The case of the moving bus gang-rape victim is all over the papers, I need not repeat it. But is this case only about a girl who got raped? Or its about a societal attitude that has cropped up in the most extreme forms?
Following the news, my parents (like many of my friends’ parents), have been stringent with where I go and what time I get back, among other restrictions. They are obviously trying to keep me safe, but in doing so, they are reinforcing the very notion that is wrong: Women are vulnerable, and need to be protected, that the outside world is not their place, and that if they go there, they will always carry a risk.
But its not only my parents that are wrong, many other agents in the society are. Death penalty, castration demands, fast-track courts, outrage – all are required. But they aren’t the solution to the problem. They are like the bucket you keep under a water leakage till you can get a plumber to fix it.
But this is what we do – we never get the plumber, and when the bucket overflows, we don’t replace or empty it either. Our outrage, like that of the past, will die within a couple of months, like it did with the Kenan and Reuben case, among many others. Besides, our outrage is shade racist. We don’t care much for women raped in Kashmir, for example. This woman, was raped twice. After the gangrape, she was raped in police custody because her brother joined militants. http://www.kashmirdispatch.com/sameer-bhat/211210446-shabnam-the-woman-who-was-raped-twice.htm . For the extended article, see – http://www.greaterkashmir.com/news/2012/Dec/23/kashmir-joins-delhi-gang-rape-protests-albeit-with-a-suffix-37.asp . Here, we are implying 2 things – that even the women of those regions who contribute to the economy of the nation are not safe, and backward in their views towards women, as backwards as remote areas, and second, that only people in such privileged areas are important, that only these’ peoples rights will be fought for, and that only the voice of the metros matters.
Besides the way we outrage, even the way we grow up is wrong. This two articles in The Hindu say what I want to say, rather well – http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/op-ed/rape-and-the-crisis-of-indian-masculinity/article4214267.ece , http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/editorial/time-to-be-ashamed/article4214334.ece .
The basic idea of these two articles, is that most rapes are those where young males encroach upon the modesty and freedom of women who are just trying to work and carry on their daily life. But, somewhere, there is resentment. They have grown up having more importance than their wives and sisters at home, and they can’t digest it when these same weak women, take up jobs that should be theirs, and earn prestige they aren’t entitled to.
It is not only the young unemployed youth who have this mindset. In minor rape cases, constables often escort young boys and girls to hospital wards for medical examination, loudly claiming that ‘iska rape hua hai. Check karo’, apparently having no idea how it will traumatize the child.
It takes no genius to realize that he needs to be sensitive. But, he is just one of the faces among many. The many who feel that anyone who is weak can be exploited, and blamed. As if somewhere, he felt that it was the child’s fault that he was raped. (Or that he reported the crime? God knows)
We already know of cases where men working in the lower rungs of law enforcement themselves are wife-beaters, tribal officers themselves rape young tribal girls. In these, and many other cases, there is double or more than double victimization.
And this is not just the remote places that I’m talking of. Everyday, in each home in the city even, subtle sexism still exists. Maybe they do it because they feel they are protecting their daughters, but in truth they are not. They are getting them accustomed to the ways of society, but of such a rotten society, that it needs to be changed. Girls shouldn’t be asked to stop going out, but be equipped to be safe wherever they go out. And this is only a temporary solution – in long term – such measures should not be required – the society should be THAT SAFE.
People will tell me that what I say here is very idealistic, and that fast-track courts are a much more practical idea. Yes, they are a brilliant idea, to handle the level of problems that we have reached. But eventually, you will need to go to the root of the issue and treat it. And that lies in changing how the men and the women of the nation think.
India has been forever a plundered land. Be it by outsiders, or by those within. That needs to change. Not because women work, or contribute to GDP, or give birth to children, or are your wives or sisters, but because they are human and there is no other justification required.
(Photo contributed by @AdamFredie on Twitter)