village…in a tribal village”. It is internalised that such crimes happen in uncivilised corners. The fact is that the very same ideology of honour is normative across all social strata, masquerading under phrases like ‘lamp of the family’ and ‘light of the house’, which are used to describe a daughter or a daughter-in-law. Such notions prevail across the country, and the rapes that happened in those villages are an extension of the same attitudes. The urban areas, or the so called ‘civilised’ areas may not have a headman ordering rape, but the mind-set that fosters rape thrives there as well.

Seeing Through the Eyes of the Perpetrator

In Bangalore city, many incidents of sexual assaults in schools were reported after the abuse of a 6 year girl came to light very recently. Ironically, in an event organised to prevent such crimes, the secretary of a school addressed the public on imposing ‘appropriate’ dress code for girls as a preventive measure. Well-wishers utter ‘well-meaning’ advice to women to dress decently, not to invite unwanted attention, etc. They are asked to be calm, composed and of course, fair and lovely. It is normal to hear many spontaneous comments in the lines of, “girls should…”, “if she dresses ‘provocatively’…then, after all isn’t he a boy?” Girls are taught to avoid attracting sexual attention and keep a certain distance from the boys. Interestingly, boys of the household are left out of such discussions. They are not taught the need to respect the private and physical/psychological spaces of individuals.

The Feminine and Masculine Mystiques

A very distinct pattern of the masculine mystique and the feminine mystique is created right from childhood. Gender dynamics invariably creep into family and parenting. As a part of bringing up and making the boys independent, aggression and use of force are tolerated. It is considered okay for a boy to be violent. You hear people saying this when bolstering a boy “..now, don’t you cry like a girl. Aren’t you a brave boy?” Words encouraging the expected behavioural patterns are uttered spontaneously. It seems like the biological self has to be reinforced by conventional norms. Boys exert their manhood by describing their sexual experiences with their girlfriends, describing what went on as a private experience, as an ego boost for their manhood before friends. Manhood is violent, sexual, and men don’t cry. It is the age old trope of the hunter and the doe.

Rape remains a scourge since we, as a nation, have accepted “boys will be boys” for a long time now. It is a phrase playfully used to chide a boy who broke something, or used by prominent politicians for asking lesser punishment for sexual crimes. It seems as if the male sexuality is beyond their very selves. “Men will be men” is an attempt at rationalising the crime, a fallacy of patriarchy. The pseudo rationale belittles the violence and endorses such actions.

A rethinking of normative behavioural pattern will expose the vacuous notions of ‘dishonouring’ women through sexual assaults. Resisting those hollow behavioural norms and refuting them can potentially nurture alternate perspectives and dismantle the feminine and the masculine mystiques. Rapists are responsible for rape, not the women!

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  1. Babar

    Boys exert their manhood by describing their sexual experiences with their girlfriends, describing what went on as a private experience, as an ego boost for their manhood before friends.

    Is the above sentence coming on a blog where women are fighting for their right to have premarital sex, multiple transient sexual relationships, dress indecently sexy, ‘try out’ relationships before settling down, use a condom instead of being morally upright, among a host of other things which includes sexual perversion.

    Rapists are responsible for rape, not the women!

    And what are women doing to be safe? Instead of being home after dark, they continue to fight for their right to stay out late at night, with questions and arguments depicting that there is no fixed time which dictates ‘late’, clearly knowing that danger lurks out there.

    The patriarchal construct of ‘honour’ for the female is tied to her body, her sexuality and virginity. By ‘shaming’ her, the family’s honour is irrevocably lost as she signifies the family’s ‘honour’. And what happens to the rapist?

    I agree. Please also raise your voice for the ‘shaming’ and honour of those tens of thousands of innocent men rotting in Indian jails over false cases of rape, molestation, dowry, domestic violence and assault, how they are tortured in Indian jails, and how their life, career, reputation, family, and future has been ruined.

    http://youtu.be/SM-YUFidNP4

    1. Deepthi

      Let me answer you one by one.about boys describing private experiences with their girlfriends to their friends to gain popularity—I have seen this all through my life in school,college etc and it’s based on what i saw and see around. And by the way girls ‘decently’ dressed, dont get raped?? Who decides what is decent? wearing sari,salwar kammez,covering up ? and what are the dictates for men? Asking the girls to dress decently like our politicians ask is precisely what I am voicing against. This vision is again a patriarchal construct..if a girl wears a short skirt (i dont know if that fits your decency requirements) does that give the rapist the ‘right’.

      Girls are taught to be ‘morally upright’ and many behavioral expectations like “come home by 6pm”…why? we dont know what circumstances holds her late. so being late again gives the rapist the ‘right’? questions about coming home late is not asked to men..
      My intention is to bring forth such behavioral constructs..separate for ‘boys’ and ‘girls’.

      I do agree with what you mentioned about false cases…But i dont believe that the number of false cases are more than the real ones.
      Rapes and cases of domestic violence are much more than what is being reported..and gruesome acid attacks.If the rapist or his family is influential, an innocent might be sentenced.the fact remains that registering an f.i.r itself is a daunting task.

      finally my question is why are women repeatedly asked NOT TO GET RAPED and boys not asked NOT TO RAPE? And i do feel that the soft spots of our cultural fabric maintains and perpetuates ideologies where rape is considered only a woman’s problem..and often dismissed with “she asked for it”.

    2. Babar

      Covering the body is decent and it is decided by applying common sense, such as by wearing a loose shalwar kameez which neither shows nor reveals the shape of the body.

      A woman’s body is for her husband to look at, not public property. Beauty and fashion industries have benefitted from a marketing gimmick, where girls today are bombarded with images of scantily dressed women in movies, music videos, TV, magazines, billboards, etc, so that companies can pile money in their bank accounts. And false notions of beauty are further enhanced by feminists and reiterated by the rest in the name of emancipation and liberation.

      Women who reveal their bodies provoke rapists, thus endangering themselves, just as women who return home late from parties and bars become victims of assault, a tragedy which could have easily been averted had they taken precaution. Being out late at night is dangerous for men too, as many get mugged, stabbed, and robbed.

      Even in the western world, many parents not allow their daughters to wear revealing attire, and in many schools and colleges in the west, their are strict rules about what girls can and cannot wear. Also, many parents are more concerned about having their daughters cover up and not date rather than come home one day and tell their parents that they are pregnant.

      With the promotion of plunging necklines, tight leggings, spandex pants, short skirts, tight jeans, short shorts, tops so deep that when girls bend down accidentally they reveal a lot more than they intended – girls today are bent on showing the world their rights.

  2. Babar

    Feminism is shallow, bigoted, two-faced, full of hypocrisy and lies, aims to incite the hatred of men and break families and cause divorces, and harms men and women alike, which is why women today are raising their voice against feminism – Women Against Feminism

  3. Babar

    Feminism is bigoted, two-faced, full of hypocrisy and lies, aims to incite the hatred of men and break families and cause divorces, and harms men and women alike, which is why women today are raising their voice against feminism – Women Against Feminism

  4. Punya

    My comment is directed at Babar (unable to reply to your comment dated Sept 10).

    You clearly don’t see (or don’t want to see?!) the point being raised in the article here. You say that
    “Women who reveal their bodies provoke rapists, thus endangering themselves, just as women who return home late from parties and bars become victims of assault, a tragedy which could have easily been averted had they taken precaution.”

    Well, the question here is, why in the first place there exists a rapist? This is the question being raised today. And this is what the discussion around rape culture all about.
    Secondly, not all women return home late after partying or getting drunk in a bar (even if they do, does this give any right to any man to rape them? But then, you won’t answer this question, going by your arguments). Many women work in job profiles that require them to do night shifts or be back home late in the night. Then, what must they do? Leave their job (and as per you, in another comment in a separate *feminist* article) and be a liability on their husbands or other men in their lives? Or simply don’t even wish to aspire about such kinds of jobs? Late night shifts and work profiles are dangerous for both men and women, given the condition of our society. I agree that men do get ‘mugged, stabbed, and robbed’ at such times but then asking them to leave their job or getting their shifts changed end the problem? No. The perpetrators will find some other means or target someone else to mug, rob and stab. Then how do we expect a rapist to stop being a rapist simply because the women around are fully covered and inside their houses by 6 pm??? That rapist will target the homeless female beggar living under a flyover. And her being raped is as disgusting as a female from a well to do family being raped.
    And this is just one instance. Rapes are happening everywhere. Do you suggest all the women in this country to be in their homes within a certain deadline decided by the society? Will that deter a rapist?
    Next time you comment, can you kindly answer the following question:
    ‘what should be done to prevent a person from becoming a rapist?’
    rather than suggesting women to be fully covered and be locked up inside their homes after sunset.
    And if you care to consider another fact, a huge number of rapes happen inside a house, and the rapist usually is a woman’s male relative. And yes, forcefully having sex with one’s spouse is also rape, marital rape. What words of advice do you have for such women?

    1. Babar

      Both men and women should not be out late at night unnecessarily to avoid tragedies that can be easily averted. Women are at a greater risk, and hence must exercise greater caution. It is true that women get raped in the day, at home, or at night while returning from work, but with what stretch of imagination can you negate the fact that a number of rapes take place when women are out late at night unnecessarily, drinking and partying. Furthermore, rape is a global epidemic, and rapes in India have been on the rise after women have started following the western lifestyle, going out with boys who they hardly know, and end up becoming victims of a ‘date rape.’ Women who now want to drink, who flood bars and nightclubs in the name of emancipation and liberation, and then when a tragedy occurs, blame men, society, and patriarchy while clearly knowing that a little bit of common sense could have averted the tragedy.

      Be at home, be safe.

    2. Punya

      “Women are at a greater risk, and hence must exercise greater caution. It is true that women get raped in the day, at home, or at night while returning from work, but with what stretch of imagination can you negate the fact that a number of rapes take place when women are out late at night unnecessarily, drinking and partying. Furthermore, rape is a global epidemic, and rapes in India have been on the rise after women have started following the western lifestyle, going out with boys who they hardly know, and end up becoming victims of a ‘date rape’.”

      I am not negating any fact. I am just stating that women who are back home late at night, not all of them are busy getting drunk in a bar. Some of them are returning after a hard day’s work. It is you who just want to concentrate on girls who get ‘date raped’. I just want to know, what should the working-late-at-night-women do to ‘NOT get raped’? Since you are so habitual of doling out words of wisdom for womenfolk alone, can you please answer this question? Would you advice the men around them to behave themselves and NOT eye those women as mere objects of sexual gratification? Or is that not the prerogative of our patriarchal society as it only has advice for women, and not men?

      Rapes have been happening since ages in India. What has been on the rise is the reporting of these rapes by media. It is not merely a reflection of western lifestyle. And yes, by what stretch of imagination do you say that only women go to the bars to get drunk? Then who rapes them there? Ghosts from nether world? It is high time we stop blaming women for embracing western lifestyle simply because that’s the most convenient thing to do. And why this bigoted stance? It is okay for men to go to bars and get drunk, but not for women. Why? Because women are at a greater risk. So dear men, you can have a gala time getting high on all sorts of ‘western’ imports and if you rape a woman, don’t worry. It is not your fault, nor is it a heinous crime. It is a woman’s prerogative to ensure her safety. It was her fault that she couldn’t save herself from you. Wow! *Slow clap*

      Who is going to tell the rapists out there not to rape?
      When are you men in this country going to say, ‘yes, we screw up the lives of women around us – sometimes by assaulting and abusing them physically, sometimes by our actions, sometimes by our words, sometimes by our misogynist thinking.’ If all that we keep on doing is tell the women to be safe, then men are NEVER going to get this point across that rape is a CRIME against woman.

      Moreover, you are least concerned about women’s safety, so stop suggesting women to ‘be at home, be safe’. What you are doing here, in all your comments, is being defensive about the way most of the Indian men behave with women around them. You are giving them a protective shield because when people like you suggest women to be safe, the point that is driven home to a man is, ‘it is okay for me to rape because there are people out there to defend me and blame the victim.’

      The least you could do is stop defending menfolk with an undertone of ‘men will be men. women need to take precautions to be safe from men around them’. Kindly accept this fact.

    3. Babar

      Once again, you are bent on countering criminals and crime, without taking into consideration the need to be safe. There are murderers, kidnappers, thieves and robbers out there – how are you going to counter them? There are women who file false cases of rape, assault, molestation, domestic violence, and dowry – how are you going to counter them? The answer lies in taking steps that will enable us to be safe, rather than try and eliminate the bad aspects of society. As for women returning home late from work, the majority do not need to work, however, they feel the need to do so because they have been victimized with false notions of independence, where they must compete with men. Also, men work to support their families, women work to buy clothes and cosmetics. Now please do not reply by telling me how there are single mothers working to support families, because those cases are exceptions.

  5. Punya

    Deepthi, hope this article makes at least one person realize about the seriousness of the whole ‘rape culture’ which is gnawing at our society. Kudos for a well written article!

    1. Deepthi

      Thx Punya.Hope voices countering such barbaric actions get to the collective mind set of the society.

  6. Punya

    @Babar

    ‘There are murderers, kidnappers, thieves and robbers out there – how are you going to counter them?’

    Umm, let me see, going by your logic, lets all just stay inside our houses. What say?
    Ensuring safety is one thing, but we need to fight them off. And we have to work towards ensuring a safe society. How about strengthening our RWA’s and local networks, getting police and our employers involved? All this will take some time but we need to take that first step. However, attitudes like yours are dampeners at that very first step. If everyone thinks about remaining safe, will that deter the increasing number of anti-social elements in the society? Answer me please. Give practical suggestions instead of calling on for a blanket farmaan of staying indoors.

    I am all for safety, but that doesn’t mean crimes won’t happen. And this approach of safeguarding women by keeping them locked inside is not going to work. Why? Because men’s attitude won’t change. Changes come with attitudinal shifts, not by curing the symptoms without approaching the root cause. Asking women to stay at home and stay fully covered won’t change the way men think about women. It is very well for you to say, ‘The answer lies in taking steps that will enable us to be safe, rather than try and eliminate the bad aspects of society’, simply because you don’t have to face what every woman in this country has faced at least once in her life. We HAVE TO change this bad element of society to make this place safe for women.

    ‘There are women who file false cases of rape, assault, molestation, domestic violence, and dowry – how are you going to counter them?’

    In the certain way a rapist, an assaulter, a molester, a perpetrator of crimes against MEN should be countered. Stating crimes against men by women doesn’t de-value the crimes happening against women. Its not a game of tit-for-tat where you say if there are 10 crimes against men per day then there must be similar number of cases against women, now I can sleep peacefully because the balance has been maintained. That’s plain stupid.

    Please do not answer my question with another question. If there are criminal men out there, there are as many women criminal too. But that does NOT take away from the seriousness of crime committed against any one gender. Its stupid to argue that why do we keep on crying about rapes against women when there are as many cases of rapes or other crimes against men. If you have a problem with why the so-called feminists are hell bent on making a propaganda out of crime against women, then the answer is: because women have been subjugated since very long. Please open your eyes. We live in a society that is patriarchal, whether you want to accept this fact or not. My suggestion, please do accept it. It’ll save you a lot of heartburn.

    ‘As for women returning home late from work, the majority do not need to work, however, they feel the need to do so because they have been victimized with false notions of independence, where they must compete with men. Also, men work to support their families, women work to buy clothes and cosmetics. ‘

    I think you just missed your time-travel train back to 10th century!
    Women work to buy clothes and cosmetics and to compete with men??!! Really! Bravo! Then what about those print matrimonial ads where the boy’s family seeks a well educated and well earning bride? Oh yeah, they only want her to earn well so that she could splurge on herself. And no, they don’t have any such expectation that she is going to contribute equally in paying the new flat’s EMIs, right?

    You know what, your comments earlier angered me. But this one simply makes me laugh! You have some twisted logic.

    1. Babar

      I thought you were in for a serious conversation, but you are parroting the same thing over and over again – that men’s attitude needs to change. Okay, so what do you plan on doing until then? As for crimes against men, no where did I mention or even go as far as hinting that it is to counter crimes against women – that is your interpretation of my comment. Your proposed solution : “How about strengthening our RWA’s and local networks, getting police and our employers involved?” Alright, so why have you not done so until now? What is stopping you, and people all over the world as rape happens to be a global epidemic? Why hasn’t the U.S., U.K., Australia, Europe, etc, where rapes are at an all time high implement your proposed plan of action, or has no one been intelligent enough to come up with a solution until now. And what proposed plan of action do you have for the false cases of rape, molestation, assault, domestic violence, and dowry against men? You have said, “Then what about those print matrimonial ads where the boy’s family seeks a well educated and well earning bride?” Men looking for working women does not change the fact that most women do not need to work. As stated earlier, single mothers are exceptions. And maybe you have not noticed that beauty and fashion industries are billion dollar businesses.

  7. themaverickwoman

    Hey Deepthi..

    First congos fr ur article… its damn hitting n true!!

    BTW one points woman…which i have noticed!!!On every article of YKA this bigoted asshole talks about “plunging nechline ,tights n woman revealing” i m jst bound to question..if this stink has only seen anyting else in woman …. or nt!!! Probably not !! Hence there is no point in talking… i m just amazed and wud request YKA if they can ban..sexist misgynist n hatemongers like these !!! They spoil the whole discussion wid thier prejudices and hatred …. and only distract us from making the world a better plc to live..

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