Turn on your internet and Google ‘rape cases’ or ‘rape news’ in India, spend a few minutes and read out some of the incidents. Then, spend some more time asking yourself what you feel. How do you react? Does it affect you? If yes, then how? Does this bother you? If yes, then how and what do you do? Let me put below some of the incidents of rapes:
A few brutal incidents of rape took place on Nirbhaya’s 6th anniversary itself. A 3-year-old girl was raped brutally in the National Capital itself. In another incident, a 5-year-old was raped in Assam. Has anything changed? Yes, the numbers have drastically gone up. We all are well aware of the brutal and heinous incident that took place on 16 December 2012, in Delhi. There was anger, agitation and demand for justice. However, it’s been 6 years and has anything changed? After 6 years of one of the most brutal and heinous crimes, if the situation still hasn’t changed, then there is something utterly wrong with us. It’s not just those rapists indulged in that heinous crime. We too have been criminals in some ways. Hanging isn’t the solution except if we all have to be hanged. If it is the solution then we all should hang each other because we all have been playing a criminal role in some or other way. If you feel offensive when I say ‘we and us” then count yourself as you are in. Despite many wake up calls, we tend to sleep, not understand, and ignore the complicity of our own. Thus we have to ask who are we and what are we? I would prefer to call ‘Criminals’ and that’s what we are.
Rape is a human-made virus and we have failed to create an anti-virus that can deal with it. I know the topic that I am writing about is no longer a thrilling one. A lot has already been talked, written and debated about. A lot of work has been done, laws were made and amended, enforcement agencies were put in place. Has anything changed? There is not a single day when we don’t come across news around rapes, molestation and harassment. Those who commit such crime aren’t a few, they are many in numbers. So, firstly we need to acknowledge that if something like this is happening on a regular basis, many men are indulging in such crimes, which is a huge concern. Hence, as human beings, we need to be bothered and concerned. We need to ask so many questions to ourselves, questions like: What makes men commit such crimes? Why do men beat women? Why do men abuse women verbally, emotionally, financially, physically and sexually? What’s going on with so many men? Why do so many adult men sexually abuse little girls? Why do men feel they are entitled to control women and their bodies? Why is that still a common problem in our society? Why so many men rape women? What’s wrong with men?
I personally feel sorry, ashamed and extremely angry every time I come across any case of rape or sexual violence. It deeply bothers me and often doesn’t let me sleep. I try to do my bit and be part of the solution. My attempt of writing this is one of the ways to be a part of the solution and doing my bit to bring a change in any way I can. I want to draw everyone’s attention towards issues of gender-based violence and our understanding and attitude towards it.
We have been failed because what majority of people consider as solutions are actually problems and encourage such violence even further to happen and that’s exactly what we have been doing. Just think of some of the popular and prevalent arguments that are given when a woman gets raped or get molested. Let’s mull over some of those popular reason given by so many people:
This is one of the popular and prevalent reasons given by many people including our politicians and many so-called educated persons. But this given reason itself is fundamentally irrational and problematic for plenty of reasons. Firstly it gives the rapists and molesters an excuse for their inhuman and obnoxious behaviour and a reason to get away with it. It also conveys the very negative and wrong message to the common masses and those who are potential molesters and rapists. Thus, the dominant group does not pay attention and the society starts blaming survivors for women’s choices, what they are doing, thinking, wearing and maybe even existing. And this is not going to prevent violence at all. If someone’s clothes provoke someone to the extent that that person can molest or rape a woman, then the problem is not with the attire but with the person who molested or raped. The problem is with his upbringing and socialisation. The problem is with each and everyone including several institutions who created this virus and persevered it in so many ways. The problem is with the society which failed to raise boys to become decent human beings. There are endless incidents where women wear so-called cultured and well-covered clothes but they have to go through humiliation and abuse. It is the men and boys who need to be taught not to behave in a toxic and hypermuscular way, not women. It is the mentality and the patriarchal mindset that desperately need to be changed, not the clothes or women’s attire. Don’t assume that girls who dress the way they want to, deserve to be harassed.
We have failed because whenever such an incident takes place, it is often said that the woman has lost her dignity (aurat ki izzat chali gayi). Whereas it the molester and rapist whose dignity should be lost and dethroned. We often tend to hide many incidences of sexual violence and sexual misconduct in the name of women’s dignity and promote the crimes, weakening the survivors through every means. Women’s dignity is also attached to the family’s dignity. A man maintaining the relationship with multiple women, or a boy who has girlfriends is considered to be a stud and the real man. On the other hand, if a woman does the same, she becomes characterless, impure and what not. There are also institutions in our society, like religious culture, sports culture, family structure, socialisation of girls and boys, that are encouraging abuse by men.
We have been failed because we have mainly given the perpetrators the benefit of the doubts. There has lots been said why it is utmost important to believe a survivor of sexual assault in the first place. There could be an investigation and all but first, we need to listen to them. Centuries of the patriarchy has created a system which has made women so much vulnerable in so many ways. If we keep putting examples of a few false cases of sexual assaults to justify the rest of the incidents of sexual assault, then this is not just illogical but insane and inhuman in so many ways. We don’t need to defend our collective male-privilege and patriarchy rather we need to lose it.
• If there is unequal treatment between boys and girls.
• If a man believes he is stronger, more powerful and more capable than women.
• If girls are conditioned by a man to believe that their character can be questioned on account of their clothes or behavioural conduct.
• If boys don’t understand consent.
• If a man doesn’t acknowledge his male-privilege and doesn’t care to lose it in order to create a gender-balanced society.
• If he carries a strong and aggressive muscular pride.
If we really want to bring some functional changes, we need to change our mindset and attitude. We need to reverse our thinking. And to let this happen, we need a social and cultural paradigm shift in our attitudes. It is of utmost importance to understand, get sensitized and speak up before such crimes take place, not only after the crime is done. We don’t need to wait for a big and heinous incident to happen in order to start teaching our boys the language of equality and respect, so that they can become good and decent men once they grow up.