How it is all in the silence of the lamb

BLEAK BLEAT

How it is all in the silence of the lamb

Where it concerns rape, the problem is definitely us. But it isn't the length of our skirts or our sense of adventure that’s letting loose the wolves. It’s our silence, asserts Priyanka S Rao

We have accomplished unimaginable feats using technology. We have sent humans to the moon, solved the most difficult mathematical equations and explored the deepest secrets of the oceans. And yet, we seem to have no tools to prevent a man from raping a woman? Bizarre, don't you think?

It's here again, hijacking our thoughts, peace of minds and our TV screens. It is the elephant in the room trumpeting and stomping its feet so loud. Rape. The word is stuck in our throats, neither can we swallow it, leave alone digest it, nor can we say it out loud. It makes us uncomfortable. It violates our privacy. Yet, the only time we address the issue is when we fear for our lives or those of loved ones. We put restrictions on ourselves and our daughters in the hope that our actions alone would keep us safe. Does it ever?

Who’s a good daughter

Irrespective of what our daughters have to undergo, we expect them to remain docile and submissive, while we don’t expect that of sons. Such deep rooted conditioning is one of the roots of this evil. No wonder boys grow up to feel superior to women.

There is no girl or woman on this planet who hasn't met with some form of sexual harassment in her life. We don't need statistics to tell us that. But we never do anything about it. Acceptance is a huge part of our existence. And so is resignation. This is the kind of conditioning our patriarchal society nurtures. It coolly ignores objectification of women, thereby condoning bad behaviour.

Silence of the lamb

The first time it is someone whistling at us and we ignore it. The next time it is a touch and we move away, but never talk about it. We wait for the third time, when it gets much worse. By then, the damage is done.

The problem is definitely us. But it isn't the length of our skirts or our sense of adventure that people want to blame. The problem is our silence. It is not only the silence of the girls but also of parents who feel “shamed”. We have always held pride and esteem above humanity and sometimes even common sense. We are a society in collective denial.

Start a dialogue

Shivali Tukdeo, a sociologist and assistant professor at the National Institute of Advances Studies, Bangalore, talks about the “naturalisation of violence” where it is accepted as a part of life and considered routine.

“Gruesome incidents have happened but no one talks about it. We have continued to keep quiet. Historically, we haven’t dealt with this issue. It has all been hush-hush so far. We need to address the situation; the first step to have a conversation. Perpetrators are banking on the shame factor and using it against us. We need to talk more openly about it and encourage conversations at every level,” she says.

Sex education

“There is something very wrong in the way young people are understanding desire,” points out Shivali Tukdeo.

“It is not for consumption or enjoyment,” she says. “This shows the failure of our education system. Sex education and gender sensitisation are the need of the hour. We need to teach boys to respect girls. This should be not only in the formal school structure but also at the panchayat and local levels. A campaign like the one for polio is definitely required. Changing attitudes is a gradual process; but it won’t happen overnight. We as a community must insist on schools at all levels taking up this kind of education.”

“If you make talking to a girl a taboo, boys will naturally get curious. There needs to be healthy interaction between boys and girls. With this foundation, morality, right and wrong, and law and punishment can be taught," says Avinash Bhat, a media professional.

Cry it out loud

We need to raise awareness and voice our concerns and citizen forums are the need of the hour. But the conservatives will cringe. Sex is still a taboo subject and there is cultural apprehension while talking about it. We need to find new ways of talking about it.
“Are you in the scene of crime? Do you notice bad behaviour on a bus? Raise your voice, create a scene, alert the cops. Draw attention in any manner possible, irrespective of whether or not you were directly involved," suggests Nirupama Rao, a homemaker.

No cringing

“Forums can take responsibility of educating designated areas. They can invite NGOs and experts to address people of all walks of life, area-wise on gender sensitisation, steps to prevent rape and basically get involved as a community to prevent crime. Also, awareness programmes in all organisations as a mandate by the government can be held,” says Kartik Satya, an IT professional.

The wolves have ascended the throne, thanks to the silence of the lambs. Lambs may not have sharp teeth or nails, but they have loud bleats, surely! It’s high time the society stopped silencing their daughters, asking them to be docile and submissive.
It’s time parents realise they will be raising lambs for slaughter, if they are raising meek daughters.

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