It's your fault

Kalki Koechlin's video as gone viral! The purpose of this clip is a response to the jaded and sated explanation given after every rape: "Every sexual assault case in India inspires a string of stupid and hateful remarks against women. This is our response to those remarks". It is worth watching and also pondering about our own guilt if any. Open magazine takes us to another level when it shares in a article entitle Misogyny, Rape and Medicine, the terrible and unacceptable that rape is treated by the very ones who should heal all scars. The author is a doctor and she recounts the horror she witnessed when a child rape victim was brought to the hospital she worked in. I quote her words. They are chilling:

That morning I had been urgently summoned by a senior colleague. Her cheeks were flushed. Her eyes were shining.
“Come on! There’s a rape case, it’s really exciting!”
I followed her into the ward. A crowd ringed a cot on which, cowering in misery, and pulling her blood-stained frock down tight over her crossed ankles, was a child about the same age as my colleague’s daughter.
The other doctors who surrounded the cot were men. They were chuckling over a joke. The rapist had bitten the child’s face in his frenzy, leaving a gaping hole in one cheek through which her teeth showed. The joke that had the doctors in splits was about that gash.
Once the child’s frock was off, there were other, broader, jokes. They bet on the likely positions the rapist had taken. They rolled her over and inspected her like a piece of meat.

Will hanging a few rapists take care of mindsets? I really do not think so... It will be another come on! they are hanging the rapists, it's really exciting!

It is our fault. Not because we wear provoking clothes or go out at night. No it is our fault because we do not bring up our children well, we as women perpetrate patriarchy to a fault. We as women kill our female foetuses. We are guilty of considering our daughters as the 'property' of someone else and never allowing her to forget this. We as women pamper our sons and husbands. We as women ill treat our daughters in law. We as mothers prefer killing our child rather than supporting her when she needs us most. We accept the fact that a daughter is the repository of the family honour whatever that means and that honour comes before the happiness of the one we carried in our wombs for nine months. And then, as in the case recounted above we accept silently the aberrations that we witness without screaming out STOP!

I guess everyone who has daughters is struggling to find the right way to bring them up. Another article in the same magazine entitled: The battle plans of feisty parents, depicts the way chosen by privileged families. I can be summed up in one word: paranoia that does not begin when your child enters her teens but right from the moment she enters school if not earlier as predators lurk everywhere. One mother says quite candidly: I am trying to have honest conversations with my daughters about the facts of life, about choices, and about practical things to keep yourself safe… good touch/bad touch, contact with strangers, contact with people-known-to-us-but-who-make-us-uncomfortable, trusting your instincts, paying attention to things around you when you walk on the street, taking karate classes, etcetera. My biggest dilemma as a mother of a pre-teen daughter today, especially in this last year that we’ve seen great public violence against women being reported, is ‘How do I explain sexual violence to her when I have barely begun to converse with her about the changes in her body and about sexuality in general?’ I do not want her to associate intimacy and sex only with violence.

Many issues stem from these words. First of all only a well educated and empowered mom can implement this approach. In my opinion there are very few mothers who can talk to their children comfortably and also realise that intimacy cannot and should not be associated with violence and fear. This takes care of a very small strata of our society but what about the remaining girls: the orthodox middle class; the under privileged class, the girls who live in parts of the land where honour overshadows all?

Communication is the key to all problems and what one sees little of is communication between parents and children. I am a child of the 50s and my mom was born in 1918 but from the time I can remember she had instilled in me the habit of telling her everything and in return had promised that she would never be angry, no matter what I did. She kept her word and I kept mine and thus we could communicate easily. If ever I did something she did not approve of, she would never scold me there and then but wait for an appropriate moment and then bring up the matter and listen to my side of the story. She had some strict rules and one of them in my teens was to tell her where I was going, with whom and what time I would be back. The deal was that I was not to be a minute late. Now Delhi in the 70s did not have cell phones. There were public phones but you needed the appropriate coins. I can never forget the numerous times when I have begged the manager of a movie hall to use his phone as the movie was longer and I would not be able to meet my deadline. If I was unable to inform her, I would give up whatever I was doing and reach home. This was just a aparte but the point I am making is that communication and trust are the two pillars parent-child relationships should be built upon.

But let us get back to the topic of we are discussing: safety of girls and women. There is violence within the home, violence at the work place and violence on the streets. This violence is perpetrated by men and women too. Maybe it is time we revisited the way we treat our sons. It is absolutely shocking to see boys being better fed, better educated, better cared for etc. We see this almost everyday in our centres. The world around us has changed and we need to look at these changes in the face and address them. It is time boys are not treated as mini gods but as regular kids. A parent in the same article sums this quite well. I leave her the last word: Leave aside what parents of girls are doing, what about parents of boys? For the situation to improve, there has to be a change in the way boys are brought up. Often if there is a daughter and son in the house, the daughter will make the bed while the boy watches TV. There are any number of examples in my family where men don’t pick up the broom or wash dishes. Teach the boys to do chores, [it’s as] simple as that. Then they will know that they are not special. And as far as sexual urges go, it is natural to have them, but if the girl says ‘no’, it is a ‘no.’ Be gentlemen, not animals.