By Deepanjali Rao:
Of course not! I always thought that the answer was quite obvious according to all the educated and 21st century people in our country, but sadly I was wrong.
While having a casual conversation with a few male friends, this is what we argued about, and I don’t think it’s settled. However, we’re all entitled to our opinions. I am nobody to judge as to who is right or wrong. It’s just that I disagree with them and would like to put across my views on it.
First guy: “Obviously, if a girl is roaming late in the night, such things are bound to happen!”
Second guy: “You know why that recent Uber cab rape happened in Delhi?” (I’m like what do you mean by ‘why’?) “It happened because the girl was heavily drunk and was sleeping in the cab!”
Third guy: “You never know what a particular situation might have been and what the girl might have said or done to provoke the rapist. Every rape scene is different. You never know what the rapist’s state of mind might have been.”
They all also said that the rapist is obviously wrong and must be severely punished or ‘killed’, but at the same time, they felt that somehow the girl is also responsible for bringing it upon herself.
I was so shocked and disturbed with their opinions that I couldn’t sleep properly that night. According to me, no matter what the rapist’s situation might have been (for example things that are oft quoted as excuses by the society: he was never allowed to mingle with girls; girls never spoke to him; he got rejected by a woman he madly loved; his girlfriend or wife betrayed him; he is extremely poor and cannot afford to go to brothels and prostitutes; he has family problems or whatsoever), one cannot ever say that it’s ‘okay’ for him to have committed rape.
There can be absolutely NO situation that a girl can ever ‘create’ to make a guy have sex with her forcefully. A girl is NEVER responsible no matter if you think her outfit was ‘too skimpy’; or that she was inebriated or was dancing ‘provocatively’; was sleeping on the footpath; was unable to fight back in that instance, or was out late in the night alone or with her boyfriend or with any damn body.
There is just no justification for sexual violence of any kind. Period. There are no ifs and buts here. If a girl is cautious, it’s an ‘extra’ step that she’s taking to protect herself. It’s not because she’s ‘supposed’ to do so. When we as a society shift even a small part of the blame from the perpetrator to the victim, we all commit a huge crime.
A friend of mine studies in Paris. I happened to speak to him recently and casually asked him if he had a girlfriend there. He said that girls usually avoid him and do not want to be friends with him just because he’s Indian. He is a “potential rapist” according to them is what he told me.
Given the frequency at which crimes against women occur in India, it is not surprising that references such as these are made about Indians. In India, a rape happens once in every 20 minutes. With the rising number of rape cases and the infamous Nirbhaya episode still looming fresh in global memory, such stereotypes are bound to crop up.
A lot needs to be done if this situation is to change. To start with, we as a society just need to stop the victim blaming at all costs. In fact, to parents, I’d like to say, – “Don’t stop your daughters from going out in the night, instead, teach your sons how to behave.” The Law needs to get really strict with perpetrators of sexual violence and punish them severely and immediately. There are hardly any women in India who have not faced sexual harassment of some kind. I have faced it too. This one time, I was in a share auto and next to me sat a young man of about 25. He looked quite decent, was formally dressed and also had a laptop bag with him. I felt his hand touch my waist once, I thought it happened by mistake and ignored it. Then it happened again. I ignored yet again. When it happened the third time, I stopped the auto immediately and started screaming at him. I hurled abusive words at him that I never thought I knew and could say in public. He obviously said that I was mistaken, and he didn’t do it. I made him get off that auto right then.
When I was really young, I didn’t know how to react to such abuse. I’d just keep quiet and let it go. But now, I make it a point to raise my voice and fight back because it is not my shame but that of the perpetrator and I feel it must be brought to notice.
What this all boils down to is that if we continue to believe that ‘sometimes’ the victim is partly responsible, we’re already taking the blame away from the perpetrator even before he commits the crime. This obviously makes them less scared of the consequences. Violence against a woman or any gender for that matter is not to be tolerated at any cost and the sooner we stop victim blaming and start fighting back against the shame that is not ours, the sooner will we bring the perpetrators of this crime to justice.