I have been frustrated and anxious for the past few days. Looking at how such large sections of our society are behaving like barbarians, I cannot believe that we are living in the 21st century.
I was recently invited to conduct interviews for a college event. The students were asked a question – What if you had the power to punish rapists however you wanted? What would you do?
Almost 80% of the students had the same answer – Kill the rapists.
I then decided to ask them about why they thought that death was the correct penalty. To that question, no one had an answer. Today, I see everyone asking for a death penalty for rapists across the country, and it makes me afraid.
Everyone is talking about stringent laws, capital punishment or safety measures. However, no one is going to the root of the issue. Why are we not questioning why rapes occur?
The easy answer to this question would be ‘that rapes occur because of our patriarchal society’, but deep down, we have to think scientifically. How do these rapists think? What motivated their thought process? What was the stimulus for them to act in such a manner?
I have been working with kids and young people for years now, and I have realised that more or less, parenting is what translates into how a person behaves. The education system also has an important role to play. A four-year-old looks for cues on how to act and react. We unconsciously teach them a power cycle. We use phrases like “Why are you crying like a girl?”, “Why are you walking like a girl?” ,“Blue for boys, pink for girls” and more. All this affects them.
The worst part here is the fact that adults do this unconsciously, because they too, were brought up like this. To make matters worse, we don’t even know how to compliment a child when they do something well without bringing gender politics into play. Most girls are told, “Tu toh meri beti nahi, beta hai (You are like my son, not my daughter)”. Here, parents are establishing a premise that girls are weaker, while they were actually trying to compliment their daughters. Horrifying, isn’t it?
We need to change the words we use in front of our kids. We need to call out sexism, especially in the songs that we listen to all day long. I see Bollywood coming in support of the current movement, but they are equally a part of the problem. The songs they dance to, the way stalking is made casual in movies and the age-old dialogue, “Na mein he haan hoti hai (A no does not mean a ‘no’)” all have together, immensely contributed to the framing of this culture.
Coming to the conversation around stringent laws or capital punishment. Firstly, there are proven studies that show that capital punishment actually does not help. Instead of reducing the number of rape cases, it leads to an increase in the number of instances wherein a rape victim is murdered on the spot. Secondly, any amount of fear will not help, as very often, these acts are done impulsively or in rage. Both of these emotions, make us lose control of our psyche and the ability to think about the long-term consequences of our behaviour.
In my opinion, rapists should be scientifically studied to understand their childhood, upbringing and environment, to come to a scientific solution as to how we can improve and have long-term change. Some might say that this will take years. Yes, I agree. In fact, I think it could maybe take an entire generation. However, this, in my opinion, is the only way to do it.
Till then, we must look at what support we, as the average citizen, can provide.
Let’s work on developing a curriculum that subtly includes activities that can help in establishing gender equality among kids. Let’s get together, and ask the government to make these changes. Let’s ensure that they do. Let’s not elect political parties, but in place, elect good human beings who care about these issues. We need to give the utmost importance to educating every citizen about this. Let’s raise our children better, and who knows, we might just be able to bring about massive change.