Trigger warning: Rape, Violence
The issue of violence against women has always found few takers and more detractors. Last week, a 3-year-old’s cries, quite unnerving, carried forward a fight of women that Kashmiris have been shutting eyes for long at. At her age, it is difficult to make sense of the brutal act that has been inflicted on her yet she named, she screamed out loud the name of her rapist. She refused to be silenced, a silence that Kashmiri women and women elsewhere have endured for ages. Her cries will reverberate through the generations to come.
Kashmiri women have witnessed sexual violence in all forms, yet the area has been very dark in understanding and reporting it. This could partly be because of the victim blaming that comes with it. The victim survivors are compelled to live in the trauma, guilt and shame that they might have done something to bring it on to themselves. They internalise the myths and carry these forward to generations. The two rapes in Kashmir in the recent past brought to the centre a discussion on rapes and both served to illustrate that the girls or women at the receiving end are never responsible for the rape. In one case, it was a young girl continuously raped by her father for years and in another, a 3-year-old and yet in another one, a teenager from Ganderbal.
In the first two cases of rapes in Kashmir, it was ascertained that the behaviour of these men was known to the people around them. It is highly unlikely that the actions of the father were not unnoticed by others in the family and in the second case, the rapist was a known repeated offender. But unfortunately, the society and those very close to these girls gave impunity to the perpetrators till the girl raped by her father committed suicide and the other one is still struggling to recover. So the question is, who is to be held accountable here – the perpetrator, the people around who maintained silence over their knowledge of abuse happening or the society that has created the conditions that support the silence and terrible dissolution of women who go raise their voice?
the society and those very close to these girls gave impunity to the perpetrators till the girl raped by her father committed suicide and the other one is still struggling to recover.
The silence on violence against women and girls and is not natural. It is a construct that rests on the belief that modernity, technology and a shift from religion have all contributed to rising violent crimes against women. Some advocate banning porn, some advocate invoking severe punishments for criminals and others are still held back in shock that rapes in Kashmir is a reality. All these solutions and explanations are divergent from reality, hence, little has been done to address the mindset that culminates into these violent crimes.
There has been problematisation of all the apparent factors that men see as causes (and justifying reasons) for rape, except the actual problem that violence against women prevails in everyday lives, the gender power hierarchy prevails in every situation, objectification of women and that the problem starts at the conceptualisation of women as the weaker sex. There has also been a little or no problematisation of hypermasculine attitudes that give men the entitlement over bodies of women. We need to accept that rapists are normal men, growing up and harbouring hypermasculine values.
The young Bakerwal girl did not survive to know whether her rapist enjoyed impunity given by the state or the society. The girl who committed suicide saw the biggest tormentor in her father. The 3-year-old does not even know the meaning of impunity, state, culture or conflict. To her, the inflictor is a man she identifies. His race, class, sect or caste don’t matter. The principal of the school where the rapist is enrolled tried to shield him by forging his age and presenting him to be a minor. This time, again a man shielding a man, giving him the impunity. Such impunity has been given by men to each other as solidarity based on their gender alone. It starts when they together catcall, stalk and ogle women and have each other’s back, keeps growing with our silence and it never ends, leading to the growing crimes and rapes in Kashmir.
Everyday violence in subtle ways includes how women are treated on streets, in families, and on social media and most of us happen to be a party to it with our silence. The rape of Bakerwal girl last year united people in demanding the death penalty for the perpetrators. These demands are being repeated now and so is the demand to punish rapist on the lines of Saudi. One needs to understand that death to a rapist will put the lives of women in further danger. The perpetrators may kill the victims instead of leaving them alive as evidence and in many cases where it is happening within the family and the perpetrators happen to be the sole income generators in the family, women will certainly hesitate in reporting it.
We need to accept that rapists are normal men, growing up and harbouring hyper masculine values.
Ideally, the victim has to remain anonymous but with social media surpassing any boundaries of ethics, it becomes easy to identify the victims and scrutinise them. While the media can play an important role in raising this sort of awareness and sensitising people, the most circulated newspapers from the valley have not covered the issue and covered only when the protests started and not about the incident per se. The word rape still seems hard for them to spell out. They are yet to realise that rape is not another country or another species. With such silence by media, the dominant source remains social media which has been very insensitive in generating hashtags naming the 3-year-old victim survivor and circulating her videos without any check.
There is a general obsession with private dealings when it comes to women which is born out of the patriarchal notions that women’s affairs are private affairs. The belief that it doesn’t happen in Kashmir, or the belief of men that someone like them wouldn’t do it, puts all the onus on women and deludes the conversation about rapes and other forms of violence against women in Kashmir. These are not isolated incidents of rapes that have been reported in the last two weeks. It has been happening and but the discourses following these incidents have ensured silence and that the silence is a small price to pay as compared to the scrutiny and shaming that comes if it’s reported. There is a greater concern about the social fabric gets torn rather than a recognition of the fact that women are at the receiving end of various forms of violence perpetrated at all levels whether they report it or not.
People blaming nudity for rapes will for sure be questioned by these children about the connection they drew between nudity and their victimisation rather than addressing the culture of patriarchy and misogyny that has been inflicted on women forever. If we don’t do it now, we will be failing the generations to come.
Featured Image Source: Times of India