At a time when every politician, no matter what colour, is crying foul, every judge and lawyer, no matter what their loyalties, is joining the chorus, every policeperson, no matter from where, is adding his/her voice, it is worth remembering some key things. First, more than 90 per cent of rapes are committed by people known to the victim/survivor, a staggering number of rapists are family members. When we demand the death penalty, do we mean therefore that we should kill large numbers of uncles, fathers, brothers, husbands, neighbours? How many of us would even report cases of rape then? What we’re seeing now — the slow, painful increase in even reports being filed — will all disappear. Second, the death penalty has never been a deterrent against anything — where, for example, is the evidence that death penalties have reduced the incidence of murders? Quite apart from the fact that the State should never be given the right to take life, there is an argument to be made that imposing the death penalty will further reduce the rate of conviction, as no judge will award it.</blockquote>
Then, and this is something that women’s groups grasped long ago: a large number of rapes are committed in custody, many of these by the police. Mathura was raped by two policemen, Rameezabee was raped inside a police station by police personnel, Suman Rani was raped by policemen. There are countless other cases: will we hang all police rapists? Put together, that’s a lot of people to hang.
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Rape happens everywhere: it happens inside homes, in families, in neighbourhoods, in police stations, in towns and cities, in villages, and its incidence increases, as is happening in India, as society goes through change, as women’s roles begin to change, as economies slow down and the slice of the pie becomes smaller — and it is connected to all these things. Just as it is integrally and fundamentally connected to the disregard, and indeed the hatred, for females that is so evident in the killing of female foetuses. For so widespread a crime, band aid solutions are not the answer.
Protest is important, it shakes the conscience of society, it brings people close to change, it makes them feel part of the change. And there is a good chance that the current wave of protests will lead to at least some results — perhaps even just fast track courts. But perspective is also important: we need to ask ourselves: if it had been the army in Manipur or Kashmir who had been the rapists, would we have protested in quite the same way? Very likely not, for there nationalism enters the picture. Remember Kunan Posphpora in the late nineties when the Rajasthan Rifles raped over 30 women? Even our liberal journalists found it difficult to credit that this could have happened, that the army could have been capable of this, and yet, the people of Kunan Poshpora know. Even today, women from this area find it difficult to marry — stigma has a long life. Would we have been as angry if the rape had taken place in a small town near Delhi and the victim had been Dalit? Remember Khairlanji? Why did that rape, of a mother and her daughter, gruesome, violent, heinous, and their subsequent murder not touch our consciences in quite the same way.
It is important to raise our collective voice against rape. But rape is not something that occurs by itself. It is part of the continuing and embedded violence in society that targets women on a daily basis. Let’s raise our voices against such violence and let’s ask ourselves how we, in our daily actions, in our thoughts, contribute to this, rather than assume that the solution lies with someone else. Let’s ask ourselves how we, our society, we as people, create and sustain the mindset that leads to rape, how we make our men so violent, how we insult our women so regularly, let’s ask ourselves how privilege creates violence.
[LINK] "Let’s ask how we contribute to rape"
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