Monday, August 26, 2013

After many months of restraint, a crib post about rape in India.

We vent and we vent and we vent, but it’s just so much hot air blowing in the wind. The more we talk about the rapes, the more ludicrous the “theories” get, and the more I find myself raging on people’s FB statuses with long-winded comments. I realized, to make myself feel better, I should write down most of what I feel about this issue and let it join all the innumerable other blog posts, articles, tweets, and status messages about rape in India swirling about the worldwide web.
First of all, we Indians need to divorce sex from rape. Very often I see that people can’t see much of a difference, which is where all the talk about whether SHE was drunk (the lady molested by a huge mob and videotaped after she walked out of a pub), what SHE was wearing, what SHE was doing, what her character was like (our honourable Chief Minister’s comment that the victim was a prostitute) arises. Rape is rape. No woman invites rape because it is, to make an understatement, mentally and physically acutely PAINFUL.
Let’s cut through all the “was she a good girl?” bullshit by taking a woman on the extreme end of our moral spectrum. A rape of a prostitute is still rape, because it has happened without her consent. It doesn’t matter whether she was walking down a lonely street at the time, in an advanced state of inebriation, and in revealing clothes. If a woman is attacked and raped, no amount of harping on why she was there and how she looked at her aggressors before the attack can change that fact.
A normal man might desire her, a disgusting man might approach her for negotiations, but it’s only a man who is not quite right that will think of raping her. Can you see the difference here?
I have seen a lot of ranting about how porn and the casting couch and a culture of trophy wives all cause rape. The irony is these writers are falling into the same trap as the extremely conservative, by confusing sex (even the most unsavoury kind) with rape. I don’t deny that there is something fundamentally wrong with a society that objectifies and commodifies women in this way, and its woman-hating nature is expressed in its most extreme form as rape. But I don’t see a direct connection: because in my mind, one is still the selling of sex for money (gross as that is) and the other is rape.

Others (in so many words) seek to vilify men for desiring women in the first place, to which I say can we please stop running around like headless chickens and FOCUS.

Secondly, most people (shockingly—so many women I’ve spoken to!) confuse a lapse of judgement (a woman getting into a car with three male acquaintances, for example) with ‘getting what was coming to her’. “What could she expect?” they say, and dismiss the rape off-hand. Are we then saying that all men are potential rapists who are only waiting to be presented with an opportunity by careless women? Is that how low our opinion is of our male relatives, friends and colleagues? And are we saying that a woman is equally if not more culpable in her violation, if she doesn’t cringe and look over her shoulder whenever she is around men?
Which of us pass the test? Have we not all been out past ten pm? Yes, on many, many occasions; often without male bodyguards to “protect our virtue.” Have we not worn provocative clothes? Of course! Since anything a woman wears is provocative to a rapist because he’s not looking at what the woman is wearing. It is seriously time our police stopped asking the question. The idea that a gang of five; who have the criminal intent and savagery to rape a woman after tying up her male companion, and then make her clean up the crime scene; would have walked away if she was wearing a sari is preposterous. I don’t even know how people can believe this.
Many women, in fact, are so sure they will be subjected to an agnipariksha if they come forward, that they decide against further torture for something as unlikely as justice. Women I know have whispered behind their hands to me, doubting the motives of rape victims saying,” why would she announce such a shameful thing to the world? She must want money and publicity!” The result of which you can see n the most recent Mumbai rape case, where it has emerged that the same group of men have raped before and had thought this one would go unreported as well. Perhaps if the previous rape victims had not feared social stigma and come forward, our brave photojournalist would have been briskly going about her work today, finishing up on the assignment that took her to the godforsaken scene of the crime.

So, you’re saying, you talk big, but what are you actually DOING to change this culture?
Admittedly not much. Jeet and I tried to start a petition to make self-defense classes compulsory for girls in schools – no one signed up, I wonder what the problem was.  I argue with whoever expresses the aforementioned opinions to me. However awkward the conversation is. If I have a son, I will not teach him that sex is bad, desire is bad and thereby repress it in such a way that it suddenly expresses itself in a horribly deviant way.
Of course, no parent wants a libertine for offspring but the former must learn to acknowledge that normal young people will have sexual feelings. If Indian parents carry on like having a girlfriend/boyfriend is a crime, they will continue to confuse romance, sex, and rape in the minds of India’s sons.

I have a daughter however, and I’m not going to lie, until I see this shift happen – I will advise her to throw away all her fundamental rights as an Indian citizen and cower at home, protected first by her father and then by her husband; because society doesn't really care about her.


SJ said...

Ushasi, this is the sanest piece of writing I have read in the aftermath of this rape-media orgy that is going on in India. I'm sick of the vacuous analysis and bullshit reasoning that people are putting forward. But I don't quite agree with your advise to your daughter about staying indoors and cowering at home.

I really liked what our first India's first woman Additional Solicitor General, Indira Jaisingh, said in an NDTV discussion recently which was that India's culture of violence has to change. Rape is an expression of such a culture but it is just one form of abuse that Indians perpetrate on a daily basis, starting with domestic abuse at home to verbal and social abuse of our minorities and every powerless group. In the case of women, this abuse takes a sexual form: most crimes against women are sexual, as that's just easy. But unless people are taught to be less violent in general, rape is not going to be stopped.

What gets my goat is also the talk of retribution, violent retribution for rapists like mob justice and street lynchings and hangings as if they are any better than the crime of rape. When I was still on Facebook, apparently benign people on my "friends" list were advocating for such shocking violence that left me aghast.

The rape culture will take decades, if not centuries to alter, as we are still a patriarchal, misogynistic society and until every mother (and father) teaches her daughters and sons that they are equal and everybody needs to be respected, including the prostitute on the street corner selling sex for money, this is not going to change.

I don't think asking girls to stay indoors is the answer. Self-defense classes, on the other hand, is a great solution and should be advocated. Please send me the link to your petition and I'll be happy to sign it.

Ushasi said...

Yes I agree with what you've written above.No, it's not the answer, but with the increasing lawlessness outdoors, once can't blame worried parents from having completely different approaches to how much freedom they'll let their sons and daughters have. It's dragging us women back into the middle ages, after all the struggles we went through to be recognized as equals in classrooms and boardrooms. But there it is.
I'll dig out the petition and send it to you, for what it's worth.

Ushasi said...

Please forgive all the typos!(Bizarre.)

Kundan Srivastava said...

Skirt do not cause Rape - Sick Mentality Does