Recently, I read an open letter to the prime minister written by a popular, vernacular poet of Guwahati – Mr Nilim Kumar. Published on the front page of Asomiya Pratidin, June 17, 2017, the letter highlights a chronic, gnawing and hapless fact of our society. Something which holds our tender sensitivities with the pincers of ruthless sadomasochism. Something which is currently just a statistic in the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) of India.
That almost every 15 minutes, a woman is raped in India. I believe Nilim Kumar wrote the letter in the light of Assam’s current rape case statistics: the recent Kopili River rape and murder case of a 50-year-old headmistress in May, the Baithalangso rape and murder of a college-going girl who was returning home after a Bihu function and the innumerable mentioned and unmentioned rape cases of the region. Kumar’s letter sounds the bugle of what women already feel every day. That it is imperative to do something untraditional and absolutely astounding in favour of punishing rapists in our country. That the Supreme Court offered a milestone judgement in the Nirbhaya rape case by hanging the culprits is beyond any measure of appreciation and awe.
But, that is not enough. It still hasn’t discouraged rapists, molesters, eve teasers, gropers and their ilk from being abusive. Godmen posing as divine representatives and exploiting innocents are still worshipped by their mentees and devotees alike. Violated and stripped bodies of women are still found hanging on a tree or dumped in rivers.
Yes, many men have become far more sensitive than they ever had been, after rape cases became as common as a cold. Their sympathy now couples with their active fight for the liberty of a woman to lead her life as she wills and her right to dignity, irrespective of what job she does or what time she comes back home. But most men haven’t transcended the parochialism of considering a woman as anything but a tool. Earlier, war victors violated women to mark their territory. Now, perverts find raping a woman as the icon of their primal strength — an outdated version of masculinity that seeks vindication by conquering a human body. These men still lurk in every corner of our roads, our houses, our relationships and our lives.
At the mercy of these men, humanity cannot but resort to only one solution. That which Nilim Kumar, very deftly and clinically, prescribes: Partial Penectomy, or surgical amputation of the penis. Much like Hari Swami, the religious guru who feigned spirituality to sexually attack a 23-year-old girl in Kerala and later became a victim of genital mutilation at her hands. Penectomy (mostly partial and in some cases, total) is a surgery to cure penile cancer. The penis is amputated to stop cancer from spreading. The patient can perform urination (although with the help of a catheter). They may even engage in a healthy sex life with the help of their loving partners. Because they are cancer patients, not perverts. But this surgery should ideally deal a massive blow to both the will and willies of rapists when forcing a woman into sexual intimidation without the support of their device of conquest.
Kumar mentions in his letter that despite overwhelming attempts of both police/authorities and women’s organisations to stop this atrocity, rape remains one of the leading crimes in our country. He says, and I completely agree, that unless the perpetrators fear the possibility of a heinous consequence for their crime, they will not be deterred from committing or even repeating it. He insists that partial penectomy would indeed be an unprecedented and ground-breaking law in world rape history. Perhaps even kindling the PM’s unique sense of innovation and love for grandeur, Kumar points out that he (the PM) will be the first to ever take such a solid step against a crime that ails the whole world. He even says that women all over India would thank and bless him every morning for setting an example in preventing such a crime.
This would, of course, be a challenge for a lone person to act upon when the political intelligentsia (irrespective of affiliations) says things like rape is ‘consensual’ or ‘sometimes right and sometimes wrong’ or ‘boys are boys, they make mistakes’ or that these incidents happen because ‘Bharat became India’. Yet, one hopes.
That there would be a human rights ruckus if such an ordinance is passed is beyond question. Hell, even the juvenile rapist in the Nirbhaya got his own band of sympathisers and pardoners. On the other hand, we do run a small risk of innocent men being victimised under this rule, the same way people commit immolation and murders of women in the guise of witch hunting. But if we let this situation fester without a severe consequence or plan of action, it will escalate exponentially in the coming years, women will lose the minuscule amount of freedom they have managed to get and rape will become curriculum vitae for masculine behaviour as much as it is modus operandi now.
If we do attempt such an experiment, however, penectomy could have its desired effect on the adrenaline-pumping chauvinist. If we can launch this experiment in all fool-proof cases of rape convicts, we might be able to induce some fear in the next man who thinks of committing a rape. As Kumar says, rape is an act of extreme cruelty and injustice. If a surgery seems too much to cure it, then we ought to stop and consider the severity of both the acts.
How can we measure the human rights of a rapist’s penis against the violated body and soul of a rape victim? Haven’t we spared the rod enough to spoil the child?