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On The Prevalence Of Rape Culture In Our Society

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Most of us are talking about the recent Hathras incident. Many of us have once again become a little more sensitive to such issues and a lot more aggressive on social media. But what is the guarantee that this rage is not superfluous? What is the certainty that this concern is not another social media candle campaign? What is the guarantee that we even understand the problem? I don’t think such a guarantee exists. Today, I want to talk about one of the roots of rapes against women. I don’t claim to be an expert here but I am presenting my viewpoint.

Wikipedia defines rape as “Rape is a type of sexual assault usually involving sexual intercourse or other forms of sexual penetration carried out against a person without that person’s consent“. In short, rape is and has always been defined and understood as a physical-sexual assault on another person, mostly women, without the consent of the other person. But I really think that this definition is somewhat is keeping us from bringing a change. This definition is somewhat is putting the entire onus on one act rather than exploring a range of events that lead to such heinous act.

We live in a world of black and white definitions. We don’t prefer truth. We rather prefer a protagonist and an antagonist. Because truth is often very complex and a=sometimes hard to accept. And because of such mentality, I guess such definition has been presented before us and we very complacently have accepted it because why not? After all, we are getting an antagonist here, the person who sexually assaults another person, whom we very complacently call “the rapist” and against whom we very complacently initiate a candle march or social media campaign.

protest rape culture
Representational image.

And, this complacency of ours, this tendency of ours of wanting a black and white verdict is one of the reasons why we have not been able to fight this heinous crime. Because no matter how many times or how brutally you cut a shoot of a tree, unless and until the roots are not cut, the tree will eventually grow again.

So, what’s the root? Of course, many of us are already discussing that education, robust police reforms, harshest punishment for the accused are among the steps to fight this grim situation. But I want to discuss something else here. I want to put the onus on each one of us, not just the rapist.

Last year, when Hyderabad rape case happened, I initiated this conversation with a friend of mine. We were discussing that what could be the root causes of rapes. My friend planted this idea in my mind that it all starts with from childhood. And that idea opened a whole dimension of thinking in my mind regarding this topic. I began to think about the root causes more often. I became more sensitive to the daily happenings of life trying to analyse each event more closely and thinking if those events can be linked to rape. One day, one of my relatives came to visit us at my house.

She had a kid with her, probably 4-5 years old. She was feeding him food and he was playing at the same time. While playing his leg got into something and he fell. His mother reaction to his falling made me realise that what my friend said was not false. His mother picked him up, he was crying and to pacify him, she said to him, “It’s okay, it wasn’t your fault that you fell. It was all my fault, beat me, beat me.” That scene was, visually, very cute child-mother moment. But I was seeing it from a very different angle. I wasn’t enjoying that cute moment; I was analysing it. And I have been analysing every such act since then. Today I want to share my analysis with you guys.

You see, we all live in a modern world. We have male friends; we have female friends. We crack jokes among friends. Sometimes, those jokes cross a line and we tend to ignore it because we are friends. Sometimes, friends pass derogatory remarks for their fellow friends regarding their body parts or characters and completely ignore it, why? Because it’s fine among friends. What if I say that it’s not fine? What if I say that passing such remarks is an initiation of rape? Yes, initiation. Because I don’t think rape is only limited to sexual assault. rather it’s a snowballing process. And that process might start from telling your 3-year kid that it’s not his fault, it’s his mother’s and he should beat her or telling your kids that bring good marks and they can do “anything” or passing derogatory comments against anyone’s body or character.

Individually these acts seem to be absolutely harmless. But when seen from the neurological perspective they are the seeds sown of a very wrong idea. Those seeds have the potential to grow into a vicious tree and turn any person into a rapist. A 3-year-old kid might start to think that beating his mother (a female) for his own mistakes is fine. Don’t you think this resembles the thinking of a domestic violator?

A child being told that he can do anything if he gets good marks, he might start to think that good marks and eventually, money gives him the power and authority to do anything, maybe to anyone too. A friend passing derogatory marks against another friend might get an impression that he or she has authority over the other person, which might also snowball into a sexual assault.

And that’s not it, another friend of the group, laughing at such remarks is equally involved. When you laugh at such comments rather than condemning it, you are encouraging the other person, let’s say “X” that what a wonderful act X has done. And we human beings constantly want to climb up the ladder of success. So, after getting encouragement from that friend, X might make another, even more, derogatory comment against another person, say “Y”, and again you’d laugh, encouraging X even more. And this vicious cycle has all the potential that this might end up in a sexual assault. Because the more X, humiliates Y, the more X will think himself or herself superior to Y that one day X might even sexually assault Y. So yes, laughing at such remarks is no less than the rape itself.

And so, does, accepting such remarks. Many times, it happens that the person, Y does not mind made for her/him. She/he does not bother to stop, X, from making such remarks sometimes because of fear or sometimes because “it’s okay among friends”. While that acceptance might mean a mere acceptance for Y but for X that becomes an approval to continue the slurs. And this becomes normal. And to escape that normality X takes the slurs one notch higher every time, until X gains confidence and desperation (we being humans are desperate to escape the monotonic routine) to finally move to physical touches and gradually to physical assault. So, yes accepting such remarks is equally responsible.

Many of you might think, I exaggerating things a bit too much. I won’t even debate here. If you think I am exaggerating the I am ready to accept that because the situation is so grim today that even exaggeration might not do justice to it. Almost 90 rapes happen in India every day. 90, just think about it. And still, if you think that I am exaggerating things then I am and I will continue to do so because I want the situation to improve as soon as possible.

While I don’t tend to give any impression that I am an expert on this topic or these are the only reasons. But I have thought much about this topic and I think we tend to ignore this aspect of rape when focusing just on the sexual assault. We tend to completely whitewash ourselves and don’t even bother to take the onus upon us. Change has to be brought and I think introspection might be a good start. I introspect myself and I think you should do it too. Because the wildfire is spreading fast and your home might be next.

And remember, rapists, are not born. They develop into one. Next time you see such a development, you curb that right at that moment.

Created by Numan Ahmad

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