The rape rot runs deep

Rape has played a major role whenever the question of dominance or war arose, be it during the world wars, when comfort women were the norm, or the ‘genocidal rape’ of the civil wars, with the purpose of destroying communities and families. It was one of the causes for the exodus of Kashmiri Pandits in the 90s, as well as for the more recent Rohingya crisis. Reuters file photo

I was around 16 when I read Kane and Abel. Soldiers rape Abel’s sister Florentyna. The power of the writing left me quite disturbed.

I realised that rape as a ‘tool’ is the most despicable way to overpower the weak and the physiological framework of the human body makes it all the more easier.

The perpetrators are left feeling all powerful, macho and dreadfully satiated, all because they could.

History of rape

The rape of women or youth is a common theme in Greek mythology, with Zeus himself paving the way.

Rape has played a major role whenever the question of dominance or war arose, be it during the world wars, when comfort women were the norm, or the ‘genocidal rape’ of the civil wars, with the purpose of destroying communities and families. It was one of the causes for the exodus of Kashmiri Pandits in the 90s, as well as for the more recent Rohingya crisis.

No wonder, Angelina Jolie had to say that there is “much more to do” in the fight against rape in war.

In India, it was prevalent among the warrior aristocracy, who considered women to be a part of the spoils of war. Caste-driven rape is a tool used by the upper castes against lower caste women.

In the poignant words of a 1979 rape victim,“Not enough people understand what rape is, and until they do..., not enough will be done to stop it.”

Closer home

As many as 2.5 million crimes against women have been reported in India over the last decade. Reported cases of crimes against women increased 83% from 1,85,312 in 2007 to 3,38,954 in 2016. Despite awareness leading to better reporting, there might be untold stories.

Unfortunately, the year 2016 saw the lowest conviction rate in a decade (18.9%) – the percentage of cases in which the accused were convicted out of the cases in which trials were completed by the courts – for crimes against women.

The most worrying trend is the increase in rapes against minors. Child pornography offences have exploded by more than 200% in the last decade, a trend which is fuelled by the easy access to illicit material over the internet.

Despite the POSCO act, there has been a steady increase in rapes against little girls barely out of their diapers, causing untold anguish. If there is a rape in Assam today, there is one in Surat tomorrow, as if to make up for a ‘geographical imbalance’. The national capital, not wanting to be left behind, takes it a notch further, with an eight-month-old raped within Delhi city limits.

If it is a common man yesterday, it is someone from the ‘who’s who’ today, committing the crime. A few months ago, a celebrity cried “molestation” on social media and the alleged culprit was shamed without even proper investigation; but if the family members of the victim cries foul, the high-profile perpetrator “sports a smile” throughout the interview.

That begs the question, what is the road ahead for common women and girls?

The systemic problem of poor legislation, even poorer execution and an appalling judiciary has ensured that the rot in our system not only runs deep but is spiralling downwards to altogether new lows.

Role of media, citizens

My late father always felt that the headline, “Dalit woman raped”, stoked to keep the fire of caste differences raging rather than work towards systemic changes. He used to lament aloud, “Was she raped because she is a Dalit or because the men had the ability to do so!” I think he echoed APJ Abdul Kalam’s feelings when the latter asked, “Why is the media here so negative?”

As an actor spouted in ‘Bajrangi Bhaijaan’, “the hatred sells rather than love.”

People gather information from this very media and, unfortunately, 24/7 channels are more bent towards creating news and hence compromise on the veracity.

Instead of condemning the despicable acts in Kathua and Assam, we are diluting the crime by politicising and giving them a twist. Instead of rooting for a stringent law for all, we are baying for the blood of a few perpetrators. Vying for personal mileage and milking it for all it is worth seems to be more important than the cause.

If that is not the case, I seem to have totally missed out on celebrities holding placards for the eight-month-old in Delhi. Maybe, I was holidaying under the sea!

Right from time of Eve, women have been targeted for all that is wrong in society. We, as citizens, have to fight against this rot in our society, irrespective of political leanings.

Besides teaching our men and boys to respect and regard, let’s fight to make our law bolder and stronger and strive to remove all loopholes.

Let’s strive to emasculate the men who rape, not emasculate the moral fabric of our country.

(The writer is a freelance behavioural skills trainer)

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