I Am Responsible For The Delhi Gang-Rape

On 16th December 2012, a 23-year-old girl was inhumanly raped on a moving bus in Delhi, the brutality of the assault leaving even seasoned doctors and policemen who thought they'd seen it all, disgusted and speechless with shock. What may have passed unnoticed as a not unusual instance of sexual assault in India (particularly Delhi) instead became the proverbial straw that broke the camel's back.

An outraged nation rose up in a wave of fury, angst, despair, helplessness and shame. There were demands of public lynching, castration and painful death for the perpetrators. Most blamed the government and the police for their indifference towards ensuring the safety of citizens, particularly women. Some sought to blame a warped notion of Indian culture that has cultivated a misogynistic and male-centric Indian society. Others highlighted the need to educate the Indian Male on respecting women. The public protests were demonstrations against a variety of issues that we Indians have been putting up with - bad governance, lack of justice, the sad state of women's liberation, an unhealthy tolerance of crime and criminals, the apathy of the police and the State towards the troubles of the common man.

In all this milieu, however, the real culprit slipped quietly by. I am every citizen of India, and I am to blame, not just for the Delhi gang-rape, but for every incident of violence against the women of this country.

Here's why :

I was indifferent and looked the other way.

The Delhi gang-rape was not the first incident of extreme sexual violence. The hundreds of rape cases I read about every single day in newspaper mostly left me unmoved and apathetic. I either became immune to the rape victims' pain or stopped caring. Either way, I accepted sexual harassment as a common occurrence - outside on the roads, on buses and trains, in the office, even inside the house. 

I did not drive away the louts that stand in front of the girls college gates, whisting at and manhandling students. I did not shout at the man who stood too close and rubbed himself against a girl in a crowded bus, even when that girl was me. I did not call out the casual sex offender, the everyday rapist who takes away a little bit of his victim's soul with every word and gesture. I was afraid to stand up to them, stand up for the girl in trouble, stand up for myself. I let them know they could get away with destroying my dignity.

I did not spare much thought for the rape victims. I did not bother to find out if they were offered psychological support, besides medical and legal help. I did not care to find out if and how I could help. I found out recently that it is common for the victims to be ostracized by their families and friends, as though by being subjected to such a heinous crime, they somehow became tainted and impure. Did I unwittingly condone such discriminatory and cruel behaviour by not actively supporting these women? Maybe I did.

I contributed to the notion of male superiority.

Misogyny and male superiority are deeply rooted in the Indian psyche, passed down through the generations by way of social standing, religious teachings, gender-based role assignments in the family and society and a frighteningly biased set of culture-defined rules. 

Male chauvinism exists in every facet of the life of an Indian woman, be it in the rural and small town country called Bharat or the big city culture that constitutes India. Everything about her is questioned - the way she dresses, where she goes, what she does, when she does it and who she spends her time with. She is expected to be a dutiful wife to her husband, an indulgent mother to her son, a demure sister and daughter who never goes against her brother or father. Her sexuality is a weapon to be used against her, to teach her a lesson if she dissents, to put her in her place, to bring dishonour to her and her family.

I am part of this society, and I accepted this inequality as a natural part of life - both as a woman and as a man. I did not refuse to obey my parents when they treated me differently from my brother. I did not question the need and validity of innumerable fasts and prayers I was made to perform for the well-being of my husband while he was not required to do anything for me. I submitted to a lifestyle marked by conservative dressing and financial dependency. I accepted the definition of female decency as no drinking/smoking, no going out at night, no boyfriends and no pre-marital sex. I played my part in establishing what is socially acceptable for an Indian woman and what is not.

As a man, I did not treat my sister and mother with the respect they deserved. I expected my wife to serve me, rather than being an equal partner in my life. I grew to believe that there is a certain way for a woman to behave, and if she is ready to go out, party late, drink and have sex, then she will not mind some attention from me. I made crude jokes and passed judgement on a woman's virtue. I am culpable in creating a rape culture.

I objectified women.

I am the consumer of advertisements, songs and movies that sell the notion of women as objects to be consumed. 

I am part of a film culture that rejoices in its hero being an uneducated lout who will tease and chase after the heroine till she gives in to his unwanted and unwelcome attentions. Item songs with provocative and sexually explicit lyrics and gyrations serve to do nothing to raise the position of women in the eyes of the Indian Male, and yet every movie has at least one such crowd-puller. We dance to these songs, know them by heart, use them to tease girls. 

I am just as responsible for the popularity of Yo Yo Honey Singh and his depraved lyrics as the next guy who illegally downloads his songs off the internet. I have no right to condemn him and his songs, because he sings for me.

I did not choose the right people to run my country.

What began as an apolitical outpouring of grief and a united stand for reforms by the common man, quickly turned into a platform for political parties to further their agendas. Riots broke out, violence ensued, and a peaceful appeal for justice was trampled under water-canons and police batons. 

Several prominent 'leaders' of our great nation spoke on the gang-rape. A shockingly large number of them blamed the victim in some way or the other for inviting the assault on herself   ("She should not have struggled", "She should not have gone out at night", "Women are to blame"). An educated, young Member of Parliament made sexist remarks when protesters set out on a candlelight march and an all-night vigil for the gang-rape victim who was fighting for her life. No action has been taken against him.

These are not isolated incidents of shameful and regressive ideas coming from those who lead our country and create its policies. The Park Street rape case in Kolkata is a case study in what should never happen in a civilised country. The victim had to fight to register her complaint with the police, face a chief minister who declared that the rape charge was concocted and defend herself against a character assassination attempt by a sitting MP who is herself a woman.

Clearly, our government is made up of men and women who are uncouth, uneducated, uncultured and unethical in the extreme. And I put them there. I did not vote. I did not even care to find out who the candidates were. I did not read their manifestos. I did not play my part in the democratic process. And so, I played my part in their misdeeds and bad governance.

I need to be the change I want to see in the country.

It is time to turn apathy into affirmative action.

I pledge to stand up for that girl being heckled on the road, that woman being manhandled on public transport, that wife or mother or daughter that I know is being brutalized at home. I won't look the other way or be a silent spectator anymore. 

My son, my brother, my husband and my father have no right to speak to or touch or even look at a woman if she doesn't want him to. If they don't know it already, then it is high time I told them so.

I promise to never ever say or think or feel that the victim was at fault for dressing up or going out or being with a boy. I will no longer put up with people who think that the victim 'deserved' being raped for going against our 'culture' or for not being 'moral' enough.

I will not go on living in fear without doing anything about it.

I will not forget you, you brave girl. Rest in peace.

This post is part of the contest Who is to be blamed? on WriteUpCafe.com

1 comment:

  1. Cant agree more !!
    but m still helpless as to what to do to avoid there


Thank you for sharing your thoughts with me!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...