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Our mistakes – An optimistic search for the causes of rape

I read a social media post where a former supreme court judge wrote about the causes for Rape, in the backdrop of rising protest against the gang rape of a 19 year old woman in Hathras in Uttar Pradesh. She passed away in a Delhi hospital and her remains were cremated reportedly without the presence and consent of the family members. Keeping other controversies aside, let me offer a view about the comments of the former judge. Markandey Katju, a former supreme court judge of India, while maintaining a tone of clarification that he does not justify rape and that he condemns the heinous crime suggests that there is a link between unemployment, marriage, sexual urges and rape. His comments are problematic not just for the subtle sexist tone expressed but also for a few other reasons as well. But is he wrong completely? The judge mentions that “Sex is a natural urge in men. It is sometimes said that after food, the next requirement is sex”. The gender specificity is unnecessary here. There are no differences in biological urges between men and women, at least not to the point that it can be brought in as a causal link to the heinous crime of rape here. He further writes, “In a conservative society like India, one can ordinarily have sex only through marriage. But when there is massive and rising unemployment, a large number of young men cannot marry (as no girl will ordinarily marry an unemployed man). Consequently a large number of young men remain deprived of sex, even though they have reached an age when it is a normal requirement”. After this he refers to the population surplus since 1947 and unavailability of jobs and then bluntly adds “Therefore will there not be increase in rapes?”. This interpretation by the former judge is faulty and mind bending on its own but I will not attempt to write at length on the faulty ideas and connections expressed by him. Because his post is simply a reference, to show how greatly we have misunderstood and approached the crime of rape. Because when he speaks of the crime in a socio-cultural perspective, the reasons for the mindset and moral crisis specifically should have been mentioned, and without it, his opinion looks only as a controversial post. Nothing more. Keeping these issues aside, looking at it from a deeper socio-cultural perspective, could they be the reasons for rape? Can rape be linked with the employment or socio-economic status of an individual? Can it be linked with a conservative model of a westernizing India? Is it the result of an identity crisis? Of course even the attempt into such an inquiry will be met by harsh comments about justifying the reasons for the heinous act of rape. But it should always be remembered that a criminal behavior can be addressed completely not solely through the judiciary but through the resolution and effective action on its causes. Again, I stress that I wish no more further than to explore the reason for rape than anything else, not even remotely close to formulating a justification for the cause, crime or criminal. The reason I dwell into this subject is because I fail to find how laws and punishments on their own can prevent this barbaric act of inhumanity. I fail to understand how candlelight vigils, protests and gatherings address this twisted mentality solely by themselves. While such public demonstrations are signs of solidarity with the victims, what is the next step? We blame the mentality and we rightly do so, but stopping there is preventing the search for the cure. There must be an attempt, if not many in identifying the causes for this brutal act and we should refrain from simply suggesting capital punishment and stronger laws. This is my attempt, from a continuous buildup of uneasiness since the Nirbhaya Case in 2012 to understand the mentality of a rapist. This being a topic as controversial as it is, I have detailed this essay as much as I felt adequate to prevent misunderstanding and improper interpretations. I have refrained from coming to conclusions except wherever I feel it is absolutely necessary to do so. Considering the social media post of the former judge, I shall seek to explore only the idea that is expressed and nothing more. I have no interest in deriving or understanding the context of the post or the character of the man. I wish neither to support nor defame him as a person but would only like to critique his remarks. I wish to find a cause for this brutal mentality outside of a simple, “It’s the twisted mind”, “A dead morality” and so on. I would rather want to find reasons and wish that my readers take it in a similar vein. Two major connections, as stated earlier, which I notice in the post were,

  1. India is a conservative society
  2. The link between Unemployment, marriage, sexual urges and the criminal act of rape

While both points are part of the same argument, I’ve divided them to address it separately.

What if India is a conservative society?

In the 21st century, India has global dreams. The India 2020 that the former president of our country, late Dr A P J Abdul Kalam envisioned is here, at least the year is here. In the India 2020 vision, Dr A P J Abdul Kalam emphasized the role of empowered women.

“Gone are the days when women were considered subservient or secondary in almost all walks of life compared to men. It has now amply been proven that women are capable of executing any job as efficiently as men, if not more so” – A P J Abdul Kalam

But how has the societal perception towards women changed, if in any way? While I do not wish to expound on the “Conservative society” reference under question, what could be its connection with the crime? The “conservative society” term can be used to refer to ‘narrow mindedness’, it can refer to extreme orthodox ideologies and beliefs or it can at times simply refer to acts of casteism. It allows for conservative views on dressing styles, gender specific time allotments and so on. But does that mean it leads to rape? Will breaking the rules of a conservative society lead to rape? If that is so then why do some brutes in a conservative society commit rape and others do not? Why is it that some are narrow minded and others are not? Again, does it mean every narrow minded person will commit rape? Of course not. But aren’t conservative ideas often used to justify the crime of rape by the accused and his/their legal team in a court of law? In an interview with the accused of the Nirbhaya rape case which appears on the BBC Documentary “Indias Daughter”, one of the accused in the case, Mukesh Singh speaking from inside the Tihar jail said,

“A decent girl won’t roam around at 9 o’clock at night. A girl is far more responsible for rape than a boy is. Boys and girls are not equal. Housework and housekeeping is for girls, not roaming in discos and bars at night or wearing wrong clothes”

He goes on to further say

“The death penalty will make things even more dangerous for girls. Now, when men rape, they will not leave the girl like we did. They will kill her after that”

Disgusting? Relatable? We have a division right there. It is true that it is an act of immorality but I find eerie similarities in the justifications given by the rapists. If they are similar, then does it not mean that the mentality of the rapist may have common traits and behaviors that can be identified in their language or generalized views about women and society? And aren’t these views ultimately formed by their learned experiences and reinforced thoughts? So doesn’t that clearly simplify here that the role of education is foremost in shaping the thought process of an individual? I may go so far to suggest that an educated man is far less likely than a non-educated man to commit a heinous crime like rape. Now that may seem like a controversial statement to put forth. So let me clarify on what I mean by education here. This education that I refer to here is not just the education of a prescribed syllabi that is in accordance with the intellectual and human workforce demands of the modern world and to equip us to be resourceful and earn a living. It is more importantly, a moral education that I refer to. An education of values, of ethics, tolerance and coexistence and of a societal behavior on the lines of being human first and all else, if at all necessary, later. But a problem we face is that the moral education we receive from the education system differs from the moral education we receive from society which also differs from the moral education we receive at home. With so many different versions of the same thing, which one is ideal? It should always be remembered that any kind of change can begin only at home first, only when it is integrated into the daily routine of an individual will a practice become a habit, a thought become a way of life. The caretakers have a major role in determining the moral framework of a child as he/she grows up. Still further, in this again arises the problem of a changing generational morality. Societal standards and social morality is in an ever changing process and thus the sense of right and wrong is never concrete, it is fluid in nature. So the moral values, if at all imparted, are not sufficient by themselves, but the educational system and teachers play a major role in its development. Until an individual is capable of developing a moral sense by themselves, they are taught. It is therefore important that a child is taught values based on humanity and respect and tolerance towards others not just through words but also by creating an environment that facilitates such a thought to process.

Unemployment, marriage, sexual urges and its causal link with rape

Now this is a tricky one. Let’s consider unemployment to be the socio-economic status of an individual and not just being “Without a Job”. Markandey Katju linked being unmarried to the socio-economic status of an individual which is in-turn linked with unfulfilled sexual urges that supposedly are experienced by “Indian men”. This unfulfillment of sexual urges are then linked with the crime of rape and so the initial culprit is supposedly unemployment and the economy. Now, this is what he said. Well, to begin, sexual urges are biological urges and not really gender specific in their presence. Secondly, what is the link between the socio-economic status, sexual urges and the criminal act of rape? I’m not going to vaguely quote some statistical references about unemployment rates or socio-economic statuses and link them with the cases of rape over the years and suggest that there is a link. A link is shown not by comparing two variables without a prior knowledge of their possible relationship at the start of the comparison. The link if present is established as one understands the interaction and background of the variables chosen for comparison.

  • In this case, how, if in any way, does the socio-economic status of the accused and the victim contribute to rape and why?
  • How, if in any way, do sexual urges contribute to the crime of rape and why?
  • And finally, how are they all inter-related to one another?

I fail to agree on Markandey Katju’s comment that unemployment has led to reduced marriage rates for young men, which has in turn affected their ‘normal requirement’ of sex, which has led to an increase in rape (I have paraphrased the contents of his post). This for me is an unscientific conclusion that is far from reality. Another reason I do not agree on this is because men are not wild beasts who violently seek to satisfy their biological urges, inflicting pain and acting against the consent of another person, or violating personal boundaries for disgusting desires. The inhumane extents to which rape is committed is outside the scope of this article and I refrain from over sensationalizing this piece. Men, just as women, are human beings first. And being human means being able to control oneself and to co-exist with others in society with respect and humanity. So does that mean this inhuman act is the result of a distorted social being? Does this mean that the psychology of a rapist is distinct and differentiable from that of other members of a society? This would, according to me, be in some ways true. And even if it is so, what is the reason for this inhuman thought process and vulgar mentality? Does that not deserve exploration in understanding the crime of rape? Accordingly when sexual urges are included in the debate, how would the sexual urges of a man be different from those of a woman? The answer would again revolve around the societal sanction given for the expression of these urges, for the expression of sexuality. In that sense they are different for men and women, though only in social perception and not biologically poles apart. Social media is filled with body shaming, abusive language and at times even with open rape threats! It is filled with people who profit from vulgarity and obscenity. Do these factors not contribute to the making of the mentality of a rapist? How about when they are approved of, liked and shared? The adult rating and 18+ warning has become a welcome door sign for the internet savvy young generation. And the content that young children, barely in their teens are exposed to is anything but ‘sex education’. Devoid of a matured mentality this exposure can have lasting effects on the psychological development of children as they grow up and the inaccessibility of an appropriate mental health system to deal with such issues only add to the problem. Unrealistic desires and an inhuman violent sexual appetite are the possibilities of a premature exposure to pornography. This of course does not suggest a direct causal link that people who watch porn become rapists. But it can be agreed that if extremes are considered, it is safer to play Russian Roulette with an unloaded gun than with a loaded one.

The point of this article

So what was the point of this article? Was it to give a solution? If so what is the solution? Was it to justify the social media post of the ex judge? If so, have I done that in any way? Well, the point of this article is neither to give an instant solution nor to justify the opinion of the person concerned. This article is written to investigate the background that goes into the brutal crime of rape and to explore the causes for it. As a confirmation, while writing this, I have understood that there isn’t a single causal factor that can be attributed to Rape. The victim is not one of them, to say the least. Factors that range from the socio-economic status, upbringing and the continuously changing modern world contribute in their own way to affect an individual and his mentality. The only thing we can do is focus on being humane ourselves and opposing negativity wherever and whenever possible. I am at peace that the larger majority of us are repelled by the mindset of a rapist and condemn an act of such inhumanity. But I refuse to hold their mindset responsible solely and opine that capital punishment or strict punishment alone cannot prevent such gruesome crimes from happening. This is because fear is expressed towards the law and remorse is not always shown for the act. If one believes he can commit such a crime, escape the law and manage to do so, then isn’t it a bigger threat to society to have such predators roaming around freely? Because man is ultimately subjective and self-preserving. Justice is often asked only until one is not harmed by its request. When it remains unanswered, one stops after time, people forget when it does not become prime time news and thus it remains unaddressed because morality cannot be instantly modified. And time is a luxury we are often unwilling to afford to gift for the cause of another. I shall therefore ask only that the people of this great country understand the forces that lurk around us and keep their self-interests aside and raise their voice. And when they do so, let it be to address the underlying causes and not just the instant solutions. Because a body can be burnt, alive or otherwise and a sentence can be passed guilty or otherwise. But what use is the noble fight and voice of the citizen in democracy if it is ignoble in the mind of another.

And the law can only punish the act, the mind is far from its reach.

First published on the website “Stimulus for Change

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