Trigger warning: Mentions of rape
On January 7, 2021, Chandramukhi Devi, a member of the National Commission for Women, allegedly commented that the brutal gang rape and murder of a 50-year-old woman in Uttar Pradesh’s Badaun district could have been avoided had the woman not ventured out alone in the evening. She went on to state that she has repeatedly advised women not to “go out at odd hours under the influence of any person.” Since then, the video containing her outrageous remarks has been widely circulated on various social media platforms. However, under no circumstances should this be treated as a singular incident.
As archaic and patriarchal her comments may seem, they reflect an ideology harboured by a considerably large section of contemporary societies. The rampant misogyny becomes apparent in the manner by which people approach survivors who have suffered any form of abuse. ‘Questions’ like “What were you wearing?” or “Did you do something to instigate the accused?” are often doled out without any consideration for the survivors’ state of mind and the responses to the same are erroneously used to present fabricated assumptions about the survivor’s character(s).
This form of character assassination is not only detrimental to the psychological well being of the survivors and their closed ones, but it also hinders the process of attaining justice.
In the 1972 Mathura Rape Case, wherein a young tribal girl named Mathura was raped by two uniformed policemen inside the premises of the Desaigunj police station, the Supreme Court of India had acquitted the accused on the basis of no visible injury marks on the survivors’ body. The judge had also noted that Mathura (aged between 14 and 16 years at the time) was a girl of loose morals and she might have incited the accused who were also drunk on duty. The verdict was met with nationwide wrath which eventually led the then Government of India to amend the rape law.
In spite of the legal reformations, the general attitude of the conservative public towards such survivors has remained the same. The situation, unfortunately, worsens in case of members of the LGBTQ+ community. In 2015, LGBT Collective, a facilitating body that connects lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities from across the South West peninsula, reported that many Indian parents are opting for a procedure called ‘Corrective Rape’ in order to make their gay children ‘straight’. Under Corrective rape, homosexuals are raped because of their sexual orientation. It is often regarded as a ‘disciplinary project’ by the family that will ‘cure’ their homosexual kid.
Few people who muster the courage to report such incidents are often shamed for their orientation and violently silenced by threats or blackmails or both.
It has also been observed that most advice pertaining to protection against sexual violence tend to follow the age-old tone of “Don’t go here or there at this time or that”. So, instead of adequate police patrolling in all relevant places we are left with a bunch of moral polices questioning a person’s need to visit such areas. The onus of staying safe is usually imposed upon an individual and if anything happens people deflect to the practice of blaming the survivor. Thus, anachronistic tendencies take precedence over compassion.
Therefore, an educated and conscious awareness is the utmost requirement to deal with such situations. ‘DO NOT GET RAPED’ should make way for ‘DO NOT RAPE’. We need to build a support system that would help the survivors cope while ensuring that justice prevails for all. In doing so, we can truly contribute towards the betterment of our societies.