India has just witnessed yet another ghastly incident of rape in Hyderabad, where a charred body of a young veterinary doctor was found in the city outskirts. This has sent chills down the spine of every well-meaning citizen in this country.
After every such heinous act of rape, we see politicians and celebrities expressing their shock and dismay over the incident, there are drawing-room conversations about what kind of society we have become, and everyone starts talking about how there is a need for a more stern law to deal with savages, who indulge in such crimes. But the sad part is that we have a very myopic memory and very soon everything returns to business as usual until another such mind-numbing incident of rape comes to the fore. This has become our default response, to any such rape incident, which comes into the limelight, as a result of the sheer nature of the brutality associated with it.
The Nirbhaya rape incident and the public outpouring of grief that followed the case had sparked a hope that finally, things would change for the better in this country. But despite amendments in the statutory book, to bring in harsher penalties for the offenders, we have hardly seen any tangible change or reduction in the frequency of such cases. This also highlights the limitations of the fear of punishment as a deterrent to stop rapes.
It’s high time that we realise that it’s very easy to express outrage and carry out candle marches in the memory of the victims of such incidents, but what is more difficult is to bring about a change in the mindset of the society, which, in my opinion, is the prime cause of such crimes against women.
Many children in this country grow up to witness the father enjoying a superior status than the mother, and how the final say in any important decision regarding the family rests with him. The fact that some men think they run this world, and the women are supposed to be subservient to them, gets ingrained in children’s minds, throughout the course of their childhood. And as adults, many of them start viewing women, either, as hapless beings, who need their support, or as mere objects, for their sexual gratification.
Thus, it’s no wonder that a portion of them turn out to be rapists, who think it is fine to violate a woman, to show their power and authority over her.
We, as a society, have made certain rules for our women, ranging from what kind of clothes they should wear and at what time they should venture out, to whom they are supposed to lose their virginity to. And if a girl dares to break these rules and assert her autonomy, in this supposedly free world, then we naturally assume that “she is asking for it”. And that is why you see that culprits of rape in this country get away with a meagre sentence, spending only some years in jail, while on the other hand, it is the rape survivors who have to endure all the slut-shaming, and are forced to spend rest of their lives living under constant shame.
We, the people of India, just love the whole process of reproduction, which is quite evident from our large population, but what we abhor is this western construct called “sex”. And even a mere mention of this word is enough to offend the collective morality of our society.
The people in our country have differing opinions on almost any subject, but one issue where the whole country stands together is stereotyping of sex. That is probably the reason why many Indians are still dependent on porn sites to get their sex education, as parents and teachers are too shy to use that word in front of us.
The contribution of lack of sex education and the taboo that surrounds this subject in the minds of rapists, just cannot be brushed aside, under the carpet. Unless and until we start having open conversations about sex, we won’t be able to prevent rapes in India.
If we are really interested in moving beyond expressing outrage after every rape and are actually serious about nipping this issue in the bud, then we will have to first start by sheading this antic mindset; about how we view women, and how we look at “sex”. This will definitely go a long way in making this world a better and safer place for everyone.