By Vaagisha Das:
The aftermath of the ‘Nirbhaya’ gang rape case in Delhi saw numerous protests over the callous way in which incidents of rape are treated in the country. These protests are yet to die down, especially since another horrific instance has now come to light – that of a four-year-old in the slum area of northwest Delhi. The young girl, lured by the promise of sweets to a nearby railway track, was dragged by a group of men into the nearby forest and brutally raped. Having barely survived the ordeal, she is battling for life while the perpetrators are yet to be identified.
Dubbed ‘Choti Nirbhaya‘ by the media, various programs are being set up in order to provide financial aid to the victim by way of procuring funds for her education, as well as to secure her future. The Nirbhaya Fund too, seems created for this express purpose of providing help – yet these efforts pale when confronted with the ever increasing number of rape cases in India, showing that the problem runs far deeper than we think.
Sexual violence can be directly linked to the patriarchal values that Indian society is steeped in. The very same values that put men in a position of power and influence over most spheres of society, and train them to seek control. Very often this control is sexualised, while the sense of power, along with the cultural presentation of female bodies as a source of masculine pleasure- whether it be pornography, or ‘item numbers’ in movies- creates a sense of entitlement. This is what lays the basis for rape culture, where rape is trivialised on the part of the perpetrator – in India, often by blaming the victim. Rape victims are often dismissed on account of their having ‘brought it upon themselves’. Instead of focusing on the rapists, society shames the victim instead, claiming that she must have done something to warrant ‘punishment’. Rape seems to be justified when individuals cross a certain predetermined line of ‘bad‘ behaviour – They go out at night. They dress ‘fashionably’ or ‘sexily’. They have boyfriends. They go to bars. They work alongside men. Surely they were ‘asking for it’.
But then, how does one justify the rape of a child by the same logic? Was the child, by wandering off to play, ‘asking for it’? Does this not bring the problem into stark focus – how do you explain the sexualisation of a four-year-old by anything other than a blatant idea of claim to the female body – any female body? The problem of sexual assault cannot be removed unless the very foundation of patriarchy crumbles, and with it the eradication of the idea that women are in any way there to ‘service’ men, or are less important than them. Nirbhaya was enough of a prerogative to set better standards, that the ‘Choti Nirbhaya’ incident should take place is a source of shame.
However, it is a mistaken assumption to believe that the aforementioned has since been the only rape case. Child rape has gradually been on the rise, yet we see very few incidents of the same are being reported. Therein lies the problem of media reporting – often, cases that do not involve brutal violence, gang rape or stranger assailants are eclipsed by the more ‘sensationalised’ cases, even though the former is more common. Further, their absence in the media makes them appear trivial, and hence victims are less likely to report such cases of assault. Cases with proximity to news studios receive better coverage, while inaccessible or minority community regions are disregarded. When all these factors are taken into account, it is little surprise that the national media ceases to be so. Perhaps, along with what should be done, it is time we also pay attention to how it should be done, so that all cases worthy of attention get their due.