Monday, December 31, 2012

A society of Rapists 

“In India, as many as 57 per cent of male adolescents and 53 per cent of female adolescents believe a husband is justified in beating up his wife under certain circumstances”                                                                                                                  -- A UNICEF 2012 report

Going through the reactions and responses to the Delhi gang rape incident actually tells us why such crimes are happening in the first place. Rather than asking questions about the evil mindset of the perpetrators and social reasons for such incidents, many were asking why the girl was present there at the “wrong” time with the “wrong” person. For them, the fact that the girl crossed the limit of what was defined for a girl was far graver issue than anything else and hence the girl was kind of “asking for it”. That IS the most important point here. We have everything quantified and fixed for the less privileged ones in our society. Specific time and space is defined for each according to their class and sex. Obviously, the social associations or relations we have is built on factors of dominance and submission where one party is meekly submitted to the dominance of the “more powerful”. Our social institutions including family and marriage follow this in varying degree and form. While we boast of our “values” and “relations” and disparage others for not having these precious traits, at the core, most of our relations are bereft of emotional bonding and built on these twin factors of dominance and submission.

We are trained and tuned to fall in to the line and not to cross the limits defined for each class and sex. Crossing the limits can attracts punishment from the privileged ones. It starts right at home and goes accepted well by the family and society. Only in some rare and exceptional cases, when it takes some unusual dimensions, is discussed or raised as an issue. Otherwise, it is systematically practiced uninterrupted. As Arundhati Roy has pointed out rightly, the rape itself is not an issue at all when its committed systematically in many parts of India like Kashmir and Manipur and the perpetrators like Indian Army are doing it keeping themselves within the defined space and time. Even in Delhi out of the 635 rape cases registered last year, only a single case met with punishment ! That shows our attitude towards such crimes and despite the hubris, we accept measures like rape to keep the limits and boundaries. Thanks to the dynamics of globalization and Information Technology, the women and other less privileged classes get a lot of opportunity to “cross” the limits and challenge the status-co. Perhaps, that explains the increase in such hate crimes against them. Rape being the ultimate and most rabid attempt to debase the victims and humiliate them in the worst possible manner, it is perpetrated by the worst elements of the society. But definitely that alone is not the symptom of this disease. We see outbursts of a lot of fanatic ideologies in the name of religion and other ideas which essentially strive to keep these limits firm and intact !

Even when these issues are debated, our discussion is carefully woven to not change the status-co. Hence we see lot of myopic and reactionary solutions and opinions. People even come up with weird suggestion to follow countries like Saudi Arabia in implementing stricter penal codes for rapists and other sexual offenses. Nothing can be further from the truth and shallower in analysis. In Saudi, you are not seeing many such incidents because the women is virtually under house arrest there. They lack the basic freedom to drive a car or even to move around freely. They are not even allowed to dress the attire they choose or the color they like. Is that the model we should be trying to emulate ? Most of the people even propose death sentence for the rapists. Have these people ever made a simple analysis of all the countries who have been practicing death sentences ? I bet not ! Otherwise, they wouldn't have come to such an erroneous conclusion. There are less than 60 countries in the world currently practicing it while over 100 nations have abolished it. Significantly, these 60 countries have not seen any decline in those crimes which attract capital punishment. On the contrary, they have far higher crime rates than those who have abolished it. This is NOT to say that harsher treatment of these criminals are not required. But propagating that as a panacea for fighting such crimes and ignoring the social causes are incredibly stupid and counterproductive.

What is needed as a nation and society is a introspection on our patriarchal and class ridden mindset and learn to accept basic human right concepts like equity, social justice and individual freedom. We need authors, parties and social movements propagating these concepts rather than craving for perpetuation of uncivilized and inhuman practices like death penalty. Alienating and marginalizing majority of the people under various names like casts, class and sex have cost our nation horrendously in terms of lost productivity and potential. It is not a coincidence that in all the highly developed countries we see people are treated on merit rather than their affiliation to a particular strata or sex. Japan as a country and as an imperial force had conducted some of the worst mass rapes in the history of mankind during the time of world wars. But they have managed to come out of that psychologically and socially and have built up a society and country based on equity and social justice to a great degree in a rather short period of time. Surely, we too can achieve the same if we are serious about it. We need to start it at our home. If we want our country to be a safe place for our women and everyone else, we need to learn to respect them first and treat them as equal citizens at home first.

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