#India- Outrage against #Rape- to curb any expression of sexual freedom among girls? #Vaw


rape

Flavia Agnes, Asian Age, Dec 22. 2012

Many of us from the women’s movement, who have been struggling to address the issue of rape, both through public campaigns and by providing support to individual survivors, over the last 30 years, are equally dismayed at the responses to the gruesome incident of gangrape of the 23 year old in Delhi, who is battling for her life in a hospital, as the incident itself. We are wondering where we have gone wrong all these years as rape continues to be described as a “state worse than death” by our women parliamentarians while they express their anger in an emotionally charged voice. “Agar bach jayegi toh zinda laash ho ke jiyegi (If she survives, she will be a living corpse),” said a parliamentarian, eloquently expressing her anger. What is the message being sent out to thousands of rape survivors and their families and friends who have stood by them in their quest for justice, who would be watching the news channels when our women leaders, film personalities and the general public proclaim this? Does such a statement induce future victims to come forward and seek justice or will it drive them further into the shell so that they are not branded as “zinda laash” and cope with their post-rape trauma on their own terms, in private?

There are so many aspects of this unprecedented public fury that need to be examined from a cool and analytical perspective. The girl is struggling for her life because of the injuries caused by the use of weapons, not just the incident of rape. The brutes who attacked her attempted to murder her and her friend. But in the wake of the premium attached to rape in public discourse, the rest fades into oblivion. The girl lost her intestines due to the gruesome attack on her with iron rods. Even if they had not raped her, these would be equally serious. Would that have induced less public fury because she would not have to survive as a “zinda laash”. Is it the titillating aspect of the crime of rape that induces this public outrage? Do we react to all types of attacks upon women in public — the acid attacks, the slashing of the face with knife, the kicking and beating, the lewd and obscene comments and humiliation of their male companions? Do these warrant similar indignity and invoke the wrath of the public to demand death penalty for all of them?

There is another question which is worrisome. Is it possible to examine this issue only within the framework of men versus women or, more particularly, middle-class women versus lower-class men? The girl was not alone, she was travelling with a male companion. He, too, was beaten and thrown out. If he had lost his intestines in the scuffle that followed, what would the public response be? What about the death of a young 19-year-old boy who lost his life while protesting against lewd comments being passed against a girl from his housing society? Ought not that too warrant death penalty? If not, why not?

Another question. In some recent gruesome cases of gangrape, the girl was out with a male companion. Is the outrage against her an indication of the societal desire to curb any expression of sexual freedom among young, unmarried girls? Recently, in Bengaluru, a law student of the prestigious National Law University was gangraped when she was in a lonely spot with a male companion. The doctors who examined her were more concerned about the elasticity of her vagina than finding forensic evidence of the gruesome crime. In 2010, a young 16-year-old Hindu girl travelling in a bus with her Muslim friend in the outskirts of Mangalore was dragged out of the bus and taken to a police station and a case of rape foisted against her friend. That night the girl committed suicide.

In one of the earliest narratives by rape survivors in Mumbai during the anti-rape movement in the Eighties, Sohaila Abdulali, who later became a renowned author, has talked about her gangrape on a lonely hill in Chembur where she was out with her boyfriend during her vacation from the US. The friend was held at a knife-point while she was being raped. She narrates how her only concern during the rape was that she and her friend should survive the ordeal. So she kept talking to the boys even while they raped her, requesting them to be gentle and asking them to think about their own mothers and sisters. As she had to get back to college in the US, the police advised her not to initiate proceedings. To get over her guilt of not pressing charges, much later, she wrote about her experience.

It is these incidents that make us wonder whether the gangrape in Delhi is meant to be a message to all youngsters not just to not venture out in the dark but to not venture out with male companions. It is the same message that the parents and the community give to their daughters. It is the same message that the moral brigade has been communicating through the raids on young couples in Mumbai under the direction of Maharashtra home minister R.R. Patil, who has now recommended death penalty in rape cases. Perhaps he and most protesters out on the street in India today are unaware that around one-third of all rape cases are filed by parents against boys when their daughter exercises her sexual choice and elopes. Such cases will only increase in years to come as the recent enactment of the Protection of Children from Sexual Abuse Act has raised the statutory age for consent to sexual intercourse from 16 to 18 years and all youngsters who indulge in any sexual activity are prone to harassment from their families and the police. These types of cases have led to the use of phrases like “genuine cases” and “false cases” among the police, prosecutors and judges. With the clamour for death penalty, how will we deal with such cases?

Death penalty will not act as a deterrent. In the case of the Delhi gangrape, the accused are “young offenders” and the court is not likely to give them death penalty. What will act as an effective deterrent is proper procedure and access to justice.

In India, rape does not attract capital punishment and even if the law is changed, it cannot be applied retroactively to this case. Further, if punishment for rape and murder is the same, many rapists may kill the victim to destroy evidence. Thus we need more soul-searching answers from our parliamentarians and experts about how we can make our public places safe for women.

The writer is a women’s rights lawyer

 

23 comments on “#India- Outrage against #Rape- to curb any expression of sexual freedom among girls? #Vaw

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  20. The Delhi gang rape has raised a number of questions about crimes against women. Why have there been 2,28,650 crimes against women in the year 2011 with 24206 rapes in the country?

    This does not include an equal number of cases that were unreported and all those cases of domestic violence that go completely un-noticed.

    Are we turning into a sick society? Have we stopped respecting our women?

    Are we harbouring an increasing number of psycho-paths and deranged individuals who indulge in these crimes? Or are there are more deeply rooted issues.

    Rape is an act of aggression and not of passion

    Rape and sexual violence against women are pure acts of aggression and not acts of passion. The origin of the word rape is from Latin rapere to seize, carry off by force, plunder. The origins of the word too reiterate the fact that it is an act of violence and aggression. It is an act used to demonstrate power and humiliate the victim. The marauding armies of yesteryear used it as a weapon of fear and to establish their supremacy over the defeated. It is thus an act used by men to assert their so called supremacy over their victims.

    Definitely the origins of the problem lie in the attitude that we harbour towards women. We pretend to treat women as equals but even women secretly pray for a male child. This attitude is changing but it is as difficult to weed out as corruption is. Dowry deaths continue and so do illegal abortions and female foeticide.

    Domestic violence as a gateway

    Domestic violence is surprisingly common with almost 1 out of 4 patients who report to a hospital with depressive or anxiety issues having suffered from some form of physical or verbal abuse at home. Brushing acts of domestic violence under the carpet is dangerous because they are a gateway to more heinous crimes against women.

    This brings us back to the question as to where we as a so called modern society are heading and are the people committing these acts psycho-paths and deranged individuals. No these are average men and boys who were transformed into Frankensteins by a number of factors. If we assess the backgrounds of these individuals many of these factors will appear :

    They were brought up in families where domestic violence was a common, day to day affair
    Respect and sensitivity for women was never observed and so was never learnt and women were always treated as second class citizens.
    They were not taught to express their emotions assertively which made it necessary for them to use aggression as a mode of emotional expression.
    The family was dysfunctional and they were never shown enough appreciation making them individuals with very low self esteem.
    Their self esteem needs were fulfilled by aggression and bullying others early in life.
    They could not imbibe the values that come from being part of a secure loving family.
    Their personalities have shaped into intolerant, short tempered and hostile individuals who cannot deal with anything that hurts their already fragile self esteem
    They were not taught how to regulate their emotions and express them in acceptable ways
    Alcohol and other illicit substances also contribute to the dis-inhibition that precedes these acts.
    They have poorly developed super-egoes..In more lay man terms they have a poorly developed conscience which is determined by the values that we imbibe from parents,society and have internalized as their moral barometer.
    Thus the perpetrators of such acts are victims as much as they are perpetrators. This does not absolve them of any of these crimes but as we cry hoarse about hanging the rapists and how they should be lynched publicly we need to also wonder why such events happen and who these people are, who commit such dastardly acts. They are themselves exposed to so much violence as children that violence and disrespect for women becomes a way of life for them. They never learn about gender equality and learning to be assertive without being aggressive.

    That’s why every act of domestic violence that is brushed under the carpet may produce an aggressive and violent act in the future. Every neglected act has potential to give birth to a gruesome crime. We must learn to be intolerant to any slight against women no matter how small. Violence against women is an indicator of how our society treats its women and not of how individuals behave.

    We need to be especially careful with all juvenile crimes and our juvenile homes need to be better equipped with more sensitive individuals who don’t treat them as young criminals but as troubled minds that need help. If this does not happen juvenile homes end up being breeding grounds for more aggression and violence.

    We should teach our children gender equality along with sexuality education highlighting the importance and difference between the biological roles. This should happen not only in principle but also in practice. This will come about when we stop blaming girls who complain of sexual abuse and absolve the guilty because he is in a position of power in the family. This will happen when every girl child is wanted, dowry is an obsolete word and women are given equal opportunity. Only then will we have a truly modern society where our daughters can go out without apprehension, will not need pepper sprays and can express themselves without fear.

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