Saturday, 26 April 2014

On Rape : Part IV

Now we come to the issue of the role that society and popular culture play in propagating and promoting rape.

In India, movies and television are the most prominent sources of mass entertainment, and influence minds from the age of 3 to 103. Stereotypes idolized in popular films are the biggest culprits when it comes to theorizing the idea that women are raped when they provoke or sexually excite the villain. A show of cleavage or bare legs, a wet saree, a woman bathing and the likes are justified as incitement to rape. In the '70s and the '80s, rape scenes were ubiquitous in films. In fact, rape scenes themselves were a sub-type of entertainment, titillating the young and the old alike. What can be sicker than that?! Another stereotype that has always been present in Indian films in all languages down the ages is that women like men to "tease" them. Touching a woman or kissing a woman against her wishes is alright since that is what women actually want in their "heart-of-hearts". That physically assaulting the woman is the best way to make her fall in love. And the molester or the assaulter, for I cannot bring myself to use the word "teaser" for one perpetrating molestation in the name of "teasing", would be the hero, the good guy, with a heart of gold, who would save his mother, his sister and any strange woman from all kinds of troubles, who would fight the bad guys and in the end, save the day or the world, or whatever he was created to save. Thus, molestation is given societal sanction through films, even in this day and age.

Again, by propagating myths like "the woman asked for it", as discussed in the previous post, society washes its hands off over its role in rape. Such statements take the responsibility off society as a whole, and the perpetrator in particular, and put it squarely on the victim's head. The fact that the victim is also a part of society is deliberately scored out, thus making the victim a social outcast in every way.

We also need to take a look at the perpetrators, as sometimes they become perpetrators because they themselves are victims. Victims of lop-sided and non-inclusive development. Victims of hunger, poverty, illiteracy and lack of education. Victims of sexual abuse and violence. Victims living a life like a scene from a chamber of hell. Victims of repressed anger and violence, that get expressed in the form of pinning down a hapless woman with sheer brute force and violating her. And again, it is society which is responsible for this scenario, by ensuring that all power is the fief of a small "elitocracy", while the rest are denied the fulfillment of even basic human needs. A person forced to live an animal's life cannot think or behave like a civilized human being. A young boy, who grows up watching his father abusing his mother daily, and even his sisters occasionally, corporeally and sexually, in the one-room shack that is shared by the whole family of maybe six, or eight, or ten, or who knows how many, cannot be expected to grow up having an awful lot of respect for a woman or her rights. 

But, why, one would ask, would women also support the myth of "she asked for it"? The reasons are many. Rape is a very brutal crime to wrap one's head around. It is scary, irrational, illogical, unpredictable. It is stigmatic for survivors. It makes every woman feel insecure because rape can happen anywhere; on the streets, at the work place, on public transport, at a public place, at a friend's place, in a party, and the worst of them all, in one's own home.  So, blaming the victim is a way of rationalizing the crime. It must be something the victim did, and since I don't do whatever she did, I'm safe.  Woman who crave for the freedom of living an independent life, find fault in the women who do so and fall victims to rape. This channel of thought helps them come to terms with and to justify their dependent existence. Women who are going crazy thinking about how to protect themselves, their daughters, their sisters and their friends from becoming victims, articulate that being safe is better than being sorry. Hence, why tempt fate by wearing revealing clothes, going out alone, staying out late and making friends with men and boys. These precautions are all that they have control over, and they hope and pray that this much is much enough for protection.

There is a substantial section of society that still believes that there is nothing wrong with rape. Men are superior to women. Women were created to please, nurture and reproduce men. Yes, even reproduce men, for no one wants a daughter in the family. So men are free to treat women as they like. Even violate them. So no one questions marital rape, not even law. It is a woman's duty to please her husband sexually and if she does not oblige, she can be brutally reminded of who is the master. She deserves to be punished for denying sex. So, this becomes another from of "punishment rape". Since many women also subscribe to these beliefs, because of what they have witnessed as children and have been brought up to believe, they are willing accomplices in such crimes. They feel powerless to stop such crimes. At the same time, the belief that men and women are equals as humans, creates cognitive dissonance in their minds. So, they change their cognition to the school of thought that believes women are inferior to men, and it is their lot to suffer in silence. That is why a battle-weary mother, tired and bruised physically and psychologically from the non-stop onslaught of physical and sexual violence from her husband, does not mind or feel any guilt, if her daughter takes her place, as the proverbial lamb to the slaughter, once in a while, so that she herself gets the time and space needed to mend her body and spirit enough, to face the next onslaught.

So, there you are, men and women of our society. There is enough food for thought. Enough to chew on. Go chew. And don't run away from your responsibility. You are an integral part of the "system" which allows the existence and perpetration of this crime called rape.


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