Tuesday, April 03, 2012
Sunday, March 25, 2012
I just read a series of articles related to rape on Tehelka.com. They were to do with a first person account of the aftermath of being raped, a middle level policeman's (from Noida) views on rape, a lawyer's take on rape, a village 'elder's' take on how women invite rape, an NGO's bleak report on how difficult it is to get a rape conviction.
All these articles saddened me and enraged me. It tore me up to read the first person account of what a woman goes through after being raped and lodging a complaint and then appearing in court to face the rapist; the kinds of questions she is asked in a court room full of strangers about what she was wearing, the size of the erect penis, number of penetrations - how is this of any importance??
What really gets me is that a woman's character is always dragged up - what she was wearing, does she usually hang out with men, does she drink, does she party, does she stay out till late at night? Why should any of this matter?
It really says a lot about a society who is ever ready to persecute a woman and point fingers at her and blame her for her "wild lifestyle" and say, "Oh! But she wears short skirts and drinks with men! She surely must have invited it!" It loudly proclaims that the society we live in refuses to protect, safeguard and uphold the rights of women. Women are still treated as second class citizens, bound by rules for our own "safety" - don't step out after 8 PM if you don't want to be raped! Women are just property, to acquire and throw away, do as you please, it's OK, you are a man, you have the right to do whatever you want!
A wonderful picture circulated around Facebook, a couple of weeks back, in which a woman holds up a placard saying, "Don't tell me what to wear. Tell them not to rape" This echoes my sentiments. What a woman wears at the time of rape should not be the primary, secondary or any consideration. Women who wear "provocative" clothes DO NOT have a board on them saying "Come rape me!" They are not "Asking for it" or "Inviting trouble". Even if a woman stands in front of you without a stitch of clothing on, you cannot lay a finger on her unless and until she says it is OK to do so. Or are you telling me that the thousands of children who are raped everyday were also dressed provocatively? That a grandmother raped by her own grandson and his friends was wearing revealing clothes?
Rape isn't even about sex; it is about power, pure and simple. How about the media trying to dig up information about the rapist - his lifestyle, where he likes to hang out, how many women he has violated earlier. Doesn't make for a good enough copy? More fun to dig up dirt on a woman, who was anyway dressed provocatively in jeans and T-shirt and had gone out to meet him willingly?
Mindsets need to change. But how do you make a village "elder" understand that it's not what women wear that causes them to be raped, that it's not the advent of the big bad Western culture that is to be blamed? This man interviewed above asserts that no rapes take place in his village. How can he be so sure? A lot of urban women do not report rape, it would be even tougher for a rural woman to do so. How do you get through people with such a blinkered attitude? Who refuse to even acknowledge the possibility that a woman is not to be blamed at all for rape?
I have heard about "gender sensitization" workshops. I have no idea what goes on in these workshops or even how effective they are. I think gender sensitization should start at home, in the class room. It should be something natural, not an afterthought... It actually just saddens me to think that the society we live in requires gender sensitization workshops.
We are a society suffering from psychosis - for a goddess-worshiping country we sure do know how to disrespect our women.
Wednesday, March 07, 2012
I just watched 8, a play directed by Rob Reiner and written by Dustin Lance Black. It was broadcast live on YouTube on 3rd March. The interesting part about this play was not its star cast (a veritable who's who of the top brass of Hollywood), but it's subject matter - the landmark Perry vs. Schwarzenegger case where United States District Court Judge Vaughn R. Walker deemed Proposition 8 as unconstitutional. In a nutshell, Proposition 8 aims to prohibit same-sex marriages. Though Proposition 8 has been overturned, there is still a stay on the ruling pending further appeals, during which time same-sex marriages would still be considered illegal.
8 is a powerful piece on the fear and prejudice that run through society against anything that the majority consider abnormal or against the "natural order".
India is still far away from the day when same-sex marriage will even be considered a legal right. Even though the Delhi High Court had decriminalized consensual gay sex, there are still a number of fearful and prejudiced people fighting against the ruling. Their arguments that decriminalizing gay sex would lead to the breakdown of society or even to the rise in HIV/AIDS has no real proof. If the incidence of HIV/AIDS is high among gay people, then it is because of the stigma attached to it, which causes them to follow unsafe sex practices. In fact, by decriminalizing gay sex, society would be able to provide a safer environment in which to follow safe sex practices.
But in reality, that is easier said than done. We all know that even though Section 377 has been amended, the majority of Indians look upon same-sex relationships with abhorrence. A survey carried out by Bangalore Mirror found out that more than 50% of Bangaloreans do not agree that a homosexual relationship is a "valid form of relationship".
Putting homosexual relationships aside, majority of Indians today still do not accept inter-caste or inter-religious unions. They are still caught up in "What will society say?" "We will be ostracized by our family and friends!" "Will she be able to adjust to our customs and food habits?" and so on.
For someone at the receiving end of the above comments and struggling to get married to her boyfriend since the past year and a half, 8 really resonated with me - because at the end of the day the plaintiffs, Kristin Perry and Sandra Steir, and Paul Katami and Jeffrey Zarrillo just want to be a family, to enjoy the legal rights that are a part of a legal union, to not refer to their significant other as their "partner", but as their "wife" or "husband", to live with dignity.
It saddens me that as the earth grows older, we as a people are not becoming any wiser. We are still narrow-minded, prejudiced, fearful, bigoted, knocking down anything or any person who is seemingly different, not giving people a chance to live as they wish to.
At the end of the day, how does it matter if your neighbours are a same-sex couple raising children or if your son is in love with a girl from a different religion or caste? You might be surprised to learn that you share the same child rearing beliefs as the same-sex couple, or the girl belonging to the wrong religion might surprise you by trying her best to adapt to customs she was not raised with or introduce you to an entirely different world, which might be similar to yours in more ways than one.