This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Soutrik Dutta. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

Hathras: A Case Of Rape In A Misogynistic Society Shielded By The Umbrella Of Caste

More from Soutrik Dutta

Trigger Warning: Gangrape, Casteism, Caste-based Atrocities, Rape, Rape Culture

Social media platforms were abuzz with #Hathras and rightly so. Outrage to any kind of violence is natural. Four upper-caste men allegedly gang-raped a 19-year Dalit girl; who ultimately died after 12 days, fighting for her life. An outrage was inevitable.

In my opinion, how the government and administrative machinery handled the case smells of covert, if not overt involvement in the incident. This snowballed to more outrage. Opposition leaders, media, and the public at large was quick to ask some uncomfortable questions and ruff some feathers. Though there was a near-universal condemnation of the incident, some downplayed the gangrape, while some believed that there was no caste angle. Many even have asked for stricter punishment for the accused even bordering on extrajudicial one.

If we could recall from our memory, there was no condemnation of the extrajudicial method of justice provided in the case of Hyderabad rape case. Except for a few lone wolves from the civil society, there was a conspicuous silence in that regard; many even celebrated it. This is exceptionally intriguing and begs the question that as a society are we ashamed to face the social dynamics of rape and instead look at it as some aberration in a very just and equal company which needs to be uprooted at the earliest?

People celebrating the alleged encounter of four rape accused by Hyderabad Police encounter.

Do we fear that the judicial method of trial, or social dynamics of rape, may unearth the unjust, misogynistic and unequal nature of our society? Where our conditioning and mentality is no different from the rape accused? Do we fear as a society that we too may fall in the same pedestal as that of a rapist?

The Intersectionality Of Rape

It should be clear that rape is not just the act of forceful physical intercourse but an instrument of supremacy and oppression. This is where caste, religion, community, nationality takes the upper hand. Since time immemorial, rape was used as an instrument of subjugation and dishonouring an entire community in times of ethnic, national, religious, and caste conflicts. This nature of rape, in turn, was used by the victimised community to tie their womenfolk in chains, instituting different kinds of restrictions on their freedom in order to save the honour of their community in future.

This argument in the modern century is also used by some regressive armies of the world to close their doors to women. Thus, rape seen in isolation without considering the socio-economic-political dynamics is covertly giving fodder to future rape to perpetuate.

Dalit
Rape was used as an instrument of subjugation and dishonouring an entire community in times of ethnic, national, religious, and caste conflicts.

Unless we embrace the cause, atmosphere, mentality, and culture, which breeds rape, any amount of law can’t stop it.

So to deny that rape is just an aberration and not a part of a phenomenon and conditioning is sublimely perpetuating rape culture itself. This phenomenon is so permissive and omnipresent that we knowingly or unknowingly perpetuate it every day from our home to our workplace, in buses, in theatres and think itself as very usual. This is the reason we can see people condemning rape on the one hand and blaming the victim on the other.

Are We Perpetuating Rape Culture?

This victim bashing and character assassination is not only restricted to the general public but also permeates the different echos of the state machinery from doctors, judges, police, administration, to politicians. This makes the justice for the victim a hollow promise and fights against rape a farcry. Rape cannot be stopped by keeping the rape atmosphere intact.

The general masses in a deeply misogynistic society which propagates misogyny through its jokes, memes, tradition, folklore, or religion do not understand that they are no way different from rapists themselves. Maybe they are one step behind. In my opinion, that may be the reason why in cases of conflicts of caste or religion, we see a spurt of rape cases because that fear of law and social ostracisation by community or state machinery covertly or overtly collides with the perpetrators.

Sometimes rape of a woman of an enemy community is celebrated. This punctures the narrative where a rapist is regarded as a demon ready to be castrated or hanged. Hanging or castrating a rapist is an easy way for society to wash its hand from this social phenomenon. Probably a rapist provides the best mirror to society to reflect on that his mentality is no different from others and society wants this mirror to be crushed.

It is not in a mood to reconcile or reflect upon its patriarchal, misogynistic behaviour. Thus we see the documentary called India’s Daughter being banned or in case of Hyderabad, the extrajudicial killing of the police celebrated. The society which should ask the police administration why there was character assassination of the victim and deliberate refusal to file a complaint when her parents approached them to search for their missing girl suddenly went on to cheer the police force.

Are we as a society less interested in preventing rapes and only outraging when an incident happens? Instead of fixing the offence on the police administration for their omission aren’t we celebrating it? Is it because the accused in that case were known to be petty criminals possessed with dirty minds, and this, in turn, absolve the white-collar ones in offices, restaurants from the culture of rape? When in reality, we all may share the same disgusting and misogynistic attitudes? Are we as a society less interested in protecting lives than to break the mirror which shows our sin in perpetuating the crime?

Caste: The Elephant In The Room

In the case of Hathras, there are many layers to the crime, and it needs to be dissected to put the offence in perspective. It was not merely rape. It is a case of rape in a misogynistic society shielded by the umbrella of caste. In our society, rape is usually protected by the patriarchal nature of our being, but in this case and maybe in cases which were not reported there are two layers of shroud – misogyny and casteism.

The umbrella of caste gave impunity to the crime without any remorse and also the power to destroy the evidence. Thus we see the usual demonic nature of the rapist is lost in this case as the upper caste people declare the accused as innocent and protest for their letting off. This caste shield was so strong that it permeates every possible layer of state administration in the way of denying that rape even occurred. Even after such a gruesome incident and such covering of pieces of evidence, disrespecting even her death, the state administration is in no point of remorse.

Photo: @scribe_it/ Twitter. The umbrella of caste gave impunity to the crime without any remorse and also the power to destroy the evidence.

The cahoots of the political establishment with the caste system may be a discussion of another day. Instead of shedding tears or accepting their devious ploy, the state administration has put the whole blame on the victim and her family, inventing conspiracy theory daily. Such is the robust cohort of caste and misogyny combined. Suppose after attracting so much of spotlight in media, and by the opposition and civil society, this is the response of the state administration. In that case, it’s only a second guess to predict what happens to cases which goes unreported.

Verma Commission & Vishakha Guidelines: Simply A Piece Of Paper?

What is the recourse for a victim’s family where all access to justice is blocked by misogynistic and casteist attitude of officials? Even after getting the media spotlight, if the victim’s family has to go to this kind of indiscrimination daily, what may be the price of standing up for justice for a marginalized family? Most of the victims do not demand justice in such a vitiated atmosphere lest they may be subjected to mental or physical torture. This begs us the question of how far have we moved from Nirbhaya? What have we achieved? A critical piece of recommendation post Nirbhaya was the Verma commission report, but sadly it falls dusted in some bureaucratic red tapes.

A critical recommendation by Verma commission and Vishakha guidelines was non-reliance of medical reports to prove or disprove rape. However sacrilegious it may sound, we see the same medical argument used in case of Hathras to disprove rape, and this does come from the beaconed officers of the state machinery; and also by any fig of imagination to even disregard the dying declaration.

Verma commission had rightly said that awareness in medical, police, political and administrative establishments is the utmost necessity to have proper access to justice. If not Hathras, what could be the best example?

To cry for victims and ask for capital punishment or extrajudicial killing of rapist instead of going to its roots, fixing its pivotal socio-political axis is at best a hypocritical act, only hogwash. This act of ours does nothing except give solace to our collective conscience by silencing our prejudicial thoughts. By silencing, we offer it to breed in our subconsciousness which inturn vitiated the atmosphere and nourishes the culture of rape. Until we press the delete button on our regressive thoughts, justice remains an illusion.

You must be to comment.

More from Soutrik Dutta

Similar Posts

By Amiya Bhaskara

By Tulika Dixit

By Diwakar Jha

Wondering what to write about?

Here are some topics to get you started

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

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.

Read more about her campaign. 

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.

Read more about the campaign here.

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.

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

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.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below