To people like me who work for violence against women – one rape case does not surprise me at all. I feel very indifferent with the sudden uproar that makes me slightly uncomfortable. It is important for all of us to understand here that, in the side columns of all the daily newspapers that we read every day, there are gang-rape cases, acid-attack cases, murder, dowry death, cyber bullying, child marriages, foeticide and infanticide being reported every single day and the numbers are only rising.
National statistics confirm that 1 in 3 women face violence every day (WHO, 2012). According to India’s National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), a crime has been recorded against women in every three minutes in India. Every 60 minutes, two women are raped in this country. Every six hours, a young married woman is found beaten to death, burnt or driven to suicide.
However, what I often wonder is why and how some rape cases make it to the front page while so many others do not. I remember my ‘gender and violence’ subject teacher taught us about the concept of ‘perfect rape’ with its ‘perfect victim’. Anyway, I shall not deep dive in that direction for now but speak aloud what disturbs me the most during these times and where we often go wrong.
1. Unsolicited Messages For Women Only
Immediately when these cases happen, there are police numbers, Nirbhaya numbers and others being circulated in all my Hyderabad WhatsApp groups with a tag line, “For all my sisters“. Firstly, it is important for both men and women to have these numbers. There are large number of cases of violence including sexual violence against men as well. However, forwarding these to only women makes the point that rape cases will definitely not stop and we are not working towards that anyway. Instead what we are working towards is what to do when rape cases happen.
2. Moral Policing Through ‘Moral’ Messages
There are also forwards which go to the extent of telling women what to do in each situation. This has been going on for a while now. People ask women to wear “certain types” of clothes, to stand in “certain areas”, to be indoors at “certain time” and what not. But things have not changed, right? Here is why. These messages only reinforce the subordinate position of women by telling them what they need to change or how they need to behave or where they need to go or be. However, what we need to realise is that the problem is not with the women.
These messages need to be addressed to the men or to the police for stringent laws and regulations to be in place for the rapists to fear or the overall discussion should be around why and how so many men around us make us feel uncomfortable. The discussion needs to happen there.
To all the men forwarding these messages, you need to feel ashamed and uncomfortable for what other men like you are doing and not play the role of the “big brother” telling women and your “sisters” what to do. Instead, first speak to all your brothers for what not to do, how to not make women uncomfortable.
3. Rape As “The Ultimate Form Of Violence”
It is also important to understand that rape is not the most extreme form of violence. It does not start there, it starts with basic differences. It starts with eve-teasing, staring, uncomfortable messages where men think they have the power over women to make them feel uncomfortable. It is also about gender blind policies where for example, you bring in machines to enhance production but do not think of the number of women who lost their jobs because of the machine. Such small things (which are not small at all) add up to men feeling that they can dominate and rape women as and where, and how they want. Given the subordinate status of women, much of gender violence is considered normal and enjoys social sanction. Unless, a woman is raped and possibly killed too, “the nation does not want to know”.
4. Unreported Rape Cases And Its Social Sanction
Research also confirms that maximum number of rape cases are by known people. People who know you, know that they can exert their power over you, physically or because of higher caste or economical superiority, and hence they also tend to commit gender based violence. Hence, most of the accused are relatives or family friends. However, these cases never make it to the front page because they are hushed away and silenced. Few days ago, there was a video and news of a senior Hyderabad Judge committing domestic violence against his wife. That news gave me chills, but did not create a national uproar and was hidden underneath the carpet.
Therefore, when the accused is not someone who has power over the media to stop the news, it is easy for such cases to reach the front pages.
It is high time that we all have the ‘uncomfortable’ discussion which needs to centre around all forms of power that knowingly or unknowingly, is sanctioned by religion or custom or society at large.
Alpaxee is a PhD scholar from the programme of Women and Gender Studies jointly conducted by Ambedkar University and Centre for Women’s Development Studies, New Delhi. She has been working on Violence against Women for the past 5 years. She has a keen interest in everyday feminism, politics, history and is an avid traveler. You can follow her on Twitter.
Featured Image Source: The Hindu