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.