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Rape Is Not a Social Or Psychological Issue, But A Characteristic Of Male Violence

Kathua. Unnao. Surat. The list is never-ending. Every day there is a new report of a child, less than 12 or 13 years old, whose torn body is found on the streets, mutilated, tortured, cut. Gang rape is a regular feature, and increasingly, it’s not once or twice, the perpetrators in question have clearly gang-raped the child for days on end. Insertion of iron rods, stones, sticks into the female’s vagina is now a commonplace occurrence. Too often, there is just enough of the female’s body and flesh left for a post-mortem examination.

How do we respond? We take out candlelight marches. We shudder at the thought of these ‘monsters’, these ‘depraved perpetrators’. We post messages about how ashamed we are and stand in silence with posters.

Is that what we think is going to make a difference? It won’t. Name the problem. A subgroup of Indian men. There is something so deeply twisted, so fundamentally horrifying in the psyche of humans, fed and permitted by our culture and society to grow and spawn, unrestrained by the norms of civilisation that there is a large, increasing group of men who are beasts in disguise, who pounce on our women and children and feed off of them with glee. Do not forget that in order to gang rape, these groups of men must have been collectively aroused. Do not skip over the fact that perpetrators of gang rape laugh, scream in glee, and hold down a screaming, begging, or comatose child or woman while the rapist of the moment pants and tears apart a child’s body. Yes, this is incredibly graphic, and I won’t apologise for it. We say ‘gang rape’, we quickly shudder and shut our minds to it. Rape isn’t simple and NEVER quick.

Do not turn away from the image that large, grown men are being aroused by the sight of a lifeless, broken body and it gives them an inordinate pleasure to rape. If we are to even have a prayer of a hope at defeating them, we have to face the unspeakable, unimaginable depth of brutality that so many men in our society are capable of.

This is not purely a law and order problem. It isn’t even just a social problem. It’s a psychological issue. It’s a characteristic of male violence. Let’s not ignore that an 11-year-old has been tortured, ripped with tools, and marked with over 86 injuries. Torture used to be the domain of armed forces when extracting information – what purpose to torturing a child unless the perpetrators gloried in it? This is not simply a crime. It is violence that goes so deep within the human psyche that the sheer savagery is leaving the rest of us stunned. Terrorism is easy to understand. Murder for money or revenge is easy to understand. But this? It is not, and yet we don’t know enough. Have we tried, truly, to find out what is driving this monstrous behaviour?

No more platitudes. We don’t need more laws that these perpetrators don’t care about. We need to break into this underworld of snarling bestiality that is thriving in India. We cannot deal with a problem if we do not understand it fully. What we need is more knowledge, more prevention, and much more security. If today, in 2018 India, it is crowded with beasts of this nature, we have to react accordingly. Life simply cannot go on as usual. There is a war on women and children in this country, and we should be reacting accordingly, not waiting for a corrupt government that will pass a few laws whose effectiveness is always a matter of question.

Demand that the government invest in research. Map the zones where there are increasing numbers of rapes or where the violence is extreme. Certain regions and cities appear far too often in our newspapers, yet we do not focus our resources and efforts coherently.

Whether the death penalty should be imposed for rape, a discussion that is being opened up again, is a separate question. What should be an immediate issue, however, is enforcement of the laws on the books. Deterrence as a rationale for law enforcement can only be measured after enforcement is effective, and the public has a reasonable expectation that wrongdoing will be caught and punished. As long as culprits believe the law enforcement machinery will not respond appropriately, they will carry out crimes with impunity. Focus on making law enforcement and prosecution throughout the country smart, effective and immediate before pushing for new laws or punishments.

Demand that the government massively increase investment in police officers, especially on patrol. Ensure that highways and other danger zones are patrolled by well trained, well-armed police officers.

It is crucially important to remember, however, that the army, border security force, and other paramilitary forces have also been perpetrators of rape and terror. The people that are supposed to protect civilians have frequently treated the women and children like disposable pieces of flesh. Any additional deployments should employ rigorous screening to weed out individuals with such tendencies. All staff employed on armed duties should be subjected to rigorous psych screening to identify threatening traits. Wherever police or extra armed forces are deployed, it is therefore imperative that they are trained, and screened for potential sexually coercive traits themselves.

We need to demand committed investment in the training and profile mapping of these individuals. A balance has to be struck between deploying female police officers and male officers. Regrettably, experience with women police officers in the country has not been as positive as might have been hoped, and women have abused their detainees with as much violence and arbitrariness. To assume that use of more women will be sufficient would be a mistake, but nevertheless, recruitment and deployment of far more female police officers may provide a balance to the threat posed by the police itself.

Demand that extra units be deployed to remote villages where rates of gender violence or of discrimination against communities is already high. Demand that Khap panchayats, all of them be disbanded and be made illegal. We should be ensuring that powerful village elders enforcing patriarchal norms are removed from their sphere of influence and banned from exercising control over the women in the village. Khap panchayats have frequently handed down horrifying diktats to perpetrate rape as punishment. It is a known fact that Dalit women, or women of other minorities and poorer women will be targeted with more frequency.

Any reports of communal or casteist tensions should immediately be responded with extra protection for the women, or deployment of armed female patrol officers to the villages. Increasing punishment may not deter the criminals who often do not think about consequences when they indulge in their frenzied savagery. The mere presence of armed patrolling officers will make access to the victims less easy.

There is sadly very less research on the mental profiles of rapists in the Indian context. Barring a couple of studies where the lone researcher interviewed rapists, we do not have a sustained research focus on the psyche behind these rapists. We assume that all rape must be motivated by similar reasons, and simplistically reduce it to a power dynamic, stating that it is ‘patriarchy’. Human beings, nor criminal tendencies are definitely that simple. Research on violence against women in other countries shows that it is simultaneously influenced by varying and overlapping factors. But lessons learnt abroad cannot be introduced into India, a society with a far higher level of violence. We cannot yet answer the question of what power it is they seek, nor do we know how to spot these dangers. A gang rape on a woman or a child of a minority community could be driven by factors different to that of a gang rape on a woman or a child who happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time. Sexual proclivities, violent pornography, focused hatred – all of these could be a factor, but the amount of effort into researching these influences in India is woefully low.

At-risk boys and men should be spotted and efforts made to ensure that they do not pose a risk to the women and children of their society. There is plenty of research on ways to mitigate and deal with violent tendencies before they break out, and we should be focusing more effort on preventing these individuals from turning into monsters, instead of waiting for a verdict from courts for five years.

Our children are being swallowed up and devoured by the worst of human beings. We cannot afford marches and pleas and calls for justice anymore. Marches will achieve little without a solid strategy behind it. We need an overhaul of society and the way, so many boys and men in this country are being socialised. Rape is highly complex, and to reduce it to ‘patriarchy’ or ‘power’ would be a terrible mistake. There is a terrible pathology gripping many individuals in this country. It has to be identified and treated like the cancerous poison it is, and not like an occasional gaping wound. The problem is in our psyche, and it’s time we looked further.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

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.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

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.

Read more about his campaign.

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.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

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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.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

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A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

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.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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