The country is alive and baying for blood. From 15-year-old schoolgirls with the Head Girl instinct to frantic face-bookers to middle-aged wannabes eager to cosy up to Kiran Bedi –the air around us is amuck with opinions on rape. The terrible crime in the Delhi bus has got us all demanding change. But how?
One way would be to change the laws. We could make an example of the young men in this case, draw and quarter them in public (in a flash of ‘fast-tracking’). But, as we all know, the laws will never be changed because too many of our law makers are on the wrong side of the law.
Perhaps, then, local governments could implement schemes to make urban spaces safer for women. In Pune, a new mandate declares, plainclothes policemen will patrol college campuses. And who will guarantee that these very policemen could be trusted to fulfil their noble mission? After all, Pune policemen are better known for accepting bribes at traffic lights and charging money to file FIRs than for actually doing anything to prevent or solve crimes.
Can we then rely on the media to sensitize us to the rights and responsibilities of the gender that is physically stronger? Well – in the very week of this ghastly rape, a prominent magazine has published its periodic survey on sexual attitudes. And instead of a sociological picture of changing mores in urban India, it is a collection of titillating visuals alongside weak statistics that seem devised to prompt you to pull out and measure your own equipment.
Sadly enough, even the Indian education system seems to have let us down. Smart urbanites still seem to think that rape could be reduced by legalizing prostitution!
But rape is not about sex. Rape is about dominance, it is about violence. Men do not rape women because they need a sexual outlet. The truth is that a desperately horny man usually has a hand (or two) that he can rely on. If a woman wears clothes that reveal her body parts, it’s a perfectly normal biological reaction for a man to feel aroused. Instead of attacking and violating her, however, civilized men sidle off to a private corner and make their own arrangements to get over it. It is a terrible mistake to assign rape to an eager sex drive. Men who rape are giving reign to their brute, demonic instinct and not to the very ordinary human instinct for sex. Until law makers understand this, until we find ways to spread this simple message, men will continue to rape women under pretext of this organic and in fact rather noble function.
The brutal bus rape in Delhi will stay alive in the headlines for a long time to come, but there are rapes happening every day, all around us, that are never going to be reported. The women who are staying silent are being violated by their family members, neighbours, colleagues – not just strangers. By telling women to cover themselves we are only making them so ashamed of their bodies that when they are raped, they blame themselves. It’s not just the laws we have to change – we have to work much harder and change something deep inside us too. As Indians, we have traditionally repressed women, denying them self-expression and condoning ill-treatment worse than rape: women are covered up, aborted, even killed, to protect a man’s ‘honour’. Apparently this is ok, because men worship their mothers and sisters. If we really want things to change we must nurture human dignity and consign some of it the more vulnerable, and more precious half.
first appeared in Pune Mirror on 22 Dec 2012