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How Do We Tackle Rape Culture When Society Still Believes Women ‘Ask For It’?

TW: Sexual violence, domestic violence.

It is not very surprising if we say that instances of sexual violence have increased across India and that this increase and decrease is just a matter of fact. The bitter truth is that everyone is aware of the fact but everyone is also fine with the fact. I mean that the outrage among the people of India is very less for issues like sexual violence. 

Sexual violence in India is not new, but there are some factors which are worth knowing which I would like to put across here. There are various kinds of gender-based violence but I am going to talk about some specific issues. 

Directly or indirectly, almost every woman and girl have faced some kind of harassment, at some point in their lives.   Representational image.

‘Short Dresses’ Means Asking For It? 

One of the biggest issues is rape in India. Some surveys in India show that one woman reports a rape every 15 minutes. The rate of rape is highest in India compared to our neighbouring countries, but guess what is responsible for such actions? The poor costly dresses?! Astonishingly after interviewing 10 men, at least 8 of them have brought up two very important ‘reasons’ for rape. 

One, that rape happens due to small clothes the women wear, which means that women should not technically wear short length dresses that might expose some hands or legs. Two, that rapes are consensual, some men believe that women call for rapes hence it is consensual. All they know is that any woman is ready to get raped by men anytime. 

History Of Dresses In India: 

It is so surprising that women wearing short dresses automatically calls for rapes according to men. But, if we look back at the past then we can see that in the uncivilized form of people, they did not have the concept of dresses. 

Over the years and the ages, we Indians have improved and developed inventions and modernisations, but when it comes to dresses and our mentality, we are still ‘uncivilized’. I just don’t understand, if a man can roam (near) naked out on the streets, which is very common in India, then how come just a little exposure of a woman’s body is enough to call for rape? 

If we talk about dresses and if we check the rape records we will see that irrespective of any kind of dresses worn, women have been raped. Just look at the level of hypocrisy when men worship more than 100 female gods, but also rape women who wear a sari? According to the records brought out by various bodies, it has been very clear that the kind of dress worn is not responsible for causing rape at all. It is just the mentality of the men who think that it’s their birthright ask for sex whenever they want. 

The Oxymoron That Is ‘Consensual Rape’

Before I state anything else, I would like you to watch this video. It makes me consider my upbringing in such a country. Having spoken to many women, I have realized that directly or indirectly, almost every woman and girl have faced some kind of harassment, at some point in their lives.  

If you watch the above-mentioned video, you will come across ideas that people have about ‘consensual rape’. The thought-process of the men in our country is such that they think that if a woman passes a smile then it is an ‘indication of interest’ and attraction, hence rape is consensual. It might shock you but let me bring to you what some of the Indian men and women think about consensual rapes.

“ Rapes will happen because there is no control over boys and girls in India.” 

“ Rape is a part of the society and this is how society has been running for ages.”

Let’s Talk About Rape Culture

It is society’s attitude which is normalising incidences of rape. There are some ideas that people of this society believe in, including how: 

  • It is the fault of the victim/survivor who apparently ‘wants’ to get raped. 
  • The victim/survivor must not wear anything that might ‘excite’ the culprit.
  • Survivors/victims must not leave home anytime, they must leave home only when required. 

Let me remind you that we’re talking about all women here. Hence the conclusion most people believe in is that women ask for rape and so the men indulge in it. I think only the people of India will know what ‘consensual Rape’ even means.

The Shadow Pandemic And Marital Rape— Wait! Does That Even Exist? 

Didn’t we know that only unknown men could force themselves on a woman and only then it is called rape? 

Hold on people! In the various remote village of India, especially in states like Rajasthan, North Eastern States, Haryana, and many more do even know or consider the prevalence of marital rape. 

Most men seem to think: “I own my rules and my consent about how and when to impose myself on my wife.”Married women are treated as just objects of sexual pleasures by their husbands. It is the ‘duty’ of the wife to comply with the ‘mood’ of the husband and his need at whatever time they want. That’s the rule of marriage right? 

Let’s find out what Indians have to say about marital rape. When I spoke to some married men and women they had some incredible answers to my questions:

“How is rape even possible in marriage?” 

“There is nothing called marital rape in Indian culture” 

“Rape can only happen only when the man and woman are not married, if they are married then how can it be a rape?” 

“If a wife does not want to make out when her husband wants then why did she marry him?” 

So, here we can conclude two things, that (1) men marry for ‘legal’ sex, and that (2) it is the duty of the wife to give in whenever the husband wants for it. This is what people think and this is how society has been running for ages.

GURGAON, INDIA – APRIL 18: People take out protest march against the brutal rape case in Kathua from Galleria market to sector 29, Rangbhoomi open-air theatre on April 18, 2018 in Gurgaon, India. (Photo by Parveen Kumar/Hindustan Times via Getty Images)

Effects And Solution To Stop The Pandemic Of Rape 

As a writer or an activist, I think we have not yet tried to reach a place we should or we have not been allowed to reach that position to be able to bring about some solution. If we talk about the effect of physical abuse, it leaves a deep mark on the body as well as on the souls. It is not okay to expect women to undergo this kind of trauma.

For ages, we have sacrificed the needs of women and we have encouraged women to live for the needs of men. But now it is enough! It is not okay that a husband or any man would touch a woman without her consent. It is not okay to hurt someone. The effect of forceful physical violence is immense and it is not okay to go through the same throughout one’s life.

While if we speak of a solution, I think there are two solutions, one the law has to take and the other is the education of parents.

Law/Government-related Solution: A rape proceeding must not go on for more than 6 months or a year. As soon as a rape case is filed the police and the courts must try to punish the culprit with 6 months to a year. Under no circumstances should any of the cases be delayed and they must be dealt with utmost priority. It is the duty of the government to intervene and take stronger steps against the rapist to stop rapes in India. 

‘Educational’ Solution: It is the duty of the writers, activists, politicians, teachers, and preachers to spread more and more among children and adults about right and wrong. However weak or physically incompetent a woman must be, we must teach everyone that inculcating education is necessary. It is our duty to teach everyone that male and female both are just some genders and both are equal, there is nothing less or more in each other. It is the duty of the parents to teach their sons more about gender than about subjects, boys must know that girls are also human and they deserve respect no matter what. 

After years of asking women not to get raped, it is now time that we make the men realize that it is not okay to rape. Representative image. Image Credit: Getty

Role Of Men In Ending Rape Culture

It has been recorded by WHO and many other such organizations that rapes have doubled during the pandemic which is why the pandemic has also been termed as a “shadow pandemic”. The biggest role that one has to play to stop rape cases are the MEN of the society. The pandemic has been a curse for everyone but it was a bigger curse for all the women who had to put up with double torture and double violence at home. 

It is the duty of the men to understand that rapes are not fine and they must try to change the mentality of the others around them. After years of asking women not to get raped, it is now time that we make the men realize that it is not okay to rape. It is hight time to raise your voice, and men are requested to do their bit. 

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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.

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