For some time now in India, Newton’s third law has been proved inaccurate. For every action there is a far blown out, misguided and by no means equal, opposite reaction. As evidenced by Jaya Bachchan, Rajya Sabha MP’s call for “lynching of the rapists”, calling the mob to take the law in their own hands. The sentiments behind this statement, as with all the outrage in the Hyderabad rape-murder case is understood. Details of the event are deeply disturbing and the feeling of helplessness can lead to such outrageous statements. But Jaya Bachchan and her irresponsible clarion call, is only one of the many problems this outrage has brought forth; another being social media posts calling for capital punishment, lynching and castration of rapists, some telling “feminists” (they put the quotes, not me) that “not all men are rapists” as they support such severe punishments.
First of all, we know all men are not rapists, that is why we dare to leave our houses. Second of all, yes you are not a heinous criminal and are in fact disgusted by them, do you expect applause for this? But if it was just about women’s safety, why the drive-by to feminists? Even in the face of an issue with life-threatening consequences for women, you feel the need to taunt a section of women. And many women have been the targets of vile comments, borderline threats and actual threats from the people who are making and sharing such posts. So I am going to take this out-pour of emotions with more than a pinch of salt.
But Jaya Bachchan and her irresponsible clarion call, is only one of the many problems this outrage has brought forth; another being social media posts calling for capital punishment, lynching and castration of rapists, some telling “feminists” (they put the quotes, not me) that “not all men are rapists” as they support such severe punishments.
The other problem with the kind of “trending” that the Hyderabad rape-murder case has become is that it only happens when it is an incident with gruesome details. But there are multiple stories that do not get as much or any reportage. You say you want capital punishment for rapists, because you think that is what will bring in justice for the ones who have suffered, and you want to instill fear in the minds of potential rapists. You say hang the men who committed a brutal act while you turn a blind eye to any man who has committed acts less sickening for you. Reading this news was difficult, not because it was shocking, but because it reinforced the fear in me that something like this has not happened to me yet because I was lucky and that this luck might run out one day. It is true that every woman just has to live with, and for a man to make a sweeping statement like “hang the rapist”, is taking the easy route of doing no work.
Rape is a systemic issue; it is about power. This power comes when there are no actual consequences to other predatory actions. You see no harm in a whistle on the street, it turns into a catcall, a touch, a grab and much worse. In formal or professional settings, a lewd comment, a “harmless” joke with sexual innuendos, and an “innocent” shoulder touch can turn into something much worse fairly quickly. Women tend to not respond to the early signs because on streets they are scared of the aftermath, which is fatal at times. In offices they are scared to lose their jobs, and women caught up in a scandal of this sort find it difficult to find employment elsewhere. The response to such a situation cannot be “hang the rapists” tweets, well-intentioned though they might be.
RAPE IS A SYSTEMIC ISSUE, IT IS ABOUT POWER. THIS POWER COMES WHEN THERE ARE NO ACTUAL CONSEQUENCES TO OTHER PREDATORY ACTIONS. YOU SEE NO HARM IN A WHISTLE ON THE STREET, IT TURNS INTO A CATCALL, A TOUCH, A GRAB AND MUCH WORSE.
Men have to start acknowledging that the solution here is not outrage on one of the (too) many terrible incidents that have managed to capture the eye of the media in general and social media, but to put in the work. Do the women in your life feel comfortable with you? Have they confided in you when someone made the feel unsafe/uncomfortable? If you’re not creating a safe enough space for women in your vicinity to trust you, or consider that you might help when needed, it is something that needs self-evaluation and correction on your part. It is the first step to men being on our side, enough for us to believe that ‘not all men’ would prove us wrong for trusting them. And please understand that the issue of women’s safety has never been and will never be about you. A comment about women not being able to trust men is not a personal attack on your integrity. 2019 is ending, please put #NotAllMen officially to rest.
Outrage like that of Jaya Bachchan, has in the past have helped strengthen laws, and address some issues of sexual violence in the legal domain, but even when judgments of capital punishment have been passed by courts, such crimes have continued. In spite of the protests for laws with stricter punishments following the Nirbhaya case, the Kathua rape case, which led to the Supreme Court judgment for the perpetrators to be hanged and changes in the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, there have been no drastic improvements in our society. The situation is as bleak for women as ever, if not more. The answer is real social and behavioural change, not something that can be summed up in a hashtag.
Mohini has completed my MA in Politics from Mumbai University. She believes that it is possible to find a solution to all of life’s and society’s problems through literature and wholesome TV shows. She enjoys tea, books and calling people out on their problematic behaviours. You can find her on Instagram and Facebook.
Featured Image Source: India Today