Rape. For any of you who take any interest in current news, there is no need to give an explanation as to why I am exploring this topic.
Rape; the most dehumanising and disgusting act which one individual could possibly do to another, an act which requires one to be inherently evil and hold no disregard for any living creature. It is an act which according to Western media occurs every FOURTEEN hours in Delhi. I strongly believe that women’s rights define a society and given this and the fact that India considers itself to be the ‘largest democracy in the world’, it has exposed itself as a country where inequality is not just tolerated, but in fact is a national attitude. This revelation to the rest of the world has raised some unsavoury questions as to just how much justice and progress can in fact be achieved.
Quite simply, rape is an act of control. For those six men that violated their innocent victim, it was not just an act dedicated to achieving their pleasure. If a rapist is interested in achieving sexual gratification there are other means in which it can be achieved through. But instead rape is an act of assertion. An act of power. An act of control. A savage act intended to demonstrate that one individual can dominate another. In India, rape is viewed wrongly by many as a treatment reserved for those women who have strayed away from the expected gender norms of passivity and compliance.
Given the extensive coverage already received, I do not need to discuss the actual horrific and barbaric rape itself. Most of you will be aware that six men were involved, and as a direct result of their evil actions a young girl, the same age as me (23) with a promising career ahead of her now is dead. Contrary to Western reports (I cite the BBC) she did not pass away ‘peacefully’ but instead in my view, she was not only raped, but she was raped to death. A compelling element of this entire episode is not the kangaroo court which will no doubt follow, (especially given that India is notoriously corrupt, and incapable of vetting out appropriate levels of justice) nor the issue of why it took the police so long to act efficiently in regards to getting the victim to hospital, but in fact what factors are identifiable for why these men carried out this act?
What factors are involved to make Delhi the rape capital of India? What factors are involved for men to actually carry out such a heinous crime? This is a question which over the last few days countless Western journalists have attempted to explain, but unless an individual has an intimate knowledge of India it is a topic which is difficult to grasp.
Being British Asian, and having visited India on many occasions for large durations of time over the course of my life I am all too aware of the unfair patriarchy which has engulfed the social system and underpins everyday life in India. Women are taught (through such devices as carrying chilli powder with them) techniques to avoid them from being raped. What is sickening, and where the real shame lies is that there is no focus or education placed upon men NOT to rape. The adopted inferior position of women derives from traditional values and views of women in which their virginity is the most sacred thing which they can offer. To report a rape, means an admittance of this loss of status, and therefore a victim is viewed primarily as a woman damaged and ruined. Men in India exploit this cultural ignorance, and are all too aware that the implication of rape is more damaging to the victim than to the attackers. These sickening positions which many women are placed in have allowed men to exploit women for far too long for their own use.
Masculinity (and money) is all that rules in India. India has internalised in its national psychology the glorification of an aggressive and violent masculinity, one which cannot be defied at all – especially by a woman. The male in India is an individual who is held in a revered position; his birth is celebrated, whereas the discovery of a female foetus often leads to early termination. The male in India is glorified and allowed to do as he pleases, whereas a female is expected at all times to uphold the strongest virtues and traits of submissive womanhood. To put it simply, men are not used to hearing the word ‘no’.
A fundamental contributing factor towards the disgusting attitudes to women in India is quite simply that sex, sexual desire and pre-marital copulation are viewed as taboo and these acts are subsequently repressed. However the statistics of rape which predate this awful incident demonstrate that despite the taboo nature of these human urges, sexual activity still occurs, and does so in a violent manner.
India is a country which is deeply conservative. A country where a young boy and girl cannot walk together without being questioned by people around them, sometimes even by the police. A country where if a woman is sexually harassed or abused the way in which she dresses or conducts herself is blamed, even though she will have done nothing wrong. Often this view is one which is accepted, and there is no exploration or acknowledgment that this is instead a common explanation from men in order to mask their own perverse desires. What underpins sexual relations is that India is a country where the concept of female pleasure from sex is not a concept, and sex is an arena reserved for men and men only, leading them to feel that sex is only something which they can control.
However, for a country so imbedded in its conservative attitude towards inter gender relations the number of rapes (and I can only cite official reported rapes, there are bound to be many unreported) exemplifies a frightening fundamental breakdown in society. The lack of sexual education and the view of women in the classic virgin/whore dichotomy is to blame. There is no attempt to discuss sexual desires, but instead a large (and unfair) focus is placed on women as either being ‘whores’ who are good enough for a one night stand, or a virgin, a passive and innocent female who is there to purely obey her husband’s commands. Furthermore, as if the lack of sex education is not detrimental enough, this is directly juxtaposed with the portrayal of women in Bollywood.
Bollywood is India’s most dominant and influential entertainment industry. The conservative tone adopted by India is not adopted by Bollywood which instead tends to offer an overtly sexualised view of women. Films place focus on women semi-naked, with lingering shots on their breasts, and an even larger focus on gyrating hip movements. In a country where even in the sweltering heat women are expected to dress modestly it is clear to see that this view of women promoted by Bollywood seeks to affirm to the masses that women are viewed as sexual objects, objects that are there to satisfy their every desire. Even more absurdly, despite the sexualised depiction of women, there are hardly any actual physically intimate moments on screen. Bollywood has a chance to portray sexual experiences in a positive light, yet it instead depicts it in a way in which teases the viewer and allows them to make up their opinion of how intercourse occurs. By depicting a highly sexualised female character who on one hand defies the male who chases her, yet on the other through musical scenes is depicted as being sexualised, an oxymoronic image is stated. This image is one which is consumed by men in India, allowing them to believe that women are there for them to claim and conquer.
In India there is a real issue with poverty, a lack of education, and a repressive attitude not only towards women, but also towards different castes and classes of society. Until previously the acknowledgement of rape was not dominant, and now that it is there is a real chance for not only India but other countries (including Western countries) to examine rape, and examine the underpinning factors and do something in order to stop these horrific acts being carried out. It can only be hoped that there is a major shift in attitudes in India, to ensure such a horrific attack against another human being is never carried out again…
Until next time, x.