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I Think Rape Culture Is The Problem, Not Salman Khan

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By Prachee Bhardwaj:

Do you know how may Salman Khans we can possibly find in a single glance around us? It infuriates me to the hilt when the heart of the matter becomes ‘how Snapdeal was almost boycotted when Mr. Aamir Khan made an obnoxious comment, apparently’ and ‘now, would you ban Salman Khan films?’ and not to forget the ‘bhaai bhakts, what do you want to say now?’

The core of the problem shifts paradigmatically to chauvinism again. Social media is talking about ‘Salman Khan made an obnoxious statement’. The actor is being blamed while only a handful understand the crux of the matter which is: how prevalent rape culture is in our society.

It’s easy to fight against a problem, a human mistake. But a culture that has seeped down to our bones and made our hollow minds so captive to the heroic manhood around us, I suppose, now needs a civilisation to end and be reborn.

The language we talk in is male-centric. What kind of a process do we enter by calling ourselves ‘awakened’ and ‘activists’ while the language we use, the ideas we hold are so unconsciously blotted with silhouettes of egoistic heroism that only romanticises the wrong idea of manhood? A woman can be compared to vices, marriages are made fun of, ‘colour’ and ‘shape’ are open to judgement, women are ‘rated’, sold and bruised mentally, physically and emotionally and this culture is not even a problem.

A man who has made a prolific mark in Indian cinema and has almost claimed power over the Indian judiciary makes a statement which is obnoxious and walks off. The problem doesn’t end here. A single statement that has outraged each one of us is not going to make much difference to someone like him. Audiences will continue to watch his films, he will remain the bhai that he is. Banning his films or not following or admiring him for his work is not the solution one is looking for out of this controversy. I wonder what kind of difference that is going to make.

The right question, I guess, would be: is it possible that he repents for what he said? Would he realise how his ideas about women are shaped by the false grandeur about manhood in his life?

But are we still talking about the right problem? It’s not about Salman Khan. It could be any man in the corner of your street or even in your own house for that matter because rape culture has innumerable victims. It’s about how, in spite of the fact that women have entirely changed the scenario from being the sacrificing figures to souls full of voice and justice, it is so easy for a man to make have an image of women this low in his mind, publicly talk of it and live as conveniently as he wishes to.

Another side of the story that I happened to read was about how Salman Khan compared his ‘tough’ schedule to the suffering of a raped woman: ‘It’s not simply tough for a rape victim, the experience is traumatic and deadly’. And how I beg to differ on that! Why is a raped woman a ‘victim’ in the first place?

I remember activist Kamla Bhasin asking in ‘Satyamev Jayate’ that if a woman is bitten by a dog, who would be the culprit. It’s the dog. Undoubtedly, it’s physically painful and outraging. But under the given understanding of the idea of rape, it is mentally and emotionally difficult for a woman to come out of it. I feel it’s high time that we stopped ‘sympathising’ with a raped human, making him/her feel like a ‘victim’, building a discourse that holds rapes as the end of someone’s dignity or sexual and emotional life. Isn’t empathising a better way to let a person cope with rape? Sympathising with a raped woman somehow presents her as weak, someone to be felt sorry for. But in reality, weak is the man who raped her, not the woman. Feel sorry for a man who is a coward and not for the rape survivor.

The problem here is not a celebrity but the inbuilt mindsets we have inherited and carried forward without introspection and questioning. Rape culture is prominent around us where without thinking and realising one can normalise every aspect of rape.

Nobody exactly knows what kind of a day it would be when we would stop talking in the language of films, stop considering celebrities as gods and know the art of raising the right questions, the right way. Had this been understood for its root issue it would have not been called the ‘Salman Khan controversy’, simply because it is not.

Featured images credit: K.Asif/India Today Group/Getty Images and Milind Shelte/India Today Group/Getty Images.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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