She should just be silent

One of the perpetrators of the terrible Delhi gang rape of December 2013 has given a brazen and shocking interview. This blog is not about the merit or demerits of interviewing such sick people by giving them unnecessary publicity, though that could be a point to debate. This has actually been the subject of much heated and even frenzied debate for the past day or so. And though I understand that many feel that this interview by a unrelenting perp is galling to say the least, what worries me is the absolute refusal to go beyond the interview which is apparently a part of a documentary on rape made by a rape survivor. Her attempt to try and put her point across has been thwarted by the myopic view of giving a criminal a platform and sullying the character and memory of the victim. Even the entreaties of the film maker to hold on to judgement till her film was seen has fallen on deaf years. I for one, would like to reserve my opinion till I see the film, but that may not happen as the film is on the way of being banned, if it not already is. One thing that needs to be said is that we as a nation have become intolerant and that is nothing short of terrifying. We refuse to see what disturbs us and deal with it by obliterating the truth, or taking an ostrich like view. Films like Matrubhoomi run to empty houses and that too for a short week.

This blog is simply my reaction to the content of this interview. The comments of the perpetrator may seem shocking and monstrous to many, but sadly they reflect a very real mindset that exists in men in India. If one were to sum in a phrase the essence of the interview it would be: she was to blame! She was to blame because she was out at night; she was to blame because she was with a man; she was to blame because she dared raise her voice; she was to blame because she fought back. All these emanate from the existing gender equation where women are at best second class citizens.

What the rapist and murderer said is what has been echoed time and again, overtly or covertly, in different situations by men of all kind: politicians, policemen, neighbours and even family members. This is what is meant in the 'but' that often qualifies reactions to come against women. You are right, but; this is terrible but; it should not have happened but! How many times have we not heard reasons meant to mitigate the horror of the crime and that often pertain to what the victim was wearing, drinking, smoking and so on. No matter how many laws you make or how stringent you make them, things will not change on the ground until we address the situation head on.

The rapist states in his interview that: When being raped, she shouldn't fight back. She should just be silent and allow the rape. He goes on to say: A decent girl won't roam around at 9 o'clock at night. A girl is far more responsible for rape than a boy. Boy and girl are not equal. Housework and housekeeping is for girls, not roaming in discos and bars at night doing wrong things, wearing wrong clothes. And what was even more shocking was the comments made by the lawyers defending the perps as they also reiterated what was said by the murderer.

I wonder why we are so shocked. Have you forgotten the (in)famous boys will be boys and they will make mistakes, that was uttered a senior politician; and what about the sickening comments made by law enforcers who blame western culture for rapes, and the officials who call rape routine and unavoidable. And the deafening question begging to be asked but never formulated: have the rapes stopped? And the answer is a loud NO! They go on with impunity. And its is not just women, but children and even babies. And what about honour killings and this misplaced belief that family honour lies with the girl and should she dare step out of line, she must be done away with.

Is it not time that we faced the reality with honest courage?

To any sane person or sane society such behaviour is nothing short of repugnant, nauseating, loathsome and whatever adjective you can come up with. And you would be right. And yet what the murderer said is what many say or believe, so the logical conclusion is that we are not a sane society, at least when it comes to gender equations.

It is time we accepted this fact and rather than fly off the handle and come up with yet another futile knee jerk reaction, let us take a deep breath and calm down and look at reality as it exists. We have to stop being in denial. If you simply Google for rape statistics in India, this is what hits you: 92 women are raped in India every day, 4 in Delhi. As you read on you are told that in 94% of the cases, the rapist is know to the victim. These offenders included parents in 539 cases, neighbours in 10,782 cases, relatives in 2,315 cases and other known persons in 18,171 such cases reported over the year. I shudder to think about how many are unreported! And these are rape cases, one cannot begin to imagine how many sexual abuse cases one needs to add to these terrifying statistics. The problem is real and far beyond one or two aberrations. The kind of reaction we have seen yesterday and today are not what is needed to address this horrific reality. There is another statistic that one should look at, that of conviction of rapists and this one is no less shocking: While rape cases have risen from 16,075 in 2001 to 24,923 in 2012, the rates of conviction have dipped from 40.8% to 24.2% in the corresponding period. And every parent of every raped girl wants justice. Let us not forget that!

I listened to some of the debates in Parliament. Sadly the few voices of reason who compelled us to take the debate beyond the documentary and the issue of the rapist being interviewed, and look at the reality that stated us in he face, were drowned by those who just wanted the film banned and someone taken to task. I guess the someone will be some petty official who 'dared' give the permission for the said interview. Of course we were treated to the usual foreign agenda to sully the image of India, as if in this day and age of social media anything can be brushed under the carpet. One lady parliamentarian even stated that the airing of the film would affect tourism. My answer is simple: any rape affects tourism and I know what I am saying; we lost a large chunk of support after the rape of a foreign tourist a year ago. Every rape, Madam, tarnishes our image, it is time we stopped all rapes and that can only be done if we have the courage to change mindsets and look at ourselves in the mirror. Another MP stated that any time there is a rape, blame is put on the woman that she was indecently dressed, she provoked the men etc. Yes Ma'am you are so right. One of our students was raped when she was 4 year old. Th perp went to jail and came out. That young girl was ostracised by her peers and neighbours and ultimately had to leave the city. And it is not just rape, I also know of a 12 year old who was molested by an older family member. When she dared speak up, it was not the perp's character that was maligned, but hers! So let us call a spade a spade!

Will not airing the documentary stop rapes. No! Will hanging the perps stop rape. No! Though it will give some sense of closure or justice, if closure and justice there can be for a grieving family. All this talk about tarnishing the memory of the brave heart falls flat in my opinion. Her memory is tarnished every 20 minutes when one more woman is raped in India; it is tarnished every time a child is raped; every time an honour killing occurs; every time a woman is molested or abused.

That beautiful and courageous  woman was taller than anyone and she had the courage to fight her rapists to the very end. We as a a society can only honour her memory if we stand as tall as her and accept that mindsets exist, that we are somewhere guilty of perpetrating them, that we need to address them each time they occur and not turn away, that we need to pledge to do everything we can to change the way women are treated in our country. Nothing short of that can honour the memory of a young girl who died fighting and refusing to be silent.