How would you react if a friend told you she was raped? Would you empathise and listen or would you change the subject? Would you minimize her trauma or joke about it? We hear stories about carnal violence against women or children daily in the news. Are they routine or isolated?
Talk of rape makes us uncomfortable; we tend to blurt out inanities. Our society deems violence as sexy, and lust as violent. These values and attitudes need change. Does rape define life? Are rapes comparable? Are rapes like exterminations? Is a world without rape possible? How do we wish to raise the coming generations?
Outrage, victim-blaming, media attention, court cases, women-activists uproar… And then, there will be another rape! We hear of father raping daughter, teacher raping student, child rape, gang-rape and so on. Some people make the country a haven for rapists.
Historically, rapes have been treated as ‘excusable’ crimes; the victim is disregarded, her response silenced. We have tomes of literature and media debates on pornography and sexual violence, gangrape, child sexual abuse, sexual harassment, how to avoid rape, self-defence; despite this, statistics show a rise in the number of rapes every year.
Our National Crime Records Bureau reveals that three women were raped every hour from 2001 to 2017. For every story that sparks an outburst, many go unnoticed and underreported, not because we don’t care, but because rape and victim-blaming has become commonplace. Discussions about rape are often irrational. It’s the only crime to which people respond by wanting to lock up the victims, the only crime where victims are considered destroyed beyond repair; a few retain the ridiculous ‘Boys will be boys’ label.
We claim to deplore sexual violence that is so markedly characteristic of our times; we raise our children ignorant of their sexuality, confusing pleasure with pain and domination. It’s not unusual to see women blame victims. We present male and female as polar opposites, instead of twin variations of one model, thus damaging both sexes. Sexual assault can be anything that demeans women; degradation of women, evident through numerous incidents such as eve-teasing, groping, stalking, ultimately raping, is a consequence of day-to-day normalised sexism.
During the shooting of ‘Sultan’, Salman Khan said he ‘felt like a raped woman’. He used rape as an analogy to explain the physical toll during the production of the film, completely ignoring the trauma a rape victim goes through. Rape jokes nourish rape culture. How can you sell humour at the expense of the victim? After the 2014 FIFA World Cup, where Germany defeated Brazil 7-1, tweets announced “Germany raped Brazil”. Similar scenes were witnessed during some India-Pakistan cricket matches. These are examples of how we trivialise rape.
Research reveals that the number of men who perpetuate violence repeat it with either the same or with different victims. India’s recidivism rate as per a 2015-report is relatively low at three per cent, but the challenges continue to mount. How many more Nirbhayas should we sacrifice?
Woman was always unequal before law. Not only might the female be subjected at will to abhorrent physical conquest from which there could be no retaliation in kind – a rape for a rape – but the consequences of such a brutal struggle might be death or injury, not to mention an undesired pregnancy.
Don’t tell women to stay at home! Take the rapists off the streets! Calling ‘rape’ a “women’s issue” is misleading and dishonest. The very act of calling it a “women’s issue” is itself part of the problem, as it gives men an excuse.
Rape also affects body, mind, heart, and soul. Aftermaths include humiliation, stigma, depression, susceptibility, fear, anger, shock, embarrassment, suicidal tendencies, nightmares, confusion, safety and anguish. Pain and shame become a toxic mix of misdirected blame.
Victims are silenced and blamed, crime gets normalised, perpetrators ignored. This trend will continue until we choose to eradicate the reasons for the crime. Till then, prisons will continue to be overcrowded in a country where Sita’s chastity was called into question despite the fact that she was abducted by Ravana.