When the national public radio programmes turn on, one can tend to doze off. Those of you who, for some unfortunate reason are familiar with the channel I’m referring to, would second my opinion. So on my recent family trip, through remote areas on a warm afternoon, all were on the verge of nodding off, with the FM in the background. But it might take you by surprise that in that state, two bantering ladies on that station caught my attention. That too to such an extent that it moved me to write this article!
Wondering what was the topic of discussion?
In the wake of Nirbhaya Case verdict, these hosts were talking about women empowerment/awareness on crimes against women. On one hand, they were praising the woman of today who is powerful, poised and proud. On the other hand, they were analysing the finer aspects of rapes, and urging their ‘Sakhis and Sahelis’ to be wary of inviting such scenarios, which inevitably lead to molestation. One of the well meaning ladies asked the womenfolk to not be a ‘bhagidari’ in this crime by wearing inappropriate clothes, travelling at the wrong time to wrong places, etc., we all know the talk (at least every female does). The other Wise One even recommended carrying chili powder along while travelling!!
On a side note, I wonder why spice giants like Catch and M.D.H. haven’t cashed in on this lucrative business venture. The perfect weapon to fight both the bandits and bland food, on the go!
Even though these ladies were giving very handy suggestions for women, I got stirred by the absence of one fundamental element in this scenario, the Rapist. In the case of such a crime, one can definitely argue about the critical role of the victim in the act. However, it is quite ludicrous to overlook the primary cause of the ‘crime’: the ‘criminal’. Don’t get me wrong, I believe that every individual should observe safety and learn self defense to a certain level. However, I also believe that if the state of affairs have to be improved, then the cause of the crime, or the rapist should be rectified, even before we scrutinise the victim.
It is quite surprising for me that our country has such high expectations from its women to travel with a companion, download safety apps, learn self defense, inform everyone about their whereabouts, dress appropriately and so forth. But it fails to expect one fundamental, basic thing from our men: Do not commit an abhorrent crime! Is it true that subconsciously we believe that if our brothers, fathers, uncles, friends see a lonely vulnerable woman, they will naturally turn to lecherous monsters? Why is molestation seen as a widely accepted and anticipated conclusion of such an encounter? Is this how were have raised our boys that they have absolutely no accountability?
Now one might say it depends on the class of the society, the lawless areas or literacy of the families to which these rapists belong. However, this mentality that is under the scanner has seeped in throughout our country, regardless of the boundaries and differences. I invite you to look at one aspect of our nation in which this mentality is reflected: our cinema. It has been catering to the entire nation for decades. The plots of many movies revolved around rape of the love interest/sister, that propelled the protagonist towards revenge. If nothing else, just to establish the villainy of a negative character, or the heroics of the protagonist, a scene of molestation was added. It’s as if by some twisted law of attraction, a lonely woman would conjure up a goon, that would be followed by a “Hahaha”-”Chhod do mujhe”sequence. If an ‘Abla Naari’ is spotted in dark alleys, then this setting almost demands a man to molest her, even though he might just be getting late for home! If you were thinking of many movies like Koyla, Prem-Rog, Insaf ka Tarazu,and the likes, I would remind you to look at more recent hits like Wanted, Heropanti, Kaabil, which still propagate this mindset.
So in these situations where the lonely woman is akin to a lamb and the Man to a wolf, we immediately judge the sensibilities of the lamb to appear in front of the wolf, rather than questioning the very existence of the wolf in the first place. Why does a man lose all sense and humanity to commit a horrendous crime?’
Going back to the very informative radio conversation, which reaches 97% of the Indian population, it is distressing that the ideas being discussed are amiss and misguided. With such a wide audience, they have a wonderful platform to start a new conversation, which can evoke a new perception in the minds of people.
Nevermind what the radio broadcasts, we can take the matter in our own hands. How about we now speak to our boys and men? How about we speak about their responsibilities and the expectations from them? How they do not have to necessarily see other girls as ‘sisters’ to act humanely, but solely because they are expected to treat every citizen the same way. The cause of rape doesn’t lie outside the rapist, it lies within him. If we have that talk with our men, starting as early as possible, it may save some life, some day. So I urge you to talk to your boys about their values before you speak to your girls about their safety. When you hear news of such crimes, do not turn your worried gaze at your daughter and put her under restrictions, but put that very worried gaze towards the men and boys of the house and sensitise them about these crimes.
I understand that it can be daunting and uncomfortable to start sharing this opinion on a large scale, so let’s start small. The Nibhaya verdict is currently in news, and while it still is relevant, let us discuss it with at least one male member from our close circle of friends or family, with the focus on the roles and responsibilities of men in such crimes. We can also share articles such as this humble one, or the wonderful video featuring Alia Bhatt attached in the link to this article.
Trust me, even a small step from your side counts, just as a drop causes a ripple in still waters. It only takes a thought to change someone’s perception about things, and eventually the society’s mindset. Let us go ahead and change the society !