Tag Archives: Rape

Rapes in India & The Crisis of Consensus!

Men rape only when provoked by women like YOU!

Having heard this so many times, sadly the women of India believe this is true.

In December 2013, the editor-in-chief of India’s Tehelka magazine was accused of sexually assaulting a junior colleague twice in a hotel elevator during a conference in Goa. Until this incident, Tehelka was one of the most respected magazines, making headlines for path- breaking and courageous journalism that reported real stories and exposed scams in India.

But this incident exposed Tehelka. It brought to light the double standards of some urban, educated elites working for the magazine. Tehelka’s female managing editor, well known for her feminist stance, did not encourage the journalist to report the matter to the police.  She subsequently was accused of a cover-up and was forced to resign under fire from the media.

“Lapse of judgment”, “something ostensibly playful gone so horribly wrong” “were phrases used in the apology letter written by the accused to his managing editor and the victim.

Another high profile case of sexual harassment that surfaced last year was that of a law intern who was sexually molested by a senior Supreme Court Judge who was also a member of a state Human Rights Commission. In his defense he said: “Allegations were made by the intern 11 months after the incident. I never abused my power. She could have left the room if she was feeling unwell. No person can be forced to drink wine if the person doesn’t want to.” (Source: Interview to CNN IBN http://ibnlive.in.com/news/sexual-harassment-case-justice-ganguly-blames-wb-government-sc-panel/444098-3.html)

To show just how pervasive is the sentiment, more recently, I read the news of a woman politician and a member of a Women’s Commission who echoed a similar view. At a women’s event, she questioned why the Delhi Gang Rape victim was out at night. She added that a woman’s attire and behavior are prerequisites to rape.  (quote from her here)

A media honcho, Supreme Court judge and a woman politician in different ways each imply that rape could simply amount to a lapse of judgment and a woman should bear responsibility in terms of the hours she keeps and the clothes she wears.  In other words, she is not simply the victim of a violent crime but possibly responsible for the act itself.

Post the Delhi Gang Rape, there seems to be more of a consensus that rape is a terrible crime but is that enough to protect our women and children? The statements related above worry me since I clearly don’t hear one voice on “Why women are raped in India?”

While we criticize Khap Panchayats in Haryana or Tribal councils in West Bengal for being backward in their mindsets, we tend to forget that there are many among the “educated elite” in this country who have a similar outlook. They might not be as vociferous in their opinions but the above examples clearly show that the burden of proof is shifted to the victim.

Rape – of a woman, man or a child involves abuse of power and position. It involves objectifying the person, force and coercion. Rape is not consensual, it can never be. We tend to miss the crux of this issue by focusing on the unnecessary details; sometimes we do it to divert our attention from the bitter truth. Women are conditioned to believe that by stepping out of line, they could bring rape upon themselves.

We must condemn every act of violence against women and children and we must reach a consensus on assigning responsibility to the perpetrator and not the victim. We can recruit more policemen for safety, we can sell pepper sprays and teach our girls karate – but can we stop judging our girls and women?

 

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RAPED , KILLED, CREMATED – CAN INDIA’S CONSCIOUSNESS CHANGE?

We Indian women have been groped, fondled, touched, pushed, teased, pinched and raped. Some of us raped literally and some raped through eyes, comments and gestures. Each one of us has faced this since puberty, some were unlucky to face it even before, some in their homes, some in schools and most of us on the streets.

Since my teenage years, my parents, like most parents in India, told me, “The outside world is bad, so be careful.” We were told to hold our bags to cover our breasts, we were not allowed to wear sleeveless shirts, or short skirts that might attract the attention of men, no fitted tops and no make up. The world around us was BAD, we were told.

And their fear was justified: In India a woman is raped every 4 seconds. Whenever we read about a rape case the implication was that the woman had been careless: She wore a tight skirt, she went out too late, she was with a man and therefore must be a prostitute. Never was the rapist blamed. This is part of our consciousness and learning since childhood and part of the reason the terrible problem persists.

Instead, we have taught our girls to protect themselves with martial arts, told them to carry chili powder to throw in the eyes of an attacker. We have covered them in multiple layers of clothes and taught them to use an umbrella for protection. Never have we thought to look at this issue from another perspective, we, each one of us, have blindly accepted that the world around us is BAD.

But our collective failure to speak out, to act against men who rape, has led once again to tragedy, this time in Delhi. There, in mid-December, a 23-year-old medical student was brutally raped on a chartered bus over many hours and then discarded  on the streets of the national capital. Six psychotic men raped her, beat her and threw her away thinking they could do so with impunity. Nothing protected her – her multiple layers of clothes, the lessons from her parents, the six police check points which she passed as she was being raped, or her male friend – everything failed this woman.

As terrible as this was, hundreds of women are raped in India every day, some in marriages, some on the streets, but this tragedy has finally sparked the consciousness of our nation of 1 billion. Finally, we speak in one voice – WE NEED TO RESPECT WOMEN IN INDIA. Delhi students and angry women have braved tear gas, water cannons and lathi to protest against the men who thought they could use the young woman for their pleasure, to demand their punishment.

But I wonder, would the sense of national tragedy, the reaction, be the same if the girl, were wearing a short dress when she was picked up by the bus joyriders, if her male companion were a boyfriend, or if they were returning from a nightclub?

I believe this case has grabbed national attention because the girl was SPOTLESS according to the huge moral brigade of India. She was a medical student, wearing Indian dress, it was 9:30 pm (not so late), she went to a movie with a friend and she was returning home. She ticked all the boxes of the ideal Indian woman.

But would the brutality have been any less if this girl were a model or a dancer, wearing a short skirt? We need to use this moment also to analyze our own prejudices when it comes to rape. Don’t we all have biases against women who are MODERN in India? We ignore women who are raped in villages. We turn a blind eye to the thousands of Dalit women who raped by upper caste men.

Although the young woman’s horror represents a terrible loss for her family and the nation, let us hope that her life is not wasted, that our national mourning has finally brought gender inequality and gender-based violence to the forefront. For the first time, there is conversation about teaching boys to respect women, to control their urges.  People are advocating for stringent and swift punishment for rapists. The blame is finally shifting from the victims to the offenders.

This incident has also given hope to the thousands of women who are still struggling for justice after being raped. The not-so-popular Women’s Movement in India has stepped forward.

Hopefully, the national introspection will help diminish the stigma around rape and reporting rape. Bollywood, the media and our repressive society have exaggerated the social stigma attached to reporting an attack and this also needs to change.

Time has come for us as a country to think deeply about the way we see girls and the way we treat them. We worship women as goddesses but label them as whores if they dress differently. We kill girls in the womb, preferring boys, and rape them once they are born.

We need collectively to work to change both the legal and cultural frameworks of this country simultaneously and justice needs to be delivered to victims in a timely manner.

Lets not forget that men are also victims of our socialization. Lets educate our younger generation about sex and sexuality; let’s not teach them what our parents taught us.

We must sensitize our police, politicians, judiciary and media. In our Bollywood films, lets stop portraying women as objects and glorifying men who tease women.

The 23-year-old young girl died of multiple organ failure, from the failure of her country and all of us to protect her. Each one of us is responsible for not speaking out.

The only way we can pay tribute to her terrible sacrifice is to ensure that no other women experience the same, to speak out against violence, to act against violence.

The time has come for us to make this country a safe place for women.