For anybody whose once normal everyday life was suddenly shattered by an act of
sexual violenceï¿½ the trauma, the terror, can shatter you long after one horrible
attack. It lingers. You don't know where to go or who to turn toï¿½and people are
more suspicious of what you were wearing or what you were drinking, as if it's
your fault, not the fault of the person who assaulted youï¿½We still don't condemn
sexual assault as loudly as we should. We make excuses, we look the other way.Laws won't be enough unless we change the culture that allows assault to
happen in the first place.
The global statistics on sexual assault against women are shocking. At least one
in every five women experiences rape or attempted rape during her lifetime.
According to government data, nearly four women are raped every hour in this
country. Realistically speaking, that means only about 90 women each day find
the courage to report that they have been sexually violated. The real number ï¿½
probably way higher ï¿½ never gets captured as many rapes go unreported, buried
under shame, confusion and fear.
Public data also shows that the majority of rapes are often perpetrated by
persons known to the victim, including family and neighbours. Reporting this
often risks inviting stigma on the victim rather than on the accused because, in
our rancid rape culture, some of us also question victim's behaviour that
brought on predators.
For the brave few who overcome this social assault, there are more tribulations
to be had ï¿½ from truculent cops, legal cases that go on for months, and even
death. Most recently, a young 23-year-old woman from Unnao, Uttar Pradesh,
succumbed to injuries after five men, including the rape accused, chased her
down and burned her alive as she was on her way to meet her lawyers in the
morning. This wasn't the first attempt to gag her.
In Telangana, a 27-year-old veterinarian was set on fire after being gang-raped.
The suspects were caught and later were killed in an alleged police 'encounter'.
Cheered by the public, this 'justice as revenge' has been condemned by the
Supreme Court chief justice.
Despite all of this, the discourse has centred on women. Telangana chief
minister K Chandrashekar Rao told transport workers to keep women workers away
from night-shift roles ï¿½reinforcing that the onus on staying safe is on women.
This is a misguided approach. It is men who should be held accountable for a
problem that has everything to do with them, and nothing to do with women. That
problem is a culture of misogyny, aggressiveness and normalised sexual abuse
To even begin an attempt to alter this, we need a robust conversation around
men, which has to begin in schools, public fora and highest offices. Boys have
to be taught that it's wrong to talk disparagingly about women, feel up girls
surreptitiously, make lewd remarks and leer at them. This cannot be left to
It should be a part of the school curriculum from primary school onwards, where
attitudes are shaped. For older students, gender sensitisation classes and tests
should be mandatory. Violence against women is so deeply rooted in India, that
this sensitisation should be prioritised as much as basic reading and writing
skills. Girls must be encouraged to be strong, vocal and intolerant of
transgressions, however small.
Workplaces must crack down on men who make sexualised jokes, even of the 'water
cooler' kind. We should stop taking sexually offensive banter lightly, because
it leads to a desensitisation, which starts casually and eventually normalises
Most importantly, public office bearers and role models need to stop blaming
women for their choice of dress or work hours, because that does nothing to make
India safer for women.
Instead, it emboldens male vulturine behaviour and robs women of their
potential, by forcing them to cut short their work or leisure activities.
In the meantime, the most immediate solution is to set up a special law
enforcement arm that deals with sexual offences. India's police force, heavily
overworked, mostly desensitised and routinely pulled in different directions,
can no longer be counted on to devote the time and dedication needed to deal
with this deep and wide social issue.
The government must set up a special unit that recruits and trains officers
specifically to deal with sexual offences, and create easy access to doctors,
forensic experts, rape survivors and psychologists. This will help victims feel
confident in coming forward to seek justice. All registered offences must be
dealt with by this unit within a month using fast-track courts. Predators must
know that justice is swift and favourable to victims. India's approach to
curbing sexual aggression must steer clear of diminishing women, and root out
reckless patriarchal attitudes instead.
Who Is Responsible Of Rapes In India?A Country Of Over 7.8 Billions People?
When one of the four men sentenced to death in the 2012 Nirbhaya gangrape
case was quoted in a documentary by BBC's Leslee Udwin as saying:
ï¿½A girl is far
more responsible for rape than a boy,ï¿½ he repeated something that is arguably
deep-rooted in the minds of the people of India -- A woman is responsible for
"A decent girl won't roam around at 9 o'clock at night.Housework and
housekeeping is for girls, not roaming in discos and bars at night doing wrong
things, wearing the wrong clothes," Mukesh Singh said in the
documentary, India's Daughter, which was banned in India. The documentary was
outlawed by the Indian authorities on the grounds of "objectionable content".
"If a girl is dressed decently, a boy will not look at her in the wrong way,"
Khattar once told reporters, "Freedom has to be limited. These short clothes are
Western influences. Our country's tradition asks girls to dress decently."
Largely, men are following the precedent set by their country's leaders and
beliefs of the society that they live in.
Following the gut-wrenching rape and murder of a 26-year-old veterinary doctor
in Telangana --one that sent the country into collective turmoil reminding
people of the horrific 2012 Nirbhaya case-- Hyderabad Police launched a 14-tip
advisory for women or girls on how to be safe while travelling.
So Who Is Responsible For Rape?
It is men who rape and men who can collectively have the power to end rape.This
will only begin to happen when men cease blaming women for rape.
Over the years in the history of violence against women, women are just as
vulnerable as before. Their daily lives are ruled by fear. There is nothing
wrong or politically incorrect in saying that a woman who has not been molested,
groped, stared at or has to go through the horror of being raped, is just lucky,
especially in a country where rape cases rule the news every day.
Still Men Aren't Told Not To Rape!
And if they raise their voice against rape culture and fear of men, most men are
quick to resort to #NotAllMen and whataboutery, completely undermining the fact
that it is the social conditioning of men because of which this problem exists,
and women have a fair share of their contribution to this.
Men who feel women should not be free to live as they wish aren't abnormal or
monsters, but a by-product of our own society. They are also well-educated,
decent men trying to do their best for their families.
Most men, and also women, are of the view that a woman must be covered, look
respectable, must not smoke or drink and under any circumstances, should not
show flesh because it will only lead a man to have ï¿½bad thoughtsï¿½ about her.
Going by these beliefs and logic, what was the fault of the eight-month-old
infant who was raped by her teenage neighbour? Was she dressed inappropriately?
Was she drinking or smoking? Or she wasn't looking respectable enough?
The day society realizes the truth behind the answers to these questions, there
is hope. Otherwise, Indian women will continue to live in a world 'of the men,
by the men, for the men.'
Written By Yashwi Verma
- Economic Times Of India
- MIT School Of Law
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