Only last month when the world was immersed in what was considered as the biggest paper leak of the century, India was facing a different problem. A problem no news channel covered, aligning with politicians on what they believe is news in the ‘nation’s interest’.
A New Delhi court charged a man with seven years of rigorous imprisonment after he was found guilty of rape. It said: “It is a serious blow to her supreme honour and offends her self-esteem and dignity. It degrades and humiliates the victim and leaves behind a traumatic experience. A rapist not only causes physical injuries but more indelibly leaves a scar on the most cherished possession of a woman i.e. her dignity, honour, reputation and not the least her chastity,” said in a Times of India article.
Have we not long fought against the notion of rape being synonymous with one’s honour? Haven’t we, since ages, been hiding girls behind walls, both real and metaphorical, because of the belief that the family’s honour lies in their genitals?
This is not the first time our courts, in all their supremacy, have used the two terms together. It has not been long since the Himachal Pradesh High Court ruled that a woman was not expected to throw herself to a man and that it was primarily her responsibility to protect her own dignity and modesty in a relationship.
Passing the orders on a bail plea of Baldev Raj, a married man accused of rape by a woman, Justice Tarlok Singh Chauhan said both accused and victim were not strangers and the documents suggest that they were more than “just friends”.
The woman, a widow and a mother, submitted that the accused had forced her into a physical relationship on the pretext of marriage for more than a year and a half.
To this, the court said, “No doubt, it is the responsibility, moral and ethical both, on the part of a man not to exploit any woman by compelling or inducing her for sexual relationship. But then it is ultimately the woman herself who is the protector of her own body. Therefore, her prime responsibility is to ensure that in a relationship, her own dignity and modesty is protected. A woman is not expected to throw herself to a man and indulge in promiscuity, thereby becoming a source of hilarity. It is for her to maintain her purity, chastity and virtues.” in an Indian Express article.
Why do we still live in a society where where rape is considered ‘bad’ only because there is the element of a family being shamed?
This comes from the archaic notion that women still belong to the men in their family and their virginity dictates a certain control that their male family members have exerted on them successfully; any change in that, and the girl becomes character-less. Rape cases are met with a more common “Aur chhodo ladki ko khula” (This is what happens if the girl is too independent) than holding the rapist responsible for the same. In the end, the survivor is not considered a brave survivor but somebody impure and unchaste.
Rape is horrible. But it is not horrible for all the reasons that have been drilled into the heads of Indians. It is horrible because you are violated, you are scared, someone else takes control of your body and hurts you in the most asinine way. It is not horrible because you lose your ‘morals.’ It is not horrible because your father and your brother are dishonoured. It is time we start rejecting the notion that a woman’s virtue is located in her vagina, just as a man’s brain is not in his penis.
Let us remember, it is not for the survivor to be shamed.
Also, we always tend to forget that it is not always women subjected to rape.There are children, minors, men and queer people. And it doesn’t become any easier for them.
We always have the notion that rape can only be done in one way: a man raping a woman. And yet some stories of male rape survivors will shock, or these are the people who have it the worst, considering Indian law and society does not recognise, much less understand the intricacies of the rape of men. Section 375 does not include male rape survivors and section 377 is used to convict queer people.
Most people would say the survivor was lucky to ‘get some’. Yet, was he? Is it too difficult for us to understand the fact that any non-consensual sexual activity is rape, no matter who is subjected to it?
In a TOI article, we hear the story of a man who was raped by his uncle for over seven years. He recalls this in a harrowing tale, and also, what comes afterwords.
“We tried to get some legal help but we realised that there’s no law against child sexual abuse for boys in the country. By the time I was 18, no laws applied to my case — so there was no justice. That’s when I decided that I would make the motto of my life to protect other children from sexual abuse. So I’ve been through 11 years of hell but I don’t think the world is a bad place. I thank my bullies, because they got me here — where I have the opportunity to touch other’s lives. I believe that hate only destroys the hater, not the hated — so I don’t think I hate my uncle. To me, he doesn’t exist. In fact If I could, I would send a therapist to help him. I’m not going to spend the rest of my life waiting for him to suffer– I can never get those 11 years back, but I do have a lifetime ahead of me to protect the rights of children, women or the LGBT community and that’s the path I’ve proudly chosen.”
Let us not let any rape survivor to suffer in silence, if it is truly feminism we believe in.