This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Lipi Mehta. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

Why We Shouldn’t Throw Around The Word Rape To Describe Anything

More from Lipi Mehta

By Lipi Mehta:

“Saw a car on the side of the road today. You should have seen it; it was raped”, a friend remarked.

No it wasn’t; there had been an accident.


However, even if we assume for a second that it had indeed been ‘raped’, let us investigate further by asking (as our society often does): What was it doing outside on the road at 7 in the evening? Was it indulging in late night frivolity or was it parked provocatively?

What are we doing here? We are undermining the seriousness of both – the incidents of rape and those of road accidents.

When it comes to rape, why is it that we are unable to use our language wisely? I asked a few people about this and one of the answers that jumped up at me was, “Because I don’t know anyone who has faced sexual violence”. The truth is, sexual violence is no longer a problem that is yours or mine alone. Millions have faced it through no fault of theirs. It is not specific to any parameters of age, gender, region, or time. Most importantly, it is not a term that is to be thrown around carelessly when discussing a difficult exam paper (“the Math paper raped me”), the weather (“the sun is going to rape us all today.”) or a bad remix of an old tune (“the dubstep has totally raped the chorus”).

In a disturbing revelation, the word ‘rape’ has also been adapted to specific situations, such as when your Facebook account gets hacked by a friend (“I got fraped at work again, man”). Having a silly status update on Facebook does not mean that you have been ‘fraped’. Simply put, a violation of your social media account with statuses like, ‘I am King Kong’ and ‘I am the real Slim Shady and I will stand up’ does not give you a license to misuse the term. Surely, this experience of yours is not tantamount to that of someone who has undergone sexual assault.

When we use the term ‘rape’ so callously, we are undermining the seriousness of the issue. In India, a woman gets raped every 20 minutes. Yet, convictions don’t take place in the same time frame. We cannot afford to become a society that is ‘used to’ knowing or hearing about incidents of rape. When we institutionalize rape, we treat it as a common phenomenon. We skim over it in the newspaper, and use it flippantly in our language.

Recently, I read a New York Times article that describes the police response to an incident of rape as ‘broad and high-level’, ‘as if an act of terrorism had taken place’. First of all, comparing terrorism with sexual assault is not justified. Why is it surprising if the police reacts swiftly and effectively to deliver justice? Why can we not look at the bigger picture and work towards a system where a similar response is attributed to every act of violence? Moreover, even by stating that a car was ‘raped’ in an accident, we are not merely drawing a comparison; rather, we are undermining the seriousness of sexual assault and misrepresenting the road accident.

Recognizing ‘rape’ as a socially-acceptable cultural expression is not the solution to distancing ourselves from the magnitude of the violence dispensed through the act. The truth is, incidents of rape occur in Bharat and in India and in Hindustan and in the rest of the world. They occur because someone chooses to assault another person — more as an act of power, than of lust. Even then, the ‘blame’ is often tipped the other way. For instance, when the BBC journalist Radha Bedi visited India to study the nature and aspects of sexual assault in the country, she was told by the lawyer Manohar Lal Sharma that he had “never heard of a respectable girl getting raped”. (Watch – India: A Dangerous Place to be a Woman)

You see, even when the verb ‘rape’ is used in the right context, it is often done so with a cold, stinging callousness that comes only with a mindset that desperately requires change, a set of rigid, delusional notions (“it will never happen to me or someone I know and love”) or the purposeful dismissal of reality. Only when we acknowledge that it is our problem to tackle as much as anyone else’s, can we stop normalizing it and avoiding it.

We could perhaps begin by using language wisely.

Note: This article was originally published here

You must be to comment.
  1. Akanksha

    Equating rape to “winning” is another extremely problematic issue that has now become naturalised in daily language. India “raped” Pakistan in last night’s match.
    Normalising abusive language DOES matter.

  2. TempleTwins

    Lots of people. Lots of groups in this country want to tell you how to talk. Tell you what you can’t talk about. Well, sometimes they’ll say, well you can talk about something but you can’t joke about it. Say you can’t joke about something because it’s not funny. Comedians run into that shit all the time. Like rape. They’ll say, “you can’t joke about rape. Rape’s not funny.” I say, “fuck you, I think it’s hilarious. How do you like that?”

    Now I’ve probably got the feminists all pissed off at me because I’m joking about rape. Feminists want to control your language. Feminists want to tell you how to talk. And they’re not alone. They’re not alone. I’m not picking on the feminists. They got a lot of company in this country. There’s a lot of groups, a lot of institutions in this country want to control your language. Tell you what you can say and what you can’t say. Government wants to tell you some things you can’t say because it’s against the law. Well you can’t say this because it’s against the regulation. Well here’s something you can’t say because it’s a secret. “You can’t tell him that, because he’s not clear to know that.” Government wants to control information and control language, because that’s the way you control thought…and basically that’s the game they’re in. Same with religion. Religion is nothing but mind control. Religion is just trying to control your mind, control your thought, so they’re going to tell you some things you shouldn’t say because they’re sins. And besides telling you some things you shouldn’t say, religion’s going to suggest to you some things you ought to be saying. Here’s something you ought to say first thing when you wake up in the morning. Here’s something you ought to say just before you go to sleep at night. Here’s something we always say on the third Wednesday in April after the first full moon in spring at four o’clock when the bells ring. Religion is always suggesting things you ought to be saying. Same with political groups of all kinds, political activists, anti- bias groups, special interest groups, are going to suggest the correct political vocabulary. The way you ought to be saying things, and that’s where the feminists come in. – George Carlin

    Rape also means pillage , plunder, ransack, despoil , sack , loot. For example ‘There is no guarantee that companies will not
    rape the environment’. One could also say ” I murdered you in that game”. Isn’t murder worse than rape? Wouldn’t you be more offended by that? Does the usage of the said term trivializes the crime of murder? Do you have any empirical data proving that joking about or using the word to describe anything else would cause more rape or murder for that matter? or less conviction?

    Believe it or not,while your point may be emotionally valid, you seem to have skipped the fact that rape always did, and continues to have meanings apart from sexually forced acts.

    1. EggsBenedictCumberbatch

      If you think rape is hilarious, you need serious psychiatric help. Probably a straightjacket.

    2. TempleTwins

      That part was from this segment of George Carlin. Yes! Rape is hilarious in this context, when it is told as a joke in a stand up comedy.

    3. TheSeeker

      Thanks for saying that.

More from Lipi Mehta

Similar Posts

By Shabeena Anjum

By Martha Farrell Foundation

By Samaira Guleria

Wondering what to write about?

Here are some topics to get you started

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below