ONTD Political

Let’s Ask How We Contribute To Rape

3:47 pm - 01/04/2013

As I write this, there are protests going on all over Delhi, and in other parts of the country, against the gang-rape of a young woman on a moving bus a few days ago in the city. People are out there in large numbers — young, old, male, female, rich, poor — and they’re angry. They want the rapists to be caught, they want them to be taught a lesson, many are suggesting they should be hanged, or castrated, but also that the State should act, bring in effective laws, fast track courts, police procedures and more. Not since the Mathura rape case have there been such widespread protests. The difference is that then, it was mainly women’s groups who were protesting; today’s protests are more diverse. Sometimes, tragically, it takes a case like this to awaken public consciousness, to make people realise that rape and sexual assault are not merely ‘women’s issues,’ they’re a symbol of the deep-seated violence that women — and other marginalised people — experience every day in our society.

At a time when every politician, no matter what colour, is crying foul, every judge and lawyer, no matter what their loyalties, is joining the chorus, every policeperson, no matter from where, is adding his/her voice, it is worth remembering some key things. First, more than 90 per cent of rapes are committed by people known to the victim/survivor, a staggering number of rapists are family members. When we demand the death penalty, do we mean therefore that we should kill large numbers of uncles, fathers, brothers, husbands, neighbours? How many of us would even report cases of rape then? What we’re seeing now — the slow, painful increase in even reports being filed — will all disappear. Second, the death penalty has never been a deterrent against anything — where, for example, is the evidence that death penalties have reduced the incidence of murders? Quite apart from the fact that the State should never be given the right to take life, there is an argument to be made that imposing the death penalty will further reduce the rate of conviction, as no judge will award it.

Then, and this is something that women’s groups grasped long ago: a large number of rapes are committed in custody, many of these by the police. Mathura was raped by two policemen, Rameezabee was raped inside a police station by police personnel, Suman Rani was raped by policemen. There are countless other cases: will we hang all police rapists? Put together, that’s a lot of people to hang.

Police action is, in fact, one of the demands. Yet, the police’s record, whether in recording cases or in conducting investigations, is nothing to write home about. On a recent television show, a police officer put his finger on it when he said: how can we expect that police personnel, who are, after all, made of the same stuff as the men who gang-raped the young woman last week, to suddenly and miraculously behave differently? I was reminded of a study done by a local newsmagazine not so long ago of the attitudes of high ranking police officers in Delhi about rape. Roughly 90 per cent of them felt the woman deserved it, that she asked for it, that she should not have been out alone, or should not have been dressed in a particular fashion. Strange that women’s bodies should invite such reactions — could it be that the problem is in the eye of the beholder? Why, for example, does it seem to be more ‘legitimate’ for women to be out during daylight hours, but not at night?

Lawyers and judges too have joined the protests — and this is all to the good for the more diverse the protests, the more impact they will have. But it’s lawyers who use every ruse in the book to allow rapists to get away, judges who make concessions because the rapists are ‘young men who have their whole lives in front of them’ and so on. Do women’s lives not have a value then?

And then there are our politicians. Perhaps we need to ask how many politicians have rape cases, or allegations of rape pending against them. Perhaps we need to ask why no one is asking this question: that here you have an elected politician, your next prime ministerial candidate, someone under whose rule Muslim women in Gujarat were not only subjected to horrendous rape but also to equally dreadful violence. How can we, how can the media, how can journalists — all of whom are lauding the success of this politician, how can they not raise, and particularly at this time, the question of his sanctioning, encouraging the use of rape as a weapon of war? And more, we need to ask: if the politicians are indeed serious about this issue, why are they not out there with the protestors? When Anna Hazare was fasting, there wasn’t a day that went by when one or other politician did not go to see him. Where are they now?

Rape happens everywhere: it happens inside homes, in families, in neighbourhoods, in police stations, in towns and cities, in villages, and its incidence increases, as is happening in India, as society goes through change, as women’s roles begin to change, as economies slow down and the slice of the pie becomes smaller — and it is connected to all these things. Just as it is integrally and fundamentally connected to the disregard, and indeed the hatred, for females that is so evident in the killing of female foetuses. For so widespread a crime, band aid solutions are not the answer.

Protest is important, it shakes the conscience of society, it brings people close to change, it makes them feel part of the change. And there is a good chance that the current wave of protests will lead to at least some results — perhaps even just fast track courts. But perspective is also important: we need to ask ourselves: if it had been the army in Manipur or Kashmir who had been the rapists, would we have protested in quite the same way? Very likely not, for there nationalism enters the picture. Remember Kunan Posphpora in the late nineties when the Rajasthan Rifles raped over 30 women? Even our liberal journalists found it difficult to credit that this could have happened, that the army could have been capable of this, and yet, the people of Kunan Poshpora know. Even today, women from this area find it difficult to marry — stigma has a long life. Would we have been as angry if the rape had taken place in a small town near Delhi and the victim had been Dalit? Remember Khairlanji? Why did that rape, of a mother and her daughter, gruesome, violent, heinous, and their subsequent murder not touch our consciences in quite the same way.

It is important to raise our collective voice against rape. But rape is not something that occurs by itself. It is part of the continuing and embedded violence in society that targets women on a daily basis. Let’s raise our voices against such violence and let’s ask ourselves how we, in our daily actions, in our thoughts, contribute to this, rather than assume that the solution lies with someone else. Let’s ask ourselves how we, our society, we as people, create and sustain the mindset that leads to rape, how we make our men so violent, how we insult our women so regularly, let’s ask ourselves how privilege creates violence.

It is important we raise our collective voice for women, but let’s raise it for all women, let’s raise it so that no woman, no matter that she be poor, rich, urban, rural, Dalit, Muslim, Hindu, or whatever, ever, in the future, has to face sexual violence, and no man assumes that because of the system and people’s mindsets, he can simply get away with it. And let’s raise it also for men, for transgenders, for the poor — all those who become targets of violence. Let’s not forget that the young rape survivor in Delhi was accompanied by a friend who too was subjected to violence and nearly killed. Let’s talk about him too.

(Urvashi Butalia is a feminist writer and founder of Zubaan, an independent non-profit publishing house.)


OP: I felt out of all the articles that I have read on the protests in India, this one is the best because it raises the questions that people either avoid or push aside, esp when it comes to the military and their violent actions in various parts of the country, but more especially in Kashmir where the Army is given a clean slate no matter what they do, no matter how much evidence is given. If people want change they have to ensure that with it the accountability is equal across the board.
Mods! Thanks for the Kashmir tag!!!

mutive 4th-Jan-2013 09:28 pm (UTC)
First, more than 90 per cent of rapes are committed by people known to the victim/survivor, a staggering number of rapists are family members. When we demand the death penalty, do we mean therefore that we should kill large numbers of uncles, fathers, brothers, husbands, neighbours? How many of us would even report cases of rape then?

I'm against the death penalty for a number of reasons, so no, I don't want all these scum bags put to death. I would like them tried and put in prison for a very long time, though.

Being an uncle/father/brother/husband/neighbor...none of these give you a pass on rape.
wowsolovely 4th-Jan-2013 11:25 pm (UTC)
I really don't get the tone of this article so far (still reading) Rape is horrible and honestly they should be killed but I understand that is not how it works but the fact that they are uncles or policeman should not matter. They committed a horrible act against someone thats what matters. The tone makes me feel like oh if police or family members rape I mean we should punish them less. wtf.
lozbabie 4th-Jan-2013 11:50 pm (UTC)
No what it's saying that if the death penalty is on the table women who are raped by uncles, brothers, fathers are less likely to report rape as they don't want family members put to death.

wowsolovely 4th-Jan-2013 11:58 pm (UTC)
I do think thats a valid point but then police I feel like even more if they are polic they should not be abusing their power like that.
natyanayaki 5th-Jan-2013 02:05 am (UTC)
They shouldn't be, but the system is extremely corrupt, much more so than in the USA (for example) in a way that the system isn't corrupt in the USA and I wonder if harsher penalties for police officers (politicians, judges etc) could make it harder for victims/survivors to get something? I believe penalties should be harder for people in power, people who are SUPPOSED to uphold the law, but I wouldn't want my ideal to prevent something positive from happening? There's just so much that needs to be done, like the very legal outlook on women. I think that's what needs to be changed first, an adult woman shouldn't be under the custody of her closest male relative, I think the fact that that's the case sets the tone/attitude Indians have towards women.
mutive 4th-Jan-2013 11:59 pm (UTC)
Yeah, it's really puzzling to me. Like, on one hand, it seems to be saying, "We should get worked up about all rapes" (which I agree with). But then, on the other, it almost seems to be saying, "Look, we overlook all these other rapes, why make such a big deal about *this* one?" Which I don't agree with. Again, I'm not really for the death penalty...but there should be severe consequences for all rapes. Whether it's a gang rape of a virginal college student, or a father raping his daughter, or a police man raping the woman he's supposed to protect, or part of a war crime. They're all rape. They're all despicable. They all deserve to land their perpetrators in jail for a *very* long time.
wowsolovely 5th-Jan-2013 12:04 am (UTC)
I am not really for the death penalty but I was not even when typing what to write because then I think of the things that these rapist do and I have a hard time saying they don't deserve to die because they do but I also feel weird when I think about it logically and law wise. The articles tone does get better the second half. Rapist are rapist and sometimes there are different degrees but what the persons personal life/career/family life should have nothing to do with it.
mutive 5th-Jan-2013 02:52 pm (UTC)
Yeah, I feel like they deserve to die. But there are a lot of reasons not to have a death penalty, so I don't tend to support it even for the worst of crimes. (I would, however, love if they were all locked away pretty much forever.)
natyanayaki 5th-Jan-2013 01:57 am (UTC)
It doesn't, and that's not what the author is saying. The author is addressing the possibility that a woman/girl would less likely be willing to report a case and knowing Indian society/culture I think it's very likely, no just because the woman/girl might have some affection for the male relative but because she would also have to deal with the rest of her family after the fact. Would the death penalty further dissuade a victim/survivor from reporting the attack? I don't know, but considering the culture/society I think that it is something that must be discussed.
mutive 5th-Jan-2013 02:51 pm (UTC)
To be honest, I'm not quite sure what the author is saying. It's not the most clearly written piece.

I do agree that the death penalty would keep women from reporting. (Both because they might feel affection, but also because of the social backlash they'd face.) I do suspect that the death penalty might do something - but I suspect not as much.

Either way, I think a better move would be to look for more reporting and to work on quickly trying *anyone* who's been accused (while protecting the victim from harassment by lawyers, etc.) This would be true in the US. It's fairly disgusting how even if rapes are reported, most of the time it's just shrugged off since how do you prove it, etc.
natyanayaki 5th-Jan-2013 08:12 pm (UTC)
I don't think the article is all that unclear, though it is an article about Indian society for an Indian/South Asian audience. I posted this on FB and I am seeing a divide in responses between non-South Asians and South Asians. (If one's not South Asian, or if one doesn't know much about Indian culture/law it might be confusing, though that might not be the case for you).

"(while protecting the victim from harassment by lawyers, etc.)"

How would one protect the victim from her family? I think that's an important question Indian lawmakers must ask.

Edited at 2013-01-05 08:25 pm (UTC)
mutive 5th-Jan-2013 09:59 pm (UTC)
That may be the difference. I think for a western audience, there is a bit of a tone of "some rapes are more rape-y than others", which goes over a bit badly, I think, esp. considering some comments made by US politicians.

It would be exceedingly difficult to protect a victim from his/her family. I think that's one of the major challenges in a lot of assaults, not just in SE Asia, but throughout the world.
natyanayaki 6th-Jan-2013 01:09 am (UTC)
Thanks for thanking that as I intended, I was worried that it would sound dismissive, which wasn't my intention at all!

"That may be the difference. I think for a western audience, there is a bit of a tone of "some rapes are more rape-y than others", which goes over a bit badly, I think, esp. considering some comments made by US politicians."

There are plenty of crappy statements made by politicians all over the world, but I understand.

I might be wrong, but I think there is some confusion when she discusses police officers, lawyers, judges, politicians etc. I guess some feel that she's saying those situations wouldn't warrant a backlash? I actually don't think that's her intention at all, I think what she's doing is attempting to bring up awareness of how the public reacts in different circumstances, if the police etc are involved, if military personnel are involved, if the victim is lower caste, or a certain religion. I think it's comparable to discussions in the US regarding how a victim's race effects national reaction, or how when the accused is a celebrity how the public reacts to that. I think she's attempting to address the discrepancies in how the public reacts, but some are seeing that as apologism if it's a relative, police officer, politician, soldier etc.

I don't know, I got the impression that the author's primary intention was to discuss the society's and challenge how society reacts depending on different circumstances. I just feel that this discussion is necessary for anything to change.

"I think that's one of the major challenges in a lot of assaults, not just in SE Asia, but throughout the world."

Yes, I just limited my comment to India and the US because I know more about Indian and US laws than those of other nations (though, I'm not a lawyer and there's a lot I don't know/understand), and because the article was focused on India/Indian society/culture. Plus, I feel that in India there are some simple legal changes that could make a huge difference and it frustrates me that I see/hear no discussion about those laws that are in place to "protect" women, but just make women 2nd to men.
mutive 6th-Jan-2013 06:18 pm (UTC)
Eh, I try not to be dismissive of people unless they're trolling. ;) It's pretty obvious that you're not.

There are a lot of crappy statements all over the world, but the last US election cycle seemed to be punctuated by a bunch of incredibly stupid politicians (most of whom fortunately were not voted into office) trying to define how most rapes aren't "real" so that they could disallow abortions. So I do suspect it's a point of soreness particularly for people in the US. Which might explain a bit of twitchiness.

I definitely think that you're right regarding the author's tone. And while it's not universally true, I do think that there's a tendency to say, "Oh, it's fine" when it's high class/caste against low or someone in authority vs. someone in less...but not the opposite. (The US had similar problems with lynching black men who may or may not have raped white women...but being pretty cool with the opposite occurring. Still does, to a real extent.) It's a bad situation.

From what I've been given to understand, there are a lot of fairly simple laws that would do a lot in India...and it's really sad to see that those aren't being implemented. (Fast tracked trials, I believe, were one of them?) And I agree that laws that "protect" women by making their lives more difficult aren't the way to go. *sigh* The sad thing is that it feels like the biggest thing that needs to change is a large cultural change...which is a lot harder than passing a new law.
natyanayaki 9th-Jan-2013 01:41 am (UTC)
There's a lot that needs to be changed (like Hindus please research real "Hinduism" and not that apologetic, scholarly nonsense!), and I think that fast track trials would help, but I think that there are some things that need to be addressed that aren't. Financially speaking, women aren't recognized as entities, taxation in India is based upon families (not individuals), and it determined by the father, oldest brother (who could be younger than you), husband, uncle etc. Until women are given a financial identity (thereby having a legal reason to look into family finances etc, because as it is they don't and when they inquire the general attitude is "why are you concerned with that? it's not your business! stop being a nag!"), I don't think they'll be given human respect. Nobody in India really talks about it, because it's in place so that legally speaking husband's can't abandon their wives, and I feel people outside of the country often don't understand why that's a problem (when other things seem more urgent), but the thing is (IMO) it leads to a culture in which women are by default inferior to men (but it's sneaky, because women do have a vote, women are in the work force and often make more money than their husbands and in the US would be considered the heads of their households), it creates an environment of complacency, and personally I think that law and resulting cultural attitude contributes quite a lot to Indian rape culture; because most rapes in India aren't this brutal, aren't don by "strange" perpetrator. Most attacks are by individuals know to the girl/family and if the victims are unmarried girls, and the perpetrator is unmarried as well, and he offers to marry her chances are the girl will be pressured into marrying him (because, she's now tainted --I hate that attitude, the rapist is tainted not the victim, you know?!), and now not only will she probably end up marrying her rapist, but legally he'll be able to do nearly whatever he wants because since she's his wife under Indian law she's essentially under his custody/guardianship (marital rape isn't recognized in India, not generally at least it might be in really extreme circumstances). I just wish Indians in India would start discussing that specifically, it's something that all my Indian Indian friends who have moved to the US discuss constantly because as they realize how the laws are different, they see how much the Indian law contributes to violence against women.
mutive 9th-Jan-2013 01:11 pm (UTC)
Yeah, I agree that it's pretty ghastly that women are considered "tainted" in a rape. WTF? (It happens in the US, too. Which is so messed up...)

A lot of interesting points here. I may re-read and re-digest. But thanks for the primer on Indian gender relationships. I really learned a lot!
natyanayaki 10th-Jan-2013 12:52 am (UTC)
Yeah, I think it happens in most places, after all good things are male and bad things are female *sarcasm*. I wonder how much would change all over the globe if we started using active verbs to describe the female side of sex (or used active verbs more often). In English (for example) women are penetrated, men penetrate women, but how often do we use the idea that women envelop men? And I'm not making rape analogies, I'm mean just in consensual sex, heterosexual sex the general language tends to indicate females take the passive role even though that's not necessarily the case. I wonder if we begin to recognize culturally and with our language that women are active participants in heterosexual sex if culturally we'd better be able to accept/understand how horrendous ignoring consent is?

Ugh, I feel like I haven't stated that well, I hope I was clear.
jugglingeggs 9th-Jan-2013 01:48 pm (UTC)
Wow. You have been fantastic all over this post!

I never thought that this article was unclear. To me it was pretty obvious that what the author is saying is that using the death penalty is 1) not going to prevent rape 2) is going to actually backfire on the victim, because if you're about the accuse the breadwinner of the family-the family isn't going to care what was done to you (not to mention you will be "tainting" the family by even trying to report the case). I guess it is easier understood in an Asian context...

I really wish India would stop with the worshiping of the military, cause much like the US it seriously freaks me out how much they turn a blind eye to all the evils committed continuously and are rarely held accountable. I just don't get it.
natyanayaki 10th-Jan-2013 01:05 am (UTC)
Thank you! That means a lot to me, because I'm really not the most articulate person.

It might be confusing in that in the US/West there's a greater focus on the individual, whereas in many cultures -even today- there really isn't a concept of the individual. Like, there is but there isn't, the individual is less important than the family (or village, or the "whole" entity).

I'm not all that familiar with India's (or Indians') adoration of the military specifically, but I think there's a general authority problem in India and assume that it helps lead to military worship. I really don't understand it though, it seems that everyone I know recognizes the corruption and how problematic it is, but then also defends the system? It realllllly confuses me. It's like, if the system doesn't harm or hasn't harmed that person, the idea is that there's not need to fix it or something.
burningmarl 4th-Jan-2013 10:05 pm (UTC)
Let’s Ask How We Contribute To Rape

well that was a nice little cold douse of water to the face.
jugglingeggs 9th-Jan-2013 01:50 pm (UTC)
Sorry, just went with the original title! :( Sorry if it triggered you in any way!
jenny_jenkins 4th-Jan-2013 10:19 pm (UTC)
"When we demand the death penalty, do we mean therefore that we should kill large numbers of uncles, fathers, brothers, husbands, neighbours?"

Rape isn't properly reported as it is. And everyone who rapes is SOMEONE'S son.

I say hang them.

I can't be rational about rape/sexual violence or what I think of as physically expressed misogyny - I just don't care anymore.

And a policeman who commits rape of a woman in custody? Castration first. Then hanging.
(no subject) - Anonymous
natyanayaki 5th-Jan-2013 01:54 am (UTC)
I think this is point the author is making, "How many of us would even report cases of rape then?" I didn't get the impression that the author is attempting to humanize the perpetrators, I thought she was delivering a "double whammy" of sorts, pointing out the fact that rapes occur within the family (something that isn't discussed at all in India), and based on Indian "family culture" and Indian "rape culture" when the perpetrator is a family member, the victim is less likely to report it, if the woman/girl thinks her father/brother/cousin/uncle will be hanged (and that she'll have to deal with her family afterwards) I could see that as being a deterrent.

Regarding police officers, while I personally believe that cops, politicians, judges etc should always get the maximum, but considering how corrupt the system is in India (much, much more so than the US), would harsher penalties make it easier or harder for the victims/survivors? I don't know the answer to it, I'm just worried drafting laws that the society isn't ready to handle could create some sort of backlash. I think there are a lot of other laws that probably should be changed first (India's tax laws for example), in order to foster an environment in which women aren't constantly under male guardianship.

Reg the article...I couldn't read through it because of the pictures, oh that poor girl.
(no subject) - Anonymous
natyanayaki 5th-Jan-2013 03:20 am (UTC)
I hope so, my uncle is a little confident that because of the feelings of the youth and social media etc that things might change. But, IMO, the problem is that the discussion is focusing only on rape/sexual assault etc, and I think in India there are other cultural ideals/laws that contribute to the situation that aren't even acknowledged. Some people say "well rape etc should be addressed first" and they might be right, and I'm obviously not saying that the more obvious things shouldn't be dealt with (they should!) I just think that seemingly not so bad laws, laws that are supposedly in place to "protect girls/women" are far more disastrous than people recognize and I feel that unless those things are openly addressed and discussed NOTHING else will really matter (does that make sense), nothing else will really change?

We also have to consider, that India as a nation is only 65 years old, and it went through a lot of what I call "misogynistification" during the Mughalai rule and especially during British Colonial rule. Hopefully if the women and the youth continue to speak, things will begin to change...even slow change is better than no change you know?

(Btw, have you seen this? http://news.yahoo.com/judge-law-wont-protect-unmarried-victims-rape-012941200.html)
zemi_chan 5th-Jan-2013 12:01 am (UTC)
mary_pickforded 5th-Jan-2013 10:04 pm (UTC)
I like the way you think.
browneyedguuurl Have you guys read about the high school football starts in Ohio known as "The Rape Crew"?4th-Jan-2013 11:28 pm (UTC)

I just read about this and am so disgusted. I can't even.
angelofdeath275 5th-Jan-2013 02:57 am (UTC)
I fucking cannot
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