When will we ever learn?

When will we ever learn?

The troubling social reality India refuses to grapple with

By Mehr Tarar

Published: Sat 14 Feb 2015, 1:47 AM

Last updated: Thu 25 Jun 2015, 11:17 PM

Rohtak, India. She was in town for a psychiatric treatment, staying with her sister. As the 28-year-old went missing one evening, the sister lodged a report with the police, which was of not much use. A Nepalese woman undergoing treatment for a psychiatric illness gone missing was not a matter of urgency.

Three days later she was found. Naked, left part of her body eaten by dogs, key organs missing, both arms gnawed off. Before being left to rot, she was killed, and before being killed, she was gang-raped. The post-mortem report showed her she stuffed with sticks and stones. Her stomach had blades and stones. Dr Dattarwal in-charge of the post-mortem examination said, “I’ve never seen such a horrific case in 30 years. The injuries suggest she was hit on the head with a heavy object, became partly unconscious and was then gang-raped. Animals and rodents had eaten bits of the body.” 

Delhi. A woman en route to her home after attending a party with friends nodded off in an Uber taxi, a company she had learnt to trust for her solo journeys past darkness. A little while later, she awoke to find the taxi-driver seated next to her on the backseat. Threatening to use a rod on her, slapping her repeatedly, he raped her. While doing what she had done many times, without much thought, going home she was raped in a vehicle that was her common mode of transport.

As laws have been made stricter, investigations speedier, penalisations quicker, there’s not much that has changed when it comes to the occurrence of rape in a 1.3 billion giant, India. Between 2012-2013, there has been an increase of 35.2 per cent, as per India’s National Crime Records Bureau, in proportion to the rising fear among the female population. The horrific 2013 statistic: “94 per cent of rape cases involved offenders the victims knew (family members, friends, neigbours)”. This is a “troubling social reality India refuses to grapple with.” The 644-page governmental report after the 2012 Nirbhaya rape case “couched rape in India as an issue of deeply rooted social and gender inequity.”

There are no simple answers here.

The mindset has to change is the common refrain when the issue is rape. That’s easier said than done. Law has to be foolproof. Again easier in theory than practice. Gender discrimination must be done with. And that’s almost impossible to change in a patriarchal, male-dominated society, where women are inferior is ingrained in the psyche of the countless.

Where violence on the weaker species is the norm. Where women are considered disposable, conditioned to be silent when forced upon. Where marital rape is not even an issue. Where the birth of a girl child is still unwelcome. All do not practice it but millions do.

The profiling of rape culprits may prove to be one breakthrough needed to get the much-needed insight into the “why” of this crime that not merely brutalises the body but breaks the soul. The alienation of individuals away from their places of origin becomes the motivation in some cases. Even after being forced upon, females, and even boys, will remain silent for the fear of bringing “dishonour” to themselves and their families is another factor. Police investigations are shoddy, during which the victims are introduced to another form of torture by a line of questioning that is intrusive and insulting: you brought it on yourself. The blame-the-victim syndrome.

Conditioned to beat female siblings, girlfriends, wives, and in general a proclivity for violence finds an outlet when the victim is weaker in strength, be it a woman, or a scrawny adolescent boy. There’s a blatant preference for a male child, of which the still existent female infanticide is a stark manifestation.

The negativity of age-old culture of sheltering females is manifested in the false machismo of the male members of the family, and the subliminal advocacy of the idea that “dishonouring” a woman is the lowest, the most lethal way to hit the ones you wish to harm. Teaching females the do’s and don’t’s of life, there’s a tacit carelessness to inculcation of values in males that would help them to simply regard the opposite sex not just as equals but as those you simply do not even think of differentiating from.

The stress on chastity is reinforced by treatment of women that renders them unequipped to deal with issues of sexuality. How women are meant to “behave” is only restricted to the four walls of their regimented households, the male members of which apply the diametric opposite on women they interact with outside. While toddlers, very old women, little boys are raped, there’s the common perception of female behaviour and dress code serving as catalysts for sexual assault.

Rape is indefinable in a few lines. There is no one sexual, behavioural, cultural or societal trigger of the phenomenon of rape. And whereas in some cases, the victims are killed, even those who survive are left with deep scars on their minds and souls. Society owes it to all rape victims: unite. Let’s say in unison: no more.

Mehr Tarar is a freelance journalist based in Lahore

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