Monday, September 16, 2013

Spare our bodies....

This appeared in The Week...
                     Spare our bodies….
I am writing this just a few hours after the critical verdict ( Nirbhaya case). And asking myself in a somewhat cynical way – does it matter? Even if the rapists / butchers are given the death penalty, will the rapes end? I think we are deluding ourselves by pinning all our hopes on one very critical judgement. And we have fooled ourselves into believing the mindset in India will alter dramatically after Nirbhaya’s killers are given the severest punishment. This is simply not going to happen. And here’s why : Rapists in India are as varied as our culture itself. They come in all shapes, colours and sizes . There is no standardized profile of a rapist. The urban rapist is no different from the rural rapist. A man in a well cut suit is as much of a rapist as that petty criminal clad in rags. A husband can also be a rapist. So can a brother, father, grand-father, uncle, cousin and son – no class barriers here. Rape takes place within the four walls of a home, at the work place, inside a hotel room…. or on the street, in a moving bus, at an abandoned mill. The rapist can be a colleague in a swanky corner office, or the shabbily dressed watchman of  the building. Often, the rapist is a person the woman knows and trusts. With her life. She is still not spared.
Rapists rarely stop to think about the punishment that awaits them once the nasty business is over and done with. Most rely on the woman’s silence to protect them from the law. A victim’s silence is the rapist’s best insurance against getting nailed.  And here we are talking about reported cases. There are millions of unreported rapes which feature repeat offenders. Do those men ever imagine they’ll be exposed some day? Nope. They are super confident it’s the woman who will fear exposure far more and keep mum forever. So, even if our laws are changed overnight, the crimes against women will continue unabated. Because it is our society that is guilty, not just the individual rapist. What can be done about that collective guilt? Where does one begin? At home, is the general opinion. Worth a go, if we can forget the alarming statistics involving domestic rape. Can we? Should we?
The other theory talks of shame. Especially the shame society imposes on the victim. Social workers tell us to free women of the stigma of shame. Others insist on the survivor’s identity being made public. We urge women to look the world in the eye and carry on with their lives sans shame. But, for starters, how does one explain the meaning of  ‘shame’ to a three- year- old little girl whose tiny body has been ripped apart by a brute? What do we say to that 15- year- old villager whose ‘virginity’ is sold to a 70-year-old widower? How does the concept of  lifting the veil of shame enter the picture when the woman has been gang raped in public?

The truth is, we are all struggling to find solutions to this scourge, when there aren’t too many. Rape is one of the original sins, as ancient as the other seven. Rape goes hand in hand with a sense of entitlement and power. Rape is about violence, not sex. And the men who commit it, are often convinced they are well within their rights to go ahead and violate women. Educated, elite men commit rape as casually as street goondas. So, it’s clearly not about the college degrees you possess or the cars you drive. It is not about an enlightened upbringing, either. Some of India’s most ‘cultured’ families have shielded rapists and damned the survivors. To talk about raising baby boys with the ‘right values’ has become an annoying television cliché. I cannot believe any family actually ‘endorses’ or encourages rape. It’s a daunting scenario, no matter which way we look at it. And please let’s not talk about chemically castrating rapists  stoning them in public, or adopting any other medieval form of  justice. If crimes against women have gone up dramatically, it is because of a set of altered social circumstances that we are still not comfortable with. The elephant in the room has a name and identity. The creature can best be called an ‘empowered woman’. Today, most women are empowered in their own unique way. Even the impoverished, illiterate ones. They know who they are. And what they want. The day rapists realize they can rape a woman’s body but not her mind, heart and soul, perhaps the futility of their vicious acts will finally sink home. And our bodies will be spared. This is more my prayer than a real hope. Is the Almighty listening?

54 comments:

Vishwanath Sangale said...

Clearly, it's not about degree or education you have. It's about how you look towards women. I wonder how these rapists don't have self dignity; Which is the most important thing for a person to live in a society. How come they forget that they are living this life because of a woman, their mother?

Anil Kumar said...

Nicely written Ms De !!

The root cause is sick mentality fuelled by Bollywood's cheap standards and fear of shame in the mind of women because of impotent law and their implementation.

Dyslexicon said...

Any thoughts on Asaram ?

agathechristie christie said...

revealing the exact thing sans any coatings

bb29 said...

Amen, I join you in your prayers, Shobha. However, though I agree with your opinion but I also rejoice on the historical judgement passed on to these beasts. The reason is this judgement at least gave us the courage to initiate a new way of thinking to come over such shame and fight against this social evil with the hope that justice will be served. It might not change things radically but it does value the existence and dignity of a women. As you said rape is one of the original sin but it has always existed because we as a women have somehow always ignored it and eventually accepted it as it is. First, that acception has to turn into total rejection in all different levels: legally, socially, politically, personally etc etc. Besides this judgement is not an opinion of a single person, it has been a democratic decision. The fire of this movement just needs to spread into at least one member of every family, then together it will make your dream and wish come true.

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shilpa agarwal said...

My post has nothing to do with your article above. I have just recently joined the list of your virtual stalkers and have been obsessively cyber stalking you and your every interview online. After gifting,'Shobha De at Sixty' to probably every girl I know I have deliciously savored your many books. Your ballsy persona inspires me boundlessly. Though you don't know me u will always be a huge part of my life because of your love-affair with words in a manner which is unique. I (an hopeful story-teller) do wish I could make love to words in a unique manner like how you chose your unique style.

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Elle Gee said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Elle Gee said...


Hi Shobhaa

I love this article- you outline the outrage every woman in India feels at the moment , one which hasn't unfortunately reached the consciousness of every Indian Male!

The true crime lies ( in my humble opinion) in the way we raise our men! We teach them a false sense of superiority over the female sex, we forgive them their indiscretions and misdemeanours, we give them permission to disrespect us!

Rape isn't just a crime of one person, or groups of individuals, but a crime of our society !

Priyanka Goyal said...

i agree with what u say but I think that apart from empowerment of women punishments for rape convicts have to be changed to put a halt to the alarming rise in rapes in our nation.

Latha said...

Oh, again rape ! I was expecting you to write an article about the Haryana Jat 'honour killings".
So what do you suggest. We will do nothing to the rapists but wait till the mind set of the whole nation changes praying to God almighty ? Even God helps only those who help themselves. The girl's soul should be intact even if the body is ripped apart by gangsters. Never mind. Let's wait. Are you joking, Shobhaa ? And when will that miraculous mindset change of the whole nation be ? You yourself say that there cannot be a closure & the scar of rape is eternal. Then how can the girl keep her soul intact. Aren't you contradictory there ? The only way we can eliminate crimes is by eliminating the criminals.
I've stayed in Saudi Arabia. Instant & definite capital punishment acts as 100% deterrent. They maintain perfect discipline. I may have to write an equally lengthy blog to prove my point. So I'm skipping it. To say without even trying that death sentence is not a deterrent is cowardice. Saudi Arabia is the best example to show that it is. Believe me. Nothing is going to stop rape in this country unless all those against whom we have proof are given lethal injection (No, no hanging, that is not what a civilised society would do. That is brutal).

gitartha gaurav said...

rape is a philosophy.untill and unless we don't find its root,it will continue haunting womenhood!!

Ash said...

Hello Shohaa,

How are you?

I read your words...but that's all I did. I searched for a solution, instead I found a prayer. If I cannot come up with a solution to rape, I have no business judging your thoughts...or offer a "better view".

What I would like to state is that keeping all logic/reasoning aside, I felt an immense satisfation at the death penalty being awarded...a feeling similar to a deeply drawn breath of air. What will this sentence achieve? Nothing mammoth ..probably..but four less deranged sub humans walking this planet to begin with? Or if we are really lucky one less potential person deterred from raping another for fear of losing his life? Maybe..

I wouldnt know where to look but would you know which country has the lowest rape statistics? Please note I didnt say "zero rape" statistics..Surely there isnt such a place ...is there?

With regards,

Ash

Ash said...

Hello Shobhaa...I meant..Apologies for typing error..

Abhirami Muthu said...

Hear, hear @ Latha...Rape of the body is rape of the soul. When a well-known Dronacharya award winning professor touched my sister inappropriately, it crushed her soul. Can you imagine what rape will do to your soul?

Nikhil Tyagi said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
TSV Hari said...

Shobhaa!

You talked of rape by persons one trusts …

Indian laws allegedly aiding abetting rapists and grooms illegally marrying minor females for over 30 years accounting for over 40% of world’s child marriages have been cited by celebrated public interest litigant Dr Vincent Panikulangara in a case in the Kerala High Court.

“Those caught red handed for outraging the modesty of women and worse, use mazes of alibis and exceptions of heinous crimes to commit multiples of more heinous ones,” Dr Panikulangara told Southern Features, a features’ news service edited by me.

He cited UNICEF’s “State of the World’s Children-2009” report, according to which 47% of India’s women aged 20-24 were married before the legal age of 18. Around 56% of such occurrences were found in rural areas.

“The culprits are two archaic and anti-minor-women provisions of the India Penal Code sections 375 and 376 in the context of the Child Marriage Restraint Act (CMRA) 1929, Special Marriage Act 1954 and Hindu Marriage Act 1955. The Prohibition of Child Marriage Act (PCMA) 2006, which was supposed to repeal CMRA is not in force for want of notification by the Central Government. The indifference of law makers in indirectly allowing archaic and contradictory provisions in penal code to continue since 1978 make a mockery of both criminal and civil laws. Sections 375 and 376 IPC regarding rape and its punishment respectively are jokes.”

Section 4 of the Special Marriage Act and Hindu Marriage Act (1956) read with CMRA prohibits marriages between men and women below the ages of 21 and 18 respectively.

IPC 375 defines rape as a man’s sexual intercourse with an under-16 woman against her will/consent.

Sex with under-15 “wives” made an exemption vide Section 376 renders the proviso meaningless.

Section 376 allows guilty rapists escape with less than 2 year terms instead of an arguable life sentence if a female victim is ‘a wife not being under twelve years of age’ while the civil laws prohibit it!

Sexual intercourses with a minor Indian women over 16 with her consent, which is not validated by the parent/guardian, is not rape, is not against any law in India.

Sexual intercourses with minor women deed over 15 years cannot be termed rape will other laws expressly prohibit it!

A male can thus indulge in sexual intercourse with Indian minor female of 16 years and above with impunity if he does not marry her.

Offenders can prove their female minor rape victims were above 15 years and manage a ‘marriage certificate or photograph’, claim her as a “wife” and get away more often than not scot free with blue murder despite contravening the civil law which says the exact opposite.

Offenders can escape punishment for having sex with minor females above 12 years by proving the victim is his ‘wife’ vide a child marriage certificate. In the worst case scenario the offender would emerge from a 2 year prison sentence.

The conviction can be used as alibis for multiple future offences.

While women were sold as chattel in drought stricken regions of the north Indian state of Uttar Pradesh where and when a woman was the Chief Minister, guilty rapists are managing to go scot since 1978 as our law makers, law commissions, women’s commissions and NGOs functioning for avowedly empowering women have not closed these gaping shameful holes in our statute.

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