Tuesday, September 3, 2013

A rape epidemic in India...

This appeared in The Week...
                          National joke: Safety for women
I am putting myself in my mother’s chappals right now. She raised three ambitious daughters and one equally ambitious son in a city called Bombay. Let’s stick to the daughters for now. We went to school and college using public transport. Later, when I joined the city’s formidable female work force, I walked back from the office to my home a good kilometer and a half away.  Most times I was alone, often, the hour was late, and I didn’t carry pepper spray in my handbag. Nor did I practice Karate. Did I feel safe? Yes, I did. Did my mother suffer daily anxiety attacks till I got home? No, she didn’t. And remember, we are talking about pre-cell phone days. Let’s go back a few more years. As an athlete through school and college, my training started at dawn. I would leave home when it was still dark outside and walk half a kilometer to the maidan at Dhobi Talao. Not once did I feel unsafe or scared as I rushed to my coaching lessons through semi-deserted back lanes of Churchgate. Neither did my mother.
Same city.  Last week. Wait a minute. Did I state ‘Same city’ ? I guess that is the essential difference. Mumbai is unequivocally NOT the same city anymore. It’s not even Bombay! Something snapped somewhere and we are still trying to come to terms with what that ‘something’ could be. Today, my daughters are a part of the female work force here. And I am on tenterhooks till they get home every evening. Which is why, I can totally empathise with the mother of the gangrape survivor when she pleads with the media to leave her and her daughter alone. I can only say how incredibly proud we feel to read her daughter’s courageous statement -  “ Rape is not the end of life…” coupled with her desire to get back to work as soon as possible. That will certainly reassure the countless women professionals in our city. But will it make life any safer for them?
One of the reasons why rape is not looked at as a ‘serious’ crime in our society is because women themselves are not taken seriously.  Our attitude to sex itself is hopelessly warped, since we see it in isolation – we ‘have’ sex. Like we ‘have’ daal-chaval. It is to satisfy hunger, not enjoy the meal. Our men grow up believing women are created specifically to cater to their sexual  urges. The thought that  women have an equal amount of sovereignty over their body, their desires, their emotions, does not occur to a vast majority of men, raised as they are with an exaggerated sense of entitlement in a patriarchal society.
Do  women in today’s India have the luxury of time ? Can we afford to wait for that all important ‘mindset change’ ( how I loathe that cliché!). For how long? Another fifty years? Hundred? Platitudes have piled  up on more platitudes as we discuss gender senstisation programmes for our children. And talk about real change starting at home. Getting to the root of the problem…blah blah blah. But where is this mysterious root?Shall we give it a name, please? Can anyone identify what the real problem is? Even as we debate on this issue, a female is being violated somewhere in our country.  Regardless of age or social status.There were one lakh pending rape cases in 2012. And we are talking about reported assaults. One can multiply that number by 100, and it will still be low.

There is a rape epidemic raging across India. It has already claimed a record number of victims. The world sees us as a seriously sick society, with sexual deviants attacking women every minute of the day. And yet, our government has not woken up. Violence against women is treated in the same casual way as violence against animals. Both are condemnable and shameful. But so long as we continue to tolerate the presence of men facing rape charges in Parliament , nothing is likely to change.Will we have the guts to debar such criminals from contesting the next election? Do we have the will to make gender equality our main election issue? If we don’t, we shall be condemning ourselves to another century of escalating violence against our women. And rape will be reduced to just another four letter word. As easily thrown around as the other one that starts with an ‘F’….revolting, but inescapable .God help the women of Bharat Mahan.
                                                           **************
This appeared in Sunday Times...

                   A tale of two Mumbais…
The survivor of the gangrape in Mumbai, walked out of the hospital at midnight on Wednesday , face uncovered, and with her head held high. That much we know. And our respect for her, only grew. We also know she wasn’t  crushed after enduring the worst form of violence, when she declared, “Rape is not the end of life….”  In fact, she boldly stated her intention to get back to work as soon as possible. And we applauded her extraordinary courage. Not many survivors of such a vicious sexual attack would have had the strength to take this position. Our girl is obviously made of sterner stuff. She is someone with pricy platinum, not lowly steel in her spine. And that’s what makes her an epic hero. Unfortunately, not every woman has her formidable shakti. And that is the real tragedy we have to confront today. For every such survivor, there are thousands of nameless/ faceless others who remain silent…who take the horror and humiliation of rape to the grave with them. But this survivor was different from the very start of her trauma. Twice, when her anxious mother phoned to check on her, she managed to calmly reassure mom that all was well.  She had the presence of mind to keep panic out of their voice while rapists armed with broken beer bottles towered over her. Even after the ghastly assault, she  kept her cool , said nothing to her male colleague in the presence of the rapists, and  sensibly went to a hospital, before approaching the cops. Had she not sought immediate medical help, and reported the rape, not only would she have harmed her own recovery, but the sexual predators would still be at large in search of new victims.
Getting back to work is perhaps the strongest message sent out by the survivor. She is our very own Malala.   She is the never-say-die Mumbaikar.  Hopefully, the damaged spirits of Mumbai’s working women ( millions of them), will seek inspiration from her decision to resume her normal life. Despite the best counseling, the trauma of what she endured is inescapable, and it may take years for the scars to heal. But heal they will. Because she is determined to erase them. The city’s scars are likely to take longer to fade, and this is essentially the problem which has no clear cut answers or solutions. Tougher laws and fast track courts can take care of one aspect of the countless crimes against women. But who can tell us why these crimes are on the rise? Why are women being targeted? Why has India become a nation of women baiters and haters? When, where and how will this rape epidemic end?
Unfortunately, Mumbai’s cops are a demoralized lot right now, even though the rapists were  nabbed in record time .The aftermath of the crime that rocked Mumbai  is interesting  - finally, the city has woken up to its own vulnerability, the fragility of its future… its survival… even, its imminent death.  People say there are many Mumbais within Mumbai. I’d say there are precisely two – the super moneyed Mumbai and the abjectly poor Mumbai.  Both co-exist uneasily, side by side. Soon , Mumbai will become another Sao Paolo, with vast and violent  inner cities that are out of  bound to ‘outsiders’. Lawlessness and anarchy rule in several sensitive areas as it is.  Already, there are hubs which discourage strangers from entering or ‘snooping’. Even the cops stay away. There exists an immeasurable socio-economic divide we are in complete denial about. We have blinkers on and dare not identify the problem. We refuse to recognize the existence of these two cities within a city. A case of two radically different mindsets. There is Ratan Tata’s refined, posh Bombay. And there is R.R.Patil’s rough and rustic Mumbai. These two polar opposites don’t speak to each other. They can’t ! They have absolutely nothing in common. Yes, it’s a class war. Let’s stop pretending it isn’t. Because we don’t know what to do about either version of Mumbai. It is this disturbing phenomenon that is resulting in an escalation of crime… especially crimes against women, since women remain society’s softest targets. The gutsy survivor of the recent gangrape belonged to the ‘other’ Mumbai. She was educated, confident, assertive and unafraid. Her rapists were jobless, illiterate and desperately poor. She had a lot to lose. They had nothing. She was a stake holder in the city. They weren’t. She had a future. They had none. She was seen as the enemy – first strike against her being her gender. Second, her social status. Both were effortlessly attacked during the assault.
 In such a grim scenario, is it any wonder that the real loser is Mumbai?

27 comments:

Unknown said...

Very well writtn blog. I appreciate the way you wrote this blog which hard hitting and also very emotional.

My daughter decided not to return to India and even for a short visit she is taking so many precautions. She is trying to spirit me out of India.

Simranjeet said...

Thanks Ma'm

I am sharing it.

tofeeq ahmad said...

You will not get a solution until you keep on avoiding issues. Rape is symbol of sick society and everyone condemn it not by just word, Million of people do protest candle march for Nirbhaya. That does not show the reality of our society. These all are damn false activities by us with no real action expecting from it.
We are sick mental people, who feel bad when we see some one SHRIEK on a slum boy on road (as he/she touch someone costly car), But GOD damn we do nothing for him. Even we react in same manner when he touch our car.
We are living with false proud (highly and oldest culture), never look in out present.
Educate your children while they are at home. Improve your society by improving your home environment

Satish Ashtaputre said...

India has become a horrible place to live in. Intellectuals are finding it very diificult to cope with the strange situation in India.
God save this country !

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Abhirami Muthu said...

The writer has written this article from the depths of her heart. Thank you.

TaNuja said...

Very well written ma'am...

and completely agree... I'm working and I travel around night as always. But I'm always alert after these incidents.. :(

TaNuja said...

n some poonam mishra has to give call girls no. here ... :-/ arrrggghhhh

Aparna R said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Aparna R said...

Ms. De, you have fairly and squarely hit the nail on the head! However, it is incredible that Indian society is still reluctant to accept even one of its most visible paradoxes as a source of tension.

Pooja Rathore said...

Rape epidemic(upfront and thoughtful post) right word the moment i open the news paper I feel shocked,angry and sad about the rapes registered ,nothing has changed,it has only worsened.
Rape is a serious crime,it rips the soul ,the punishment compensation etc can never make up for the loss.

TSV Hari said...

Shobhaa!

I share your anger and angst at the city called Bombay having degenerated into Mumbai.

I am sure, you still love Bombay because [a] the city where we both grew up ages ago in separate neighbourhoods, we felt safe and [b] our womenfolk felt safer - as is evident from your column.

This is the age of women's liberation.

But, I will cite someone else - the world today prefers to refer to as the symbol of having been the original female doormat - Goddess Sita.

For a moment, let us look at her like a normal human being of her times from a modern perspective.

The princess of Mithila had married Lord Ram on her own accord as it was a Swayamvara or a bride choosing her husband.

She had accompanied her husband during a 14-year exile voluntarily.

The demon Ravana had kidnapped her with evil intentions.

After rescuing her, Lord Ram requested her to go through a ritual test of fire – something Sita did without demur.

After having been crowned the Consort Queen of Emperor Ram for several years, she conceived.

A very ordinary citizen questioned her ‘purity’ and the origin of her pregnancy.

Rather than flogging his subject, Lord Ram requested his wife in whom he had complete faith to ‘go into exile’ and await clearance of her name.

She obeyed – yet again – without protest.

And after the twins sired by Lord Ram and her defeated her husband’s army and brought their father into her presence trussed like a turkey, that day’s world grudgingly accepted that Mother Sita indeed was blameless.

As expected, Lord Ram invited her to take her rightful place on the throne to his right.

Thereupon, according to Sage Valmiki’s epic, Sita prayed to Mother Earth to consume her – as she no longer wished to be taken for granted.

Placing my poetic instincts in the modern context but in the nearly prehistoric backdrop, here are my lines:

Pray educate me – what am I My Lord!

Am I your equal human partner in life?

Am I an organic pleasure machine?

Am I merely meant to deliver offspring?

Am I to be tested for my purity after attempted slur?

Though you won me in the contest

I voluntarily chose you as my better half

On my own I opted for the forests’ travails as

I loved your company

I saved my chastity under the gravest of threats

And

I allowed its scrutiny through a fire test

I carried our children in my womb as your gifts

Yet our children had to win a war

With you

To prove

I am blameless!

Rather than casting an aspersion

On your manhood

I beseech Mother Earth

To bestow justice upon me

By taking me back into her

If my life’s chronology of events imply

Injustices were perpetrated upon me

Not as a sentence against you, My Lord!

Let humanity take note!

As a woman

I may be docile

Defenceless

And the symbol of

Your brave chivalry

But

I am not

Chattel

Without recourse to protest

And defend my honour!

As the world now sees me

Returning to my mother’s womb

Let it spare a tear

To all those who need to deliver heroes

To prove

The purity of their mother’s motherhood

If such a deed indeed is an insult

To men, women and children

All of whom

Whose creations start from the same pleasure points

Through acts

That denote males’ manhood

But can’t humanity ask itself

Why are

The same acts shames of womanhood?

The above comment is excerpted from blogs published earlier by me.

Link:
http://tsvhari.com/template_article.asp?id=446

Rita Mahato said...

Nicely expressed the condition of our pride India... Hate to hear every morning about rape/ gangrape cases, nowadays, this is so common that we have to start/ end each day with such headlines...

Alice Jobs said...

the damaged spirits of Mumbai’s working women ( millions of them), will seek inspiration from her decision to resume her normal life. Despite the best counseling, the trauma of what she endured is inescapable, and it may take years for the scars to heal. But heal they will. Because she is determined to erase them.

if u want to know abot the wild life sanctuaries of India

Another Kiran In NYC said...

While I am happy that this young woman does not see herself as a victim for life, going back anonymously to her life, like this never happened is not going to change anything. This is not the role model she needs to be (if she agrees to be one in the first place). She needs to show her face, to become an advocate for change, to keep this issue on the front burner until people become uncomfortable.

Every woman in Mumbai who has ever been harrassed needs to become the face of victimization due to gender inequality. We need every one of the millions of women who are assaulted emotionally, physically and financially, every single day....to say out loud " we have been harrassed and are tired of it and here I am and here is my face, I am not going away and I will remind you always that I exist". That is the only way to make the entire population of India uncomfortable. Unless people are uncomfortable, they do not THINK. i am tired of hearing about the resilience of women and the resilience of the city. Why cannot we mourn and cry loud enough that it hurts people, makes them want to cringe and atleast think about change. Being a victim is not all bad, a LOUD, STRONG, UNRELENTING, IN YOURFACE victim can bring about change. Lets all be one of those.

Adam Warner said...

INDIANS needs to transform itself from old "parampara" and must look at how they can efface their own prejudices regarding women's position in Society

Venkat Chari said...

Very emotional and moving article. The remedy for all this is not making of laws and severe punishments. There should be moral reform and awareness among people. Women should be bold enough to face such circumstances by keeping themselves alert and smart enough to foil such wicked attempts of the attackers and report all such incidents to media and police. Parents and society should keep watch on such perverted mentality of people and give continuous guidance to them in changing their mentality.
All your articles are very interesting and touching to mind and because of this I have included you in my blogroll list at my blog Lifestyle Tips at following link http://vnktchari.blogspot.in/

Wannabe blogger said...

That was straight from the heart. Actually Bharat Mahan has always treated women in this fashion right from Ramayana and Mahabharata days. Unfortunately now we do not have Ram's and Krishna's to protect the women of India now. It is now the days of the Duryodhans.

Maya Ramaswamy said...

Dear Ms. De,

I would like to bring to your notice this Info-graphic in the leading
national daily, The Hindu.

http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/a-rape-capital-somewhere-in-central-india/article5089690.ece?ref=sliderNews

I have written a letter to that editor, but would also like to bring this to your notice, that TILL DATE, ALL experts, statisticians, the police AND the media, have still to come to understand the REASON for the ANGER in thousands of working women in
urban India, against instances of GANG rape.

Rape is a crime as old as mankind. The statistics are about as expected.

However, the national sense of outrage among women, on GANG rape in particular, is something completely new.
This is because, GANG rape is a hitherto un-documented and possibly new phenomenon in modern urban India.
Gang rape is NOT the same as rape where the offender is known to the victim, and MUST be looked at in a new light altogether under urban
circumstances.
The statistics in Bangalore and Delhi since 2012 are significant because these are also two cities where there are thousands and thousands of outsiders pouring in literally everyday. People who are 'KNOWN' to each other are hard to find here unless they are close
friends for decades.

The profile of the perpetrators in a GANG rape is QUITE different from perpetrators of any other kind of rape, as men who may not even KNOW each other, may 'GANG' up in public, quite often overpowering a lone man who might have been with the victim at the time of assault.

Such a scenario, unless nipped in the bud, is dangerous to women in open society.
Unless controlled and dealt with as a law and order situation urgently, this phenomenon of GANG rape in urban 'COMPOSITE' society is dangerous to women.
GANG rape in urban India SHOULD be seen as 'DISTINCT' from the older type of gang-rape in rural India which had a more inter-class/inter-community social evil hue to it.

In all the reams of time and space in mainstream media, NOBODY has as yet talked about the profiling the PERPETRATORS!!

WHY is everyone in the media still OBSESSED with the physical and mental condition of the VICTIM!?? From the point of view of 'penetration', all rape looks just like rape to insensitive outsiders!

I appeal to you Ms. De, urge the experts to look ELSEWHERE! tell them to look at the PERPETRATORS, if they want to understand this serious offense against womankind!!!!

A woman Citizen of India,

Bangalore City.

Bharat Yadav said...

very well said and touching.

Pata hamare dekh ki sabse badi problem kya.

Yaha ek IAS ek 5wi fail ke piche piche ghumta hai.

1947 me $1= 1 <= 10 Rs (aprox)
2013 $1=67-68 (aprox)

the reason is ki 5wi fail jo desh ke karta dharta hai sab.

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Common Man said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Common Man said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Common Man said...

Well written Ma'm. You hit the nail right on the head. I feel our TV/Internet and Films are contributing a lot to this behaviour. i have written about these issues at http://recklessmusings.blogspot.in/2013/08/mumbai-gang-rape.html

with best regards
the commonman2

sumit bhardwaj said...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=koZabI9h5hw

every girl should see this ...and pls share it for girl safety

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priyanka palan said...

Very well written...
People will have to start respecting women in india
Have to understand women are not only meant to satisfy sexual urges..