So, let’s talk about rape. No. I do not want to discuss how it has become a part of the Indian culture or what women can do to stop it. I do not want to discuss rules, parameters and patriarchy. I do not want to hear how women can dress conservatively or how sexual frustration leads to rape. I do however want to talk about rape being more than about sex, more than a physical assault on women, more than a momentary conflict of human behavior and a lapse in judgment. I want to discuss the power dynamics behind the act, the inherent misogyny and the desire to gain mental and physical dominion that surfaces when a person rapes another.
Rape is not indigenous to India, but according to the National Crime Records Bureau, 92 women are raped in India every day and incidents of rape in India have increased tenfold in the last 40 years. Did you know a woman is raped in India every 20 minutes? While politicians and religious big shots talk about all the ways women invite and incite rape, no one talks about the real reason behind rapes, which has almost nothing to do with sex. If sexual frustration was to be the key behind rape, women have more reasons to rape someone. Women are sexually subjugated and are more sexually repressed than men in this country.
With the recent India’s Daughter debate still strong, we find instances of misogyny so deep, that men in question (M.L Sharma – the lawyer of the accused) do not flinch from airing their views on camera. The comments like “Women are flowers” and “Women are diamonds” might seem like perfectly sane things to say for him, but it just goes to show that women are everything but human in his eyes. He is not the first or the only person to say such things. We have a list of offensive statements by politicians, Babas and even judges and lawyers. The only question is why? Why do they say these things and are they exceptional? The answer is a resounding No. they are the product of a culture, a culture of misogyny and sexism; a culture of treating women way less than equal; a culture where their mothers have been treated badly and they have taken it. These men have grown up in an environment where abuse and harassment were accommodated instead of defied. Hence, their viewpoint is perfectly justified in their mind. So, the rape of Jyoti Singh on the night of December 16, 2012, was nothing more than teaching her a lesson. Hence, asserting their position as the upholder of societal law.
The argument of women inviting rape through provocation falls flat on its face in light of events like the two teenagers raped and hung on a tree in Badaun, Uttar Pradesh by their neighbours and the very recent rape and murder of a mentally challenged woman in Rohtak. Then what is it? Kavita Krishnan, Secretary, All India Progressive Women’s Association said in an interview, “Rape is a way of reminding women of their subordinate status, and warning them to ‘stay within limits’ by instilling fear in them.” Rape is not just about the sexual act or the fulfilment, but about showing women their ‘rightful’ place in society.
In January 2014, a 20-year-old tribal girl was raped by 13 men all night as ‘punishment’ for her heinous crime of having a relationship with a man belonging to another community. The Salishi Sabha, a village panchayat system judged her case and punished her for it with the only thing they thought would teach her a lesson; gang-rape in front of men, women and children. When the villagers were asked about the incident, most of them answered that the victim deserved it because she was trying to cross lines she was not supposed to. Now the fact is that, the woman had the nerve to go to Delhi and take up a job as a cook. She was privy to a city life, money that she earned and had access to finer things in life, like accessories and face creams. And her audacity to assert her individuality by falling in love with a person outside her community earned her the gross sexual violence. And the public display and heightened brutality was to show other women what would happen if they toed the line.
Sexual violence has always been a means for subjugating women and it has nothing to do with desire. Chemical castration, often suggested as a means to stop rapists, is useless. Most serial rapists including Jack the Ripper were impotent. The violence is gratification for feeling unequal which upsets the male psyche. Castration will only further the wrongful notion that rape is about sex. Yes, rape is about sex but in the way that it is used to further alienate women from a free society where they can assert their individuality, get out of their confined social spaces to claim sovereignty.
Ratna Kapur, rightfully said in her article in Hindu, “With the opening up of the market, women are more visible in the workplace. That they are entering male bastions of power has challenged the sense of superiority and entitlement of the traditional Indian male. This idea of a woman as a fully formed human subject remains a difficult concept to embrace.” For generations, the Indian male has seen women as inferior objects. The female body along with the female identity has been subject to secretive shaming, and treated as an affront to civilised society. Women have been treated as property, as cash cows and objectified in more than sexual ways. The sudden strides taken by women in terms of work, personal upliftment and education has left the collective idea of a woman in India unsettled. The way to stop this or to re-assert dominion has found its outlet in the form of sexual violence and sometimes goes farther than that and mutilates the female body, face and genitals to mark its occurrence.
With the farce of ‘India Shining’, comes the rise of gang rapes. When rape is only between one man and one woman, it is still within the premise of privacy and secrecy. When a group of people collectively violate a woman’s right to her own sexuality, it is also a collective validation of the act. With the video of a gang rape doing the rounds on WhatsApp, we can see the smiles on the perpetrator’s faces which is not just about pleasure or having their desires fulfilled, it is about lack of the feeling of wrong doing. A recent survey showed 94% of women feel unsafe in India. The attacks on women in public spaces as well as deserted ones are instilling fear in women which in turn is hampering their personal and professional victories. When the response of an entire nation to any rape is scrutinizing the victim, rape gains an unsaid encouragement. The power in place is still the male Indian’s.
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