From the time a girl is born, she is often taught to compromise. Even in the cities where there is a comparatively liberated upbringing of girls as opposed to villages, almost all women have had some experience of eve teasing or harassment. Ask any girl whether she feels absolutely safe and the answer will be no. How can they be, when statistics say that in India a woman is raped in India every 54 minutes?
Rape is a crime that defies all logic. It is an embarrassing reality that exists in all sections and classes of the society. It has existed from the ancient times when the winning emperors claimed their rights on the wives of their enemies. Women have always borne the brunt of family and society honour. Considered physically weak, they are always targeted. Even during Partition, innumerable women were raped to take revenge from the ‘other’, the perceived enemy. As a result, Hindus raped Muslim women and Muslims raped Hindu women. But besides such extreme situations, rape has become an everyday reality, a fear that forever resides in women.
But what is it that drives men to commit such a heinous crime? Director Mohit Suri recently said that rape is little about sex and all about power. In this bitter power play the woman is always a victim (at least in 99% of the cases), while anybody from a seemingly successful actor to a police cop, the supposed custodian of the law can be the perpetrator. There is no way of suspecting or stereotyping a rapist. He could be anyone and anywhere. India Today reports that in 92 per cent of the rape cases, it is someone whom the victim knows and in many cases trusts.
Most often than not in such cases, the ‘trust’ is misused and before the victim realises that, it’s too late. Though it is the fastest growing crime yet the sad part is that it is seldom reported. And even when reported, the conviction rate is reported be a pathetic 18 per cent. This outrageous crime also goes on behind the grab of marriage and though marital rape is illegal and punishable by the law, nevertheless, it is justified in most cases by citing the ‘rights of the man’. It is generally hushed by the family because of the fear of social condemnation and is rarely reported. Many women, especially in rural areas do not even know that this is a crime, for they are fed the perpetual myth that a woman’s job is to satisfy the man’s desires, even if it is against their will.
In India rape can be communal or even political (as happened in Shopian in Jammu and Kashmir) but it is always inhuman, triggered by anger, sadism or the lust for power. The records are full of shocking cases from a 54-year old married doctor with two daughters, raping his 13 year old tuberculosis patient to the case of Sriram Mills owner Abhishek Kasliwal who raped a 52-year old woman, almost twice his age and tried to get way by saying that she was a ‘prostitute’.
A rape is a rape is a rape. It is a ghastly crime whether the victim is a so called ‘prostitute’ or the rapist is the husband of the victim. There is absolutely no justification for it. Those who commit this crime are mentally unsound as proven by a survey by an NGO, Swanechetan, that 70 per cent of the rapists showed psychopathic traits. Most of them were reported to have “got a high by just talking about it.” I now see truth in an article I read a while ago, which said the world today is most in need of psychiatrists.
The researchers may state various reasons from drugs, alcohol, violent projection on the silver screen to an addiction to porn or difficult childhood but ultimately the it’s the victim that suffers more. Unfortunately our society is such that apart from undergoing from the unthinkable ordeal of the crime itself, the victim also has to face the social stigma and ostracism. Instead of compassion, she’s treated with contempt, the main reason why more than 50% o0f the rapes go unreported. From the time she goes to file a report when she is bombarded with uncomfortable questions, we often see even her face is covered along with the accused, as if she is also guilty of something. There is also a pompous school of thought that firmly believes that “ she must have asked for it.” Sicker still is the mentality of those people who think getting her married to the rapist is the solution. It never is and it never can be a solution. The only solution is punishment. Proper severe punishment that should be given as soon as possible.
In majority of the cases the victim go through acute stress disorder, disturbed sleep, recurring nightmares and flashbacks, after the incident and most of these go on for such a long-time that they affect their entire life, for the worse. Worryingly, there appears to be no stigma in being a rapist and most of them run scot-free without even an ounce of guilt or realisation. Though the society is judgemental on the victims, it is rarely so about the rapists. For instance, there some loyal fans of Shiney Ahuja who have said that the “maid was not worth it” or that she must have “seduced him.” It’s difficult to trust the police when they are often known to be involved in the crime and one witnesses such widespread dereliction of duty. But there is no choice than to report the crime, if one wants justice.
Knowing that India is third most unsafe country for women and that rape has grown by 800 per cent, ever since it was first recorded in 1971, it seems now that almost every girl is at a potential risk. While NCW keeps pushing the authorities for stringent execution of the law, one should also be aware and alert. Don’t stop living your life but being a little careful will definitely prove beneficial. A pepper spray might not always be a solution but there no harm in keeping one handy. Similarly, learning any form of self defence whether it is Judo or taekwondo, will only be an advantage. There are ways in which rape can be avoided.
But most of all, the belief that rape is the end of life for the victims, needs to be changed. No one should to suffer for someone else’s mistake. It is never the victim’s fault. Whatever they must have, nothing justifies that they “asked for it”. The society could harsh, but there’s only one way to face it, by being strong. Though the loss of your hand might be noticeable but that of your hymen, is not. Even as a society we need to progress, grow out of the diabolical beliefs that a victim is a ‘shame’ for the society. If that is so, then the rapist also comes from the same society and we should take the responsibility for that too. We need to be sensitive to the pain of the victim and help them recover and realise that it wasn’t their fault.
Shiney Ahuja’s wife may claim that rape can also be committed by a woman. True, but it was not Shiney who lodged the complaint. If he was the victim, as he wife claims, then why didn’t approach the police first? Though rape as such, is gender neutral yet the ground reality is that the supposed “physically vulnerable” are always the sufferers (discounting the hypothetical 1 per cent cases where men are the victims).
Whatever be the case, it’s not worth putting your life on a hold because of it. Everyone is entitled to live their life with dignity and sometimes, one has to fight for it. As a society, we should extend as much support as possible to the victims and urge the authorities for correct dispensation of justice.
[Image courtesy: http://www.flickr.com/photos/h-k-d/3039204812/]