Stripped and torn,
a damsel unlearns.
Her thighs leak crimson
and her eyes – salt and dirt,
lorded over by wolves,
with tunnel vision, taking turns.
They whistle for the rats
to come and get their fingers greasy too,
they advertise – “bring your friends,
the neighbours and the military coup”;
the great Indian rape tradition
At an outdoor event earlier this year, I walked past a group of young bright-eyed volunteers, with matching bandannas to boot. They were promoting awareness on the rising number of sex crimes in the country. They urged the people who walked past them to just say no to rape.
I asked one of the volunteers to explain their reasoning to which I was told that I had a voice that needed to be heard. They asked me if I wanted to buy a T-shirt.
I didn’t get it. Did they expect anyone to say “sorry but I can’t say no to rape”? I don’t think this campaign slogan has had any impact on raising the level of social awareness on sex crimes. Not in my country. Nope.
Of course, we will say “no” to rape. That’s neither the problem nor the solution. What matters more is our willingness to look at our own lives and say “yes” to gender equality.
Rape, at least in India, stems from sexual / social frustration at an individual level and reiteration of gender politics at a communal / national level. Given how patriarchal most Indian societies are, many young men are conditioned to believe that men are entitled to more power than women. They see evidences of how other men, elders or peers, act on it. Some power-mongers physically impose their will. Others rely on chauvinistic verbal tirades. Most however do it in ways that are largely accepted by Indian society such as restricting education, asking for dowries, engaging in marital rape and following the archaic dynamics of breadwinner vs homemaker.
Unless there is a significant change in this regressive and spiteful learning curve, the rate of gender-based crimes will be on the rise. It is also a personal opinion of mine that the line between blatant sexism and an act of rape is a thin one. Here is a list of things that we can say NO to instead:
- Fallacies in arranged marriages that turn women into meat-market bulletin updates
- The dowry system
- Opinions that breadwinners are post-colonial slave owners
- Any political party’s propaganda until they talk about criminalizing marital rape
- Sexist jokes that objectify women based on appearances and classes
- Robin Thicke and Honey Singh
In 2013, I was roped in to work on a documentary on India’s rape culture. We were going to document the post-verdict scenario of the Soni Sori case while providing information on military-assisted rapes in Kashmir and the Vachathi gang rape incident. I dropped out of the project after the pre-production pitch. The research we did though was a stark reminder on just how systematic the culture of rape is in my country. These are some of the prominent types of rape in India.
- Marital rapes that go unnoticed in urban and rural India and still remains a non-criminal offence according to the Indian Penal Code
- Systematic rapes as a form of social dominance against “unwanted” ethnic communities and other minorities
- Gang rapes perpetrated out of sexual frustration of Indian males
- State/Military rapes carried out by state officials and army officials in conflict-stricken areas
- Corrective rapes committed in communities to enforce gender stereotypes (It was impossible to curate India-specific research material on this, but we all know it happens)
The average Indian man doesn’t discuss this issue as much as he should. He is as shocked at rape cases documented by his favourite news channel as he is apathetic towards the gender biases that he is privy to. It is my opinion that marriages fall apart because of this apathy. More importantly, society will too if we don’t take a serious look at what we say and the way we think and behave.