With the recent rape and murder of Dr. Priyanka Reddy and the question of what do we do grappling the collective consciousness of our society, there are a few things that we definitely need to understand to even be able to sympathize what women are fighting for, have been fighting for, and will be fighting for, for decades to come.
When we have questions like what do we to protect women? What do we do to ensure justice? What do we do to prevent more women from being raped? What does a woman have to do to not get raped?
What we need to do is change the language first. In a country where 90% of the rape cases do not even get reported, where women are snatched and raped on their way to public washrooms, where young girls are openly molested and raped in their homes, we need to change the language of rape. We need to stop asking the woman to adapt to changes and start talking about the offenders as offenders. Where our media and print reportage about molestation, harassment and rape; always focuses on the victims, we need the focus to be on the offender. The fact of the matter is: don’t rape. The shift from don’t get raped to don’t rape is what we need as a society.
In a country where rape makes us victim blame, where the word rape makes us immediately have thoughts of what was she wearing, where was she raped, what time was it, was she drunk, was she out with other men, we need to change the narrative to who were the men who raped her, were they aware of the consequences of this crime, how did they find it so easily accessible to just rape and leave.
In a country where we’re asking for lynchings, hangings and castration of rapists, we need to set an example because our country is used to rape. Our offenders are used to raping and living their life thinking they’ve hit the peak of their masculinity and they can do it again. Our victims are used to being raped, used to changing their lifestyles to internalize victim-blaming and not travelling at night, not wearing short clothes, not being ‘provocative’, not ‘asking for it’.
When women have been repeatedly asking for safer cities, getting raped on these streets and not getting any justice, the argument is if there are more women on the streets then more women will get used to coming out and claiming their cities. Once again what is shameful and feared by every woman are these public spaces. What this month and the rape cases that have come forward has highlighted is that our public spaces are male-dominated, and in need of help it is men who will come forward. With the Noida rape case, where the men who were supposed to ‘protect’ this 16-year old girl turned into offenders tell you that women cannot trust men. They cannot trust anyone to come to their rescue, and the need for infantilizing these rape cases and appointing male protectors is what needs to be changed now.
When we look at Dr. Reddy and see another Nirbhaya, when we look at a 25 year old student gang-raped on Ranchi and see another Nirbhaya, when we look at Roja raped and hanged to death in Tamil Nadu and see another Nirbhaya, when we see a 14 year old girl raped in Gujarat and see another Nirbhaya, when we see an 11 year old girl who was held captive for three days and raped by an auto-driver in Chandigarh and see another Nirbhaya, we see that all these rape cases occurred in a single day and we did not look at the offenders.
What is it that make men rape? What is it that gives a human enough courage to violate another human’s body and even kill this body after defiling it? And in our country, what idiotic ideology are our lawmakers following when they make these offenders marry their rape victims? According to studies, offender logic promotes clothes as one of the main factors of rape. But instead of focusing on what makes a rapist rape? We need to think about why do we have so many rape cases. In our country, rape is almost an epidemic. A journalist once told me that they actually filter out rape reports because a news-bulletin cannot all be about rape. We cannot even begin to understand the number of molestation, harassment and rape cases that do not make it to the mainstream consciousness and that the biggest problem. This country is not safe for its citizens, this country is not safe for women.
Since the beginning of my understanding of the word rape, I have always been told that it is a bad word and should be used as less as possible. When we have an ideology that tries to invisibilize this word, how can we presume to fight this battle?
When the question of changing the narrative comes up, we also have to understand that we cannot separate rapists from being humans. These rapists are people who we see, we know, we grow up, we pass on streets, we sit next to in buses, who drive our public transport, who have access to money and power, and these are people. They’re people. These offenders are not born with horns, they inculcate ideas that make them believe that they have power over a woman’s bodies.
Think about the culture that we live in, the history that we have of subjugating women and then tell me if these many rape cases are actually still shocking? Our offenders see the movies we see, the songs we listen to, the news we watch, they share the same hyper-masculine ideologies that we go in circles with. They’re shown that grabbing a woman or playing with her Sari is flirting, they’re shown that they have inherent access to a sports field and no girl will be more powerful, they listen to songs that tell them a no can turn into a yes, they see movies where slapping wives is okay and every marriage has its ups and downs, they’re told that women are angels in the house, that sex sacred for women but men can go around looking at women with short skirts as properties, they’re told that they not only have right to their own bodies but a also the right to treat any other body as theirs, they’re told to be persistent, they’ve all seen the example of the rapist who have jailed for seven years and raped his victim again as soon as he completed his sentence, they’re shown that if being caught can lead to criminal action then you kill and maim and don’t get caught, they’re taught that being masculine means subjugating women, but they’re also taught repression.
As a society, we’ve pedestalized sex from the beginning of time. Our scriptures show instances of women having to go through ‘tests of purity’ to show that they are still ‘worthy’ of being with their great, empowered husbands. The men have never had to go through these tests.
We’ve always relegated sex to a married household’s dark bedroom, where the end-product is procreation. As a society, we have never questioned desire or promoted it, especially female desire or non-desire. The boundary of consent and non-consent comes from this insane repression that we have reproduced for so long. Where we cannot talk about sex, wanting to have sex, what do we do if we can’t have sex, how do we relieve this urge? This repression then takes the violent form of eve-teasing, harassment, small touches that give you pleasure, molestation and rape. We’re fighting a battle where we need to change the ideology itself. A battle where the problem cannot be put in boxes of illiterate rapists, unemployed rapists, repressed rapists, mentally unstable rapists. We need to shift the weight of the narrative from just women to people.