Women have been reduced to subjugation, including sexual slavery and forced reproduction. We don’t have to look far to see women reduced to purely sexual objects – to be used and disposed. You have seen it in the way the Islamic State dealt with Yazidi women.You have seen this in the stories of horror that came out of the Rwandan civil war. But rape and war have a long history of togetherness. Men kill each other, and the ‘victors’ rape the women in the lands that they conquer. But what is India’s excuse? It is not in any civil war. So what explains the sheer and utter brutality of gang rape and murder in India? What explains the frequency? What explains men wanting to gouge out women’s internal organs or break their spines or burn them alive after the rape? What explains other men and women denying that this even happened, or defending it?
The Hathras gang rape and murder took place on 30 September, when a 19-year-old Dalit woman went to the farm to collect cattle fodder and four men took her away. After raping her, they strangled her by her dupatta and also broke her spinal cord. Hathras is in Uttar Pradesh, where caste equations dominate. The rape and murder has an added layer of complexity – the accused men are Thakurs and the victim was a Dalit. Traditionally, Thakur men have not had to ask Dalit women for consent before having sex. It was considered their right. In deeply patriarchal and feudal societies, civilisation is a veneer, and it does not take much for people to regress to their feudal ways.
This is not a problem that UP alone faces. It exists across India. In Khairlanji, Maharashtra, a 16-year-old Dalit girl, Priyanka Bhotmange, was gangraped by several upper-caste men, most of whom got away with it. There was the Jind rape and murder case – where a 15-year-old Dalit girl was gangraped and murdered by upper-caste men. The list is long, brutal, and severely depressing. The fact that men rape women is bad enough. It is worse to read what they do after the rape Women in India aren’t just doomed by caste and patriarchy. They also have to face random violence. The Nirbhaya case was pure chance. She and her friend happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time. It could have been any woman. The case of the Hyderabad veterinarian was also random. She, too, happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time.
Rape is a male problem. Men Rape. They have done this throughout history and it is unlikely they will stop unless something is radically done to reform the way they are brought up and socialised. For too long, the onus of staving off rape has been on women –don’t go out, don’t work late, don’t smile too much, don’t laugh. But now, we need to seriously look at how we can stop men from raping. We can’t ask for more stringent laws. This kind of rape and murder already carries the death penalty. On policing – the best police force in the world cannot battle random chance. There is no point in banning porn, for men have been raping well before commercial porn came into existence. We have been looking, as a society, for external control of rape. But, the solution will have to be far more fundamental. The question is, how do we train the sons of India over the next few generations to weed out the toxic masculinity that enables rape? What is it that can be done from the pre-primary level. “Men are afraid that women will laugh at then. Women are afraid that men will kill them.” How do men actively work towards making women less afraid of being murdered? The incident in Hathras is not the last of the brutal gang rapes that India will see.
It is disconcerting to know that grave crimes like human trafficking not only take place but are highest in Maharashtra. Even if those kidnapped are saved, the question is why are these crimes taking place and what is being done by the authorities to nip such crimes in the bud itself? Is this our progress on initiatives like Beti Bachao? Does it only mean that our girls are constantly in grave danger? 97 per cent of rapes are committed by persons known to the victim. You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them. Rape is a male problem. We need to look seriously at how we can stop men from raping.
—The writer graduated in Political Science from AMU and hails from Kulgam. [email protected]