And You Thought We Were Progressing..

By- Medha Gupta, Srishti School of Art, Design & Technology, Bangalore

Just when India was supposedly progressing in terms of gender equality (Read: Success of ‘The Dirty Picture’, practically a one-woman show!), our dear government of Gurgaon goes and does something beautifully regressive! Women are advised to not work beyond 8 pm because that’ll just invite rape, of course!

Who cares that this affects so many working women for no fault of theirs except for being born with a vagina. Who cares that rapes will continue to happen because this won’t stop them rapists from becoming lusty before 8 pm. It’s still the right way to go simply because well, as a government we’re helpless against criminals aren’t we? We endeavour not to provide solace or closure to victims but convenience to the criminals. And, of course, we want to make sure that these society-shaping rapists return home in time to have a decent, family meal after having exhausted themselves in raping women the whole day. They work so hard, you see, how can all their efforts not be rewarded?

What makes me so very angry about this situation is actually not any of the above, after all one could still naively say that this was something that happened as a result of a grave error in judgement on the government’s part, or maybe they were just drunk when they released this statement. No, what really annoys me about this whole issue is that no matter what you do, nothing, absolutely nothing can ever bring the rapists to truly appreciate the kind of trauma and agony they inflict on a woman by forcing her to submit to their carnal desires. No amount of torture or humiliation or even bodily disfigurement, to be extreme, can make them understand what a woman goes through. Nothing, not even remorse for their actions can make them appreciate the vast magnitude of the pain they’ve caused.

This is a crime where the victim is blamed more than the criminal. Even if we’re living in a so-called progressive society, the victim is still not free from societal blames. Your clothes were wrong. Your behaviour was inappropriate. You walk was suggestive. You stood out too much. You invited them. You. You. You. Always the woman is to be blamed. When will we understand, women. Do. Not. Ask. To be. Raped. Nor do they go out in bikinis searching for hooligans to inflict that on them.

We can never completely imagine the horror a rape victim experiences but we can try and so, as a society we need to stop for a moment and try, try to understand the gravity of the crime and what it means to a woman before we blame her for everything. I remember during the Noida Gang Rape case that happened sometime back, there was a huge media frenzy surrounding the case and that having been a time when I used to read the papers, I ended up following the case for a while. There was a period initially when the perpetrators’ family were supportive of the victim. When the rapists continued to abscond however, the families changed their statements, and quite rapidly so. One guy even went so far as to say, “So what, she was only raped. No big deal. Plus, she was fooling around with her boyfriend. She was just inviting trouble.” I stopped reading newspapers after that.

Maybe my actions were a little extreme, but sometimes that’s all one can do. And I had to do what I did or else I would have gone completely mad. I’m not a cynic by nature but was my faith in the world shaken that day, and how. But, the way things are going on right now, the only way my extreme measures will work is if I went and hid in cave and didn’t come out till the situation got resolved, all the while hoping that a rapist won’t find me there, even though that’s the more likely scenario! Call me out of there, won’t you?!

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2 thoughts on “And You Thought We Were Progressing..

  1. I understand the argument you are making here but do think about it from the side of the incredibly and inordinately burdened law and order system (Its around a 100 policemen for one lakh people, I think).

    In my opinion, you have mixed up two issues. The first issue is as to how sensitive we are to rape victims (Along with this is the whole issue of how women should dress and why women are blamed by a patriarchal system for being “provocative”). The second issue is that of how much protection we can offer to our women on a practical day to day basis. I am in complete agreement with you on the first one. For that we need a mindset change, social reform etcetera. But what do we do about the second issue? (Because a generic answer like “mindset change” is a longer process that is not merely premised on lawmaking and reforms and does not seem to offer the solution we need immediately. Please remember I am not one to advocate women to hide in caves!). So eventually, and sadly, it boils down to a cost benefit analysis of women working beyond eight and the concomitant security concern.

    Also I understand that the law mostly affects employees of BPO Firms which operate till the wee hours. So instead of shifting the blame onto an already burdened police force maybe we can think of obligating BPO Firms (Which thrive on sweat money of these very employees) to hire private security or something? This is despite the hasty retreat of the Gurgaon Police Commissioner (http://in.news.yahoo.com/women-round-clock-gurgaon-police-chief-142542134.html).

    I am curious to know your thoughts on what I’ve said.

  2. I agree with you that we are lacking in man force and cannot expect the already overburdened police to be responsible for all of us, not until we start sending out more of our kids to Police Academy than to other Institutes.
    But, my problem is not with the law, per se. I think there are far more knowledgeable people out there who can deal better with the nitty-gritties of the law than I can. No, my problem is that even the thought of issuing such a statement stems from a rather regressive mindset, one which blames the victim far more than it does the perpetrator. And it is precisely that mindset that I’m protesting against.
    Yes, the number of rapes after sundown is more in number. But, does that mean that other molestation & groping incidents that happen in the day time are any less traumatic for women? I don’t think so. Any kind of violation of a woman’s privacy and her right to say ‘no’ is that, a violation. So, why do we, as a society not think of better, even simpler ways of dealing with that instead of expecting women to individually do everything and expect no restrictions on the men’s part.
    I’m not talking of implementing some kind of national anti-rape propaganda, we’re too far away from that. All I’m saying is that something, anything needs to be done about this issue. There’s a reason why rapes are increasing by the hour or why women are becoming unsafer by the minute. There’s a reason why some states have very low crime rates against women. And I doubt that it’s so because all the rapists flocked to Gurgaon. The reason is something else. It needs to be investigated. Simple measures such as well-lit streets need to be implemented. And help can be taken from organizations like the RWA so that something can be done from the grassroot level itself. Awareness campaigns, self-defense classes. these are all simple but effective measures. They won’t stop rape entirely, but they will bring down the percentage. All it needs is initiative in the right direction and maybe some willingness to punish the rapists!
    That’s all I’m saying!

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