The protests at India’s rape capital continue, but that doesn’t seem to have deterred the “macho” men of the nation. Since the protests broke out, there have only been more reports of child-rape, gang-rape, rape and murder from all over the country. In the preceding week itself, there were two consecutive rapes in the town of Malda in West Bengal- on Wednesday evening a house-wife returning from her shopping was kidnapped by a few men in a car and gang-raped, the very next day- a 16 year old girl who was going to her aunt’s place was picked in a car at gun-point, taken to a hotel and raped through the night. The main accused, called Kalam Sheikh is apparently a student of a local college. He’s gone missing since then, but his family has been quick to pressurize the girl’s family to lift the complaint with an added benevolent gesture- an offer of marriage. And because there are no protests breaking out over these women, there has been no arrests made so far. All round, it’s all fair and lovely.
Here’s an article by Anjali Mehta, an eye-surgeon. I’m copy-pasting it because unfortunately, while there are laws to mark rape as a crime, and rapists as criminals, we as a population haven’t quite grasped a few basics. Here goes:
24 December 2012
Blaming women for the atrocities committed on them is nothing but a perverse denial that can extract a high social cost, writes anjali mehta
One of my patients came for a check-up and we got talking. He was a man I thought highly of, therefore I was deeply saddened when he made the casual remark: “In more than 80 per cent cases it is the woman’s fault when she is molested.” I was too stunned to speak so sat in silence while he recounted how women ‘defy’ their parents and stay out late at night, hang out with boys, wear alluring clothes and so on. He explained that by this deviant and provocative behaviour women brought on all this sexual violence upon themselves.
When he finished speaking, I told him I would like to ask him three questions and he must give me a patient hearing and answer them. To his credit, he did.
In a classroom, a teacher goes out for a few minutes. In the teacher’s absence, most students continue their studies quietly. One child is bored. He talks to his neighbours and tries to induce them to indulge in some mischief with him, but they continue studying and largely ignore him. Feeling left out and irritated that no one is joining in his pranks, this child then gets up and goes to the chalk box and starts throwing chalks at everyone. The class is disrupted .The teacher comes back and sees what is happening.
Should he counsel the boy who threw chalks or should he counsel the neighbours of the boy who did not agree to play pranks with him, leading to his resorting to chalk-throwing?
My patient answered that obviously the boy who threw the chalk should be counselled.
We both agreed that the person who commits the wrong act is the one who is at fault.
A very handsome young man comes out of a popular gymnasium in his cut-off T–shirt. His aquiline looks and well-toned body win him many admiring glances from women. Two girls who know him offer him a lift and he accepts. En-route, the girls stop at a house, pretending to collect something. Soon many women come out of the house and he is forcibly taken inside and his clothes removed and body admired. Till this point he is actually half-enjoying the attention and feeling he must be as irresistible as the men in the Axe ads. Suddenly, the women start touching him roughly. At this point he begins to feel uncomfortable and feels that things may be going too far. He protests, only to find that his refusal has enraged the women. Two of them have been abused in childhood and they feel this is a good opportunity to vent their frustration and anger at what happened some years ago. They thrash him soundly for not submitting to them and leave him lying there. He is greatly bruised all over, thoroughly bewildered and angry about what has happened to him.
Are the girls guilty in this case for molesting the boy or is it his fault for being good-looking and toning up his body to be more attractive to the opposite sex?
My patient answered that obviously it was the girls’ fault.
We both agreed again that the person who commits the wrong act is the one who is at fault.
Indians, like all races, admire beauty. As P B Shelley said ‘A thing of beauty is a joy forever’. Since mankind came into existence, beauty has been considered a highly desirable quality in humans. Statues are lovingly and skillfully carved, poems are written, paintings done, clothing and jewellery designed, all as an ode to beauty. Beautiful women (both external and internal beauty), have been the inspiration for many a creative soul. The same can be said of beautiful men. Earlier folks seemed to know just what to do with beauty. They took it in their stride; they handled it well. Now beauty is deemed a distraction by some; an evil quality meant to cause man to stray.
Should we hope and pray that all our children are born ugly? Should we dress up girls and boys in sack cloths so that the vulnerable and delicate minds of criminally-inclined people are not pushed over the edge? Or should adults be more responsible for their own thinking and (mature) actions?
My patient answered that he hoped most people grew up with healthy minds and attitudes.
We both agreed that adults should take responsibility for their own thoughts and actions and not use environmental justification for misdeeds. We both felt beauty ought to be admired and not destroyed.
When we blame somebody else, it is a way of absolving ourselves of any responsibility. Till the time people continue to feel that it is a girl who brings this upon herself, they will not feel any great motivation to participate in the issue. The truth is however, different. A wrong has been done, in front of our eyes and we must right it and prevent more wrongs. We must not be mute and silent witnesses to wrongful acts perpetrated in our presence. We have to work together to change things for the better. All must contribute their honest share and might. We must worry not only about our daughters when they stay out late; we need to worry equally when our sons stay out late, drinking and partying.
Yes, common sense dictates that people, especially girls, should not be out alone in the dark at night. Common sense dictates that women should move about in groups and not consume drinks offered to them by strangers at a party as they may be laced. Yes, they should not take lifts from men. However, it takes a very unfeeling and brutal mind to conclude that someone should pay for their momentary lack of judgement or common sense with their honour or their life.
A small note on the ending though: Here’s the idea again. A woman once raped loses her ‘honour’. For rapes to stop, this is another concept that needs to change. Perhaps we should start at school? Teach them that a woman is as equal a human being as a man and not merely an embodiment of some abstract honour. Shuddhabrata Sengupta has an excellent article where he dwells on length on this subject, so do read.
Post-Script: Just to end the day:
24 December 2012
BURDWAN, 24 DEC: A three-year-old child was raped inside a jungle at Katwa today. Some women who were collecting dried leaves in Kuldanga jungle were alarmed by the barking of stray dogs. To their utter surprise they found a frantic girl child making her last-ditch bid to defend herself from the attacking dogs, lying without clothes on the ground. Her legs were tied up and she was bleeding profusely.
Mrs Sohagi Das of Parul village in Katwa said: “It was dreadful to see the child deserted by the hoodlums. We picked up the fallen branches of trees and hounded out the two dogs and picked up the child who couldn’t speak and was frightened.”
The women took the child home and informed police. The Additional Superintendent of Police, Mr Tarun Haldar, directed the child be taken to Katwa SD Hospital where she was given saline. The Chief Medical Officer of Burdwan, Dr Asit Baran Samanta, rushed to Katwa hospital to supervise treatment of the child.
Mr S M H Meerza, SP, Burdwan, said: “The child seems to be highly scared and is not in a position to speak. We will try to ascertain whether she can help us identify the accused.”
I can’t even begin to comprehend the minds behind such acts. This is sick on so many levels- where do I even begin? The rape of a three year old child, tying up her legs and leaving her to die a slow death…
A capital punishment is too easy for them.
And oh, if you’ve got suggestions to make about punishments for rape and sexual assault, send in your opinions here:
I suggest public, if non-violent shaming. And rigorous life-imprisonment where life isn’t just equal to 14 years or less.
More importantly, I want to live in a country where rapists are arrested without a whole city having to come down to the streets. The police shouldn’t be arresting criminals to placate the crowd. They should do it because they are supposed to. And no bails.