After a series of discussions and posts that left me quite disillusioned, a friend asked “so what can we do other than post messages and sign petitions?”
What can we do indeed?
We aren’t the krantikari types, who would fast for days till the laws change. We are cynical enough to believe that they will not change. We have accepted the state of things as our due.
You get ‘eve teased’, you roll your eyes and bear it. You get pinched and mugged, you cry and bear it. You get taken for a ride in a government office, you grit your teeth and bear it.
This isn’t gender specific. This is the way things are.
What do we do?
It is difficult to chart out a plan of action when such a stark question faces you. Because the answer is not in Step 1 and 2, but a series of little things that add up to the big picture.
For instance, let’s not focus on sex. Rape isn’t about lust or sex. If it was only about sex, the Delhi monsters would have thrown the guy who was with the girl out on the street, instead of locking him up and making him live through the misery, and the nightmare for the rest of his life. Making him feel powerless was yet another part of the assault.
This is not a guy vs girl thing. This is about the lack of fear, which perhaps comes from the fact that many find it socially acceptable to do such things.
I do not want to make a reference to Bollywood movies here, or any movies, but since that is the frame of reference that further bolsters these people’s twisted ideas, let us consider it.
Most Indian movies show the female lead reluctant to ‘date’ the ‘hero.’ She does not particularly like him, but that doesn’t really deter him. He goes on to shower her with his unwanted affections through gifts, watching her house though no one calls it stalking, sending her flowers repeatedly, and if nothing else works, planting a big kiss on her. Nobody here calls it molestation, and the girl ends up falling in love with him.
So that’s one point of reference.
The second would the kind of culture they grew up in. Now, in most houses, nobody really says that it is okay to rape. But there is always a tinge of immorality associated with girls who do things that are out of bounds of the ‘society’s conventions’. Like if she married someone of her own will. There is a fair bit of talk about the guy too, but somehow, it is the girl who managed to lure him in. Like the guy is a mindless idiot who cannot make a decision for himself.
Now, anything which goes wrong from there, it would obviously be the girl’s fault, because she dishonoured the family name and hence, deserves it. In smaller towns, this is taken up a notch. If possible, they would drag the girl back home.
And in some cases, beat her up.
Both men and women of a particular generation find nothing wrong in giving the girl a slap or a punch now and then. Perfectly acceptable. You can’t blame this one on the men alone. Women are equal partners. They expect their daughters to be able to take a punch and not come home whining and crying.
So, according to this point of reference, it is okay to beat up woman.
The third would be a complete wrong image of what the opposite sex is all about.
As the famous joke goes, they expect you to never talk to a man all your life and then expect you to have sex with an absolute stranger.
Talking to the opposite sex has a strange aura of danger in most parts of our country. You can talk to your brother, your father and your uncles. Your knowledge of the male psyche is limited to this circle, who probably don’t pay that much attention to you anyway. The men’s exposure is to their mothers, sisters and aunts, all of whom are compelled to praise you and make you think you do nothing wrong.
What happens when these two people clash? A woman who does not know how to talk to a man and a man who is not able to listen to what she has to say.
Of course, the reasoning for rape goes beyond all this into an area of darkness I cannot even fathom. A power trip in the midst of all this?
But maybe this is a starting point… Maybe we can begin examining what the hell we are doing?
Everything is definitely not okay with us when a 5 year old can be raped by her uncle. When a young girl is raped on a train platform. On a moving bus. On an open street. Abused in a local guest house. It is not okay when a group of young adults celebrating a birthday get beaten up and molested.