Sunday, March 17, 2013

Rape and Society

Pratyasha Gupta

Rape”-Though a small word with four letters, it conveys a meaning of a very horrible experience a woman undergoes. It destroys the life of its victim both social and psychological which results in her committing suicide or living the entire life with the feeling of shame, guilt, isolation and apathy that society imposes on her. I don’t know which one is worse-the death of the body or the torture of the soul. Rape and other sexual assaults are the only crime, the only atrocity in which, the victim is seen as the culprit and the real culprit, those men who are sexual offenders go without any criticism. No one in society in general, thinks or cares about the torture the victims face and willingly turn a blind eye about the fact that the torture and suffering experienced by the rape victims are more psychological than physical. In case of physical suffering it is right to blame only the rapist as the culprit, but in case of psychological suffering, the whole society, especially the people in immediate surroundings in which the victim lives after the incident share the blame. And it’s not just one or two cases in a month; it’s been like a ritual. From past few years, not a day goes by without a news report about someone or the other being raped or sexually assaulted.

Whenever a rape case catches the fancy of the media and the society at large, people react saying punish the guilty, but the question is- Who is the guilty? Who is the real culprit? Is it just the one person who commits the act, the one who thinks that every woman in the country is made for his pleasure, to fulfill his fantasy? Or the whole society, which has no idea about how many of such maniacs are hiding inside it due to the society being blind towards the offender and instead showing apathy and condemnation towards the victim?

It doesn’t mean I am not in favor to punish the guilty. He must definitely be punished, as whomever he is or whatever may be his past, under whatever circumstances he may have been raised, he always had a choice to do the right or to do the easy. Yes, it must have been very easy and definitely very enjoyable for him to pick a girl, rape her, kill/abandon her and run away but it was not right at all. I am a Woman and if you ask me, I will tell you that I am not able to forget a single incident of molestation I had faced in my life. And there is not a single woman I have come across who has not faced at least one incident of eve-teasing or molestation during their life time. Sometimes it may be your own collogues at offices or someone whom you recognize from your neighborhood and at other times, it may be some random guy on street. All the incidents might not be brutal but they hurt the victim very deeply. It is something that the victim can never forget.

If this is the state of women who have faced molestation, then is it even possible to imagine the condition of the women who have been brutally raped? As time passes by the rapist may forget the incident, but how will she, the victim (if by any chance she lives, after this horrible incident) forget the experience ever? And as a ‘responsible’ society what do we do? How do “We”, the people of the society react? We make a gossip out of it. We tell it to others with colorful phrases like “Oh that poor girl, she has been raped” or “You know what so-and-so has been raped” showing fake sympathy. Or we react by completely ending any relationship we or anybody we know had with that victim. This is a shameful reaction. These people often forget that, the raped woman could have been their spouse, their daughter or sister. The phrase “could have been a part of our own family” has become pretty popular these days but have achieved nothing. It only goes to show that these are nothing but empty words without any genuine concern or care towards the victim. Then of course there is also the fear in many household of getting shunned and abandoned by society if they are seen as remotely sympathetic or helping the victim. So ultimately, the result is,  a woman who has been raped but who wishes to start life all over again by forgetting the horrible incident, is forced by the society to re-live the experience again and again without being ever able to over-come them, forget them. This means, that after being victimized once by a person or a group of people, she becomes the victim for the life-time because of us, the society.

There are few cases where, a girl has been kidnapped, raped, then been sold, again raped, and it continued for days and sometimes months. I find myself going blank when I think about such incidents; I don’t know what to write. The pain of the victim here is beyond my imagination. I don’t understand how a person, a ‘man’ can be so sick to involve in such a heinous act. Does he really deserve to be called a “man”? And knowing that this kind of people are living among us, gives me shrills.

Every other day we get to hear from one or the other politicians, educationists or even the common men and women of the neighborhood give out flimsy reasons for sexual crimes like women are at fault because they wear revealing clothes or that the girl who was raped was of questionable character etc. I have few simple questions for such people. What about villages? Are they free from rapes? Women at villages mostly wear either sarees or salwar suits.Why do  they also face the same assaults as Urban women? And what about kids and older women, what revealing clothes they may wear to get raped?  Do small children understand anything about sex? What about some of the Muslim women who wear Hijab and Burqa, all their life and still get raped? Therefore, there is no guarantee that if the woman is all covered up, she wouldn’t be raped. Women will continue to face sexual assaults till the time society keeps forwarding such excuses, till the time, they are going to be blamed for it. As long as society does not stand with the woman, who is a victim, support her, support her fight to retain her honor, I do not think there is any solution at all. All the laws passed and implemented will become useless, if a change in society’s attitude towards women is not brought.  Until the time, society does not consider women are its integral part, and honor their freedom, their dignity, until every person both men and women understand their duties and perform it, the issue of sexual assaults or any other kind of crime will not end.

Recently as many cases of rapes came to light, bizarre commentaries of our leaders began to catch the headlines as well. One was “lowering marriage age can stop rapes”. Basically the idea behind this was to provide every guy, a girl, as soon as possible so that instead of him picking up a girl from outside, he will have one as his own property to rape and assault whenever he wish for and there will be no complaints as everything will happen within the ambit of ‘marriage’. Firstly, the very idea of sexual abuse in the name of marriage is disgusting to say the least. Secondly, even if for arguments sake we accept the proposition that marriage is solution to rape, we need to ask ourselves- Whether all the men who committed rape were unmarried? Whether the women who faced the abuse were all unmarried? The answer is a straight “NO”. Marriages and Rapes have no co-relation.

Another statement by a politician that made headlines was by Mamata Banerjee, the chief minister of West Bengal who said “Rapes happening because men and women are interacting more freely”. The statement makes no sense at all. She is a woman and she is a politician. Nobody can survive in public life without interacting with other people both men and women. Not all interaction between opposite sexes is about sex. People interact for number of reasons both personal and professional. It is very immature to suggest that free interaction leads to sexual crimes. Are our leaders suggesting that our society be talibanized, where all personal rights and liberty of women are violated? Because it is horrible if we expect our girls not to interact with people or cover themselves from head to toe or get married in their teenage.

There are many more such commentaries passed by our leaders every other day. But all these statements prove one thing for sure that this is the real face of our society as these people in power are selected by us and not by some foreigners. We came to know about their opinions because these people are well known personalities. Their opinions in a sense reflect the mindset of the entire society. It is the society which has supported and sustained these leaders and their prejudiced, immature and highly disturbing mentality. And as long as this mindset of looking down on womenfolk, blaming them for every issue, trying to control them and exploit them prevails in the society, nothing no law, no sermons, no protests can stop the rapes and other sexual crimes from happening. 

The next issue I would like to write about is the kind of movies & songs the Bollywood is producing. I am not against the movie industry as a whole, but only to its increasing portrayal of women as Sexual objects.  The songs with a vulgar lyrics and an actress dancing to that surrounded by 20 to 30 people lurking for her has become very common in the recently produced movies. This portrayal of women is not only offending to women but also encourages such views and opinions that already exist in the society. No accountability and moral responsibility is exhibited in the movies that are made. I believe that, Bollywood is leading the society in a wrong direction just for the sake of business. Why I said leading is because there are lot many people who are inspired from these movies, their actors and actresses.  Many of them try to ape the things that they see in the movies. Further, the Bollywood’s portrayal of women as a sexual object in a sense justifies and reinforces the perversions of many people who view women as nothing but objects to be used for pleasure and for producing kids.

It’s not totally the mistake of Bollywood as such because they are making and selling such movies because people at large are buying it. But should the movie-making be reduced to pure business taking art, creativity and moral responsibility out of the equation? Who is making sex look uglier day by day? Who is presenting sex as the one and only purpose of life? Visual mediums do leave a deeper imprint on the viewer’s mind. Should there be no accountability and responsibility attached to those who produce the movies?

After the Delhi bus rape case, lots of questions are rising in my mind; the most striking one is “what if I was one of them who saw her unconscious in the need of help, would I have helped her?” It’s very easy to say a yes but the truth is I just don’t know the answer. But one thing is for sure that I don’t want to see any girl in such a horrible state ever. And if I do, I don’t want to back off. Just giving a rape victim names like “Damini, nirbhaya, jagruti, amanat” or lighting candles to protest is not going to solve the problem. Helping her when she is in need is a must. I wonder what the people might be thinking after knowing that the girl that night they avoided was tortured and was in need of help and now is dead. Are they able to live a normal life? Don’t they feel guilty? Don’t they fear that one day one of their family members may suffer in the same way? 

As a girl my only request to the society is that when you find a girl who has been raped, try not to make judgement about her character, there is no girl on earth who would like to be treated as the girl in the “Delhi Bus rape case” has been treated. Even the very thought of such incident scares the hell out of a girl. She is not responsible if some people are thinking filthy about her; it is such people who always find an excuse to sexual harass some girl or defend somebody who does it. The only thing any woman will expect from the society is for them to understand that even she wants to live freely without any fear of any kind and it’s the society’s responsibility to make the world safe for her. Even if she is a prostitute, one has no right to mistreat her. She is a part of society and she deserves your respect. It is my sincere request to every person of the society both men and women alike- if you know some girl who has been raped, then stop treating her as if she is diseased, try to help her in rebuilding her life, inspire her to move on, if possible help in punishing the rapist and make sure that your son or brother doesn’t become one. And if you know someone who is mistreating any girl, take a stand about it? Hiding your girls inside some cabinet wouldn’t save them, if you really wish to save them, help them in living a life as normally as you do. If you do only this much I believe you can change the society at least a little bit. After all “We Are The Society”.