The capital of our country for a long time now has been considered the most unsafe city for women. And north India is often referred to as more violent, more patriarchal, and more crime-ridden than the south. 6,227 cases were reported in northern India, which were defined as nine northern states: Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Jammu & Kashmir, Rajasthan, Punjab, Uttarakhand, as well as the regions of Delhi and Chandigarh.
In 2011, a total of 24,206 rape cases were registered in India, according to data released by the National Crime Records Bureau.
Just look at that number – Twenty four thousand rape cases, twenty four thousand individuals. This clearly isn’t about one city anymore. Yes, Delhi might be awful and may have been openly declared unsafe but that doesn’t take away from the fact that no woman feels safe in any city in this country anymore.
So, it’s not about Delhi anymore.
6-yr-old raped, in Pune, class 12 student held
Woman gang-raped in Park Street, Kolkatta
It’s not about age anymore.
An 18 months old baby raped.
One month old baby, raped and killed
80 year old woman raped and physically assaulted by a 35 year old neighbour at her house in Rajasthan
It’s not about time of the day anymore.
More often than I’d like to hear, helpful suggestions about women getting home before dark have come up in discussions on prevention of rape. There was a famous Marathi film about this issue – Saatchya Aat Gharat.
Do we really believe that the time of the day will be a deterrent for these barbaric men? Sure, you can get home on time and lock yourself in. But locking yourself in does not mean shutting the world out. What about the recent Pallavi Purkayastha case? The watchman of her building marked his target during the day and executed the crime at night by barging into the girl’s apartment.
It’s not about clothes anymore.
I don’t know how many times this idiotic argument about girls being dressed properly comes up in the context of a rape. Here’s an iconic statement from one of the protectors of law – Satbir Singh, Additional SHO of Sector 31 Police Station, Faridabad;
“Girls should be covered from here to here… They wear skirts, blouses, that don’t cover them fully. Don’t wear a dupatta. They display themselves. A kid will naturally be attracted to her.”
Can we then explain the rape cases that happen in our villages? These are girls from villages in Punjab and Haryana, fully clothed and yeah, with duppatas on.
It’s not about Honey Singh or Item numbers anymore.
Let’s not blame the objectification of our women on a bunch of songs or offensive lyrics anymore.
As this blogger, very aptly writes;
Discussing Honey Singh or Item Girls, diverts our anger from the things that need to be changed. it diverts our anger to easily achievable things – shutting down a new year concert or filling airtime with outrage on “Item” numbers. I am not saying outrage is wrong – by all means outrage – it is a free country and outrage is good for the soul but, in this constantly moving target of outrage scenario, focus on change is lost. And, unless there is focus on systemic change – women are going to remain unsafe.
It’s not even about gender anymore.
Men are victims too.
A question that has been going around in the media is what would be a befitting and exemplary punishment for rapists in the Delhi case.
I’ve been thinking and I want to at least try and answer this question as a sensible person. I really want to write a well-reasoned and lawful answer.
But I can’t. Because there’s too much rage and unrest in my head to think rationally.
I have the overpowering urge to write cruel and ruthless answers like – throw him to the dogs, or castrate him, or let a 100 trucks ride over him, or probably let him face the Talibani open firing.
But I can’t. Because if we reciprocate brutality with inhumanity, it can only serve as a response but never be a solution. It will do no better than lessening the gap between human beings and barbarians.
I don’t understand which law could possibly have an appropriate, a fitting punishment for such a sick, barbaric act. Will just physically punishing this person be enough? Will it? Nothing can reverse the pain and humiliation caused to the victim. Nothing can ever remotely bring back the girl/person s/he was before this horrifying incident.
Killing him in whatever horrible way one can think of will just be liberation for this person. It may cause his family anguish but he’s basically gone after suffering for 1, 2 or probably 6 hours. To my mind, the only fitting punishment that comes close for such a person is a lifelong solitary confinement under the most severe conditions. Where every single waking moment of his life, he is forced to constantly think, re-think, consider, analyze the consequences of his actions. He is kept alive in between four walls just be reminded of what led him to the shit that his life now is.
At a certain point, the crescendo of his agony might probably be repentance. His repentance can be a byproduct of the punishment, the continued, constantly deepening agony is his punishment.
Rape is a savage act of power and is not necessarily driven by lust. So instead of telling the women to lead more conservative lifestyles, we need to focus our energies on better social conditioning of our men, women and our society in general.
Women too, are in desperate need of a progressive social conditioning - women who keep shut, women who blame themselves for everything that happens to them, women to ridicule other women for standing up, women who come up with reasons for why a certain “type” of women get groped/molested/raped, women who promote do’s and don’ts for other women in the society.
So please – To all the men – do us a favour. Next time, a woman gets raped on your streets – don’t question her character, don’t tell her that it was her fault she got groped/molested or raped at a bar because she was out drinking with a couple of guys and don’t tell her she deserved to be raped because she was wearing a skirt. For the record, all these and many more have been cited as the reasons for women getting raped by the protectors of our law.
And to all our women;
It probably is the outcome of a social conditioning. that such few women share their life stories, their experiences – even with family and friends around – forget about posting their grief online. Women, especially Indian women, have a tendency of blaming themselves for everything that goes wrong with them.
if they are groped in public, it must be their dress or that particular neckline that caused it
if they are physically abused by their boyfriends or husbands, even the strongest of women feel that they are not doing something right in their relationship and that’s probably they’re at the receiving end of this treatment.
if they are treated differently at work, paid less – they either gear themselves up to either work harder or submit to their fate.
sharing stories of molestation or rape are perceived to bring shame to women and their families.
sharing stories of an unhappy marriage/abuse probably are perceived to hurt the family value system and its pride.
sharing career struggles or voicing gender inequity issues are considered either whining or overt-feminism by men and unfortunately a lot of women too.
It is unfortunate, very unfortunate but true. Most women fear being judged even by strangers online while sharing intimate personal stories. And for all of this to change, women need to disassociate the idea that their honor is linked to their men. It isn’t.
To end this post, I’d like to quote the very brave Sohaila Abdulali;
Rape is horrible. But it is not horrible for all the reasons that have been drilled into the heads of Indian women. It is horrible because you are violated, you are scared, someone else takes control of your body and hurts you in the most intimate way. It is not horrible because you lose your “virtue.” It is not horrible because your father and your brother are dishonored. I reject the notion that my virtue is located in my vagina, just as I reject the notion that men’s brains are in their genitals.
If we take honor out of the equation, rape will still be horrible, but it will be a personal, and not a societal, horror. We will be able to give women who have been assaulted what they truly need: not a load of rubbish about how they should feel guilty or ashamed, but empathy for going through a terrible trauma.
Suggested Reads :
1. Rage and Helplessness : http://www.indianexpress.com/news/rage-and-helplessness/1050086/0
2. The Subjugation Capital : http://daddysan.wordpress.com/2012/12/24/the-subjugation-capital/
3. The Delhi Gang-Rape : http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/dec/31/delhi-rape-india-damini
5. I was wounded; My honor wasn’t : http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/08/opinion/after-being-raped-i-was-wounded-my-honor-wasnt.html?_r=0
Lastly, thanks to Shefaly Yogendra’s answer and an Anon user’s thought-provoking answer on Quora that prompted me to write this post.