*Trigger Warning: Sexual Abuse, Rape*
The humiliation of a woman has been a tool to “put her in her place” throughout history. This idea is so deeply ingrained in us that it made its way into the longest epic of the world, “Mahabharat”. The attempt to disrobe Draupadi is one of the most famous and widely known parts of the epic. The attempt to disrobe her, however, was not motivated by lust. Instead, it was motivated by the will to show a woman her place.
In the real world, women have borne the brunt of the actions of their male relatives. Being labelled as the honour of a family hasn’t helped them in any way, neither has their deification. It has only made them an instrument through which others can be taught a lesson.
Although Khap Panchayats seem like a dark reality restricted to Indian villages, urban India is not very different from the villages where Khap Panchayats still enjoy power. Despite the people of urban India being better educated and having a better quality of life, some urban Indian mens’ political allegiance and blind religious faith can prompt them to give nightmares to women if they have an “opinion”.
When Gurmehar Kaur, a then 20-year-old DU student, spoke out against ABVP, she was trolled mercilessly and even received rape threats.
The rape or threats in both the cases above were definitely not motivated by lust but by the will to demonstrate one’s power. Rape goes much beyond satisfying one’s sexual desires.
During the communal riots in Gujarat in 2002, a full-term pregnant woman was raped and her stomach was slit open with a sword and the foetus was pulled out. This heinousness was definitely not a result of lust but an attempt at putting out the message of who the boss is.
With digitisation, throwing out rape threats at random women with opinions has become easier. People who call themselves YouTubers sit in front of a camera and hurl abuses at their victims and give them rape threats. The videos are still floating around YouTube despite them being in gross violation of its community guidelines.
Women have come a long way in trying to secure for themselves the same political, economic and social status as men. But rape threats serve as a reminder of their place in society, according to people who threaten them with rape. It is a setback in the journey towards achieving gender equality.
Rape is a tool of the powerful to maintain the status quo and should be seen as that as well. Acknowledging that rape and rape threats are extremely violent and are hate crimes is the first step towards curbing the problem of rape being used to oppress and intimidate women.