Monday, December 31, 2012

Why Rape?

There has been so much in the media about the Delhi bus rape and subsequent death of the 23 year old medical student. The explosive expressions of public anger against it have been covered live 24X7. Rape has never made so much news before. There have been many points of view about rape, sexual violence, safety of women in public spaces, dress codes, western influence, women's demand for freedom etc. Some of it has been shrill, strident and sensational. Some others have been persuasive, reasoned and balanced. Yet others seek to analyse the reasons for the 'culture of rape' that India seems to have inherited. Some have called for democratic solutions, while others have demanded more stringent laws and punishments for rape. 

The whole gamut of institutions, right from legislature, executive and judiciary has to be involved. This whole machinery needs to function efficiently and effectively to prevent such violent crimes against women. The whole process of justice for a raped woman is an ordeal in itself. Trial drags on for years, police are unsympathetic and insensitive, doctors are ignorant, victim-blaming exists at all levels, conviction rates are very low. The concept of 'bodily integrity' of women and violation of this integrity is generally not heard in public discourse. If it is a dalit or tribal woman who has been raped, then this is not taken into consideration at all. It is as if they can be compensated with a few hundred rupees. 

We need a whole paradigm shift in understanding patriarchy, caste, women's rights, the socio-cultural, socio-religious, socio-political history of our country which is based on domination, heirarchy and control. 

Here are links to some of the better reasoned and well articulated concerns by women themselves on the issue of rape and other sexual violence against women. 

Arundhati Roy calls it India's rape culture. The writer tells Channel 4 News she believes rape is used as a weapon in India and that women in the country are "paying the price".

Meena Kandasamy says 'This cultural sanction of rape must stop, the state has to speak.  The endless discourses of the elite point fingers everywhere: except at the real cause, which is the cultural sanction of rape in India.'
How Do We Break The Indian Penile Code?

Pubali Ray Chaudhuri asks, 'We can make it happen. But will we? She, her entrails torn from her, had yet the courage to fight till her last breath; do we, our bodies intact and whole, have the stomach for our own fight? For it is a fight that we are facing; make no mistake about it; it is a fight. A battle, a war. Against, as I have said here before, India's hatred of women.'
She is Dead, But Can We Be Said to Live?

Akanksha Mehta says 'We participate when we repeatedly use the words alleged and reported before the word rape and sexual assault. We participate when we mourn and remember one victim of rape but forget and ignore thousands of others. We participate when we ‘other' the perpetrators of sexual violence- when we blame the migrant, the laborer, the uncivilized rural outsider, the constructed rapist from the lower religion/caste/class while we absolve ourselves from the hatred we breed.'
We Are All Responsible, We Are All Guilty

 R.B Sreekumar says 'Lofty ideals of gender equality guaranteed by the Indian Constitution is cleverly nullified by socio-religious conventions in our society, by largely adhering to retrogressive customs glorified in the Smritis, particularly of Manu, Vyasa, Parasara and Vasista. Manu Smriti denigrated women, in chapter IX sloka 2 and 3, to slavish depth as part of divine order (Varnalingadharma).'
Recast Traditions For Gender Justice

Cynthia Stephen says 'The justice delivery to women is most neglected. This has to change. As far as possible, judges and prosecutors should be women to enable victims to speak with comfort, especially in the case of rape and sexual violence.'
Why Rapes Against Women And Girls?

There are several other articles and links which will be covered in the next post. Most of these have raised very pertinent questions that need to be focussed and answered. These also emphasise the areas that we need to cover if we honestly hope to find effective solutions to counter rape and violence on women.

1 comment:

  1. One of modernity's axioms is that men are biologically conditioned to be aggressive/ violent. Testosterone, a hunting past, need for defending territory etc, etc, are among the things cited in support of this proposition. Let us assume that this is actually so. In which case, notwithstanding modernity's "better", "more rational" articulation, it seems likely that pre-modern cultures also knew about this bias in male hard wiring. Since both genders are necessary for the survival of the species it seems axiomatic that all human societies would therefore build into their structures measures to curb male predatoriness and violence, especially against the female of the species. Since all pre-modern societies were - by and large - behaviour centric (as contrasted with performance centric modernity), these measures must have aimed at preventing violence against women. Punishment ex post facto was considered a poor substitute for prevention in almost every aspect of life. While one may reject this propensity for per-emptive restraints as being unacceptable under modern conditions, there can be no gainsaying that punishment ex post facto is particularly ineffectual as a remedy in cases of sexual assault, rape etc. In other words, no amount of legislation can prevent rape. Not even the most effioient justice system is capable of catching/ punishing more than a small fraction of rapists. In other words, most rapists will continue to go scot free, irrespective of the changes that may be brought about - in the law and in policing - after the recent incident.

    Clearly, it does not make sense to rely solely upon the deterrent effect to prevent this most heinous of crimes. Yet, I see virtually no likelihood of any changes that would target behaviour and attitude. In the absence of such changes it seems to me as if the whole world, including women, mouth empty slogans knowing full well that very little will change.