Is being someone else’s loved one, the only reason why women must be exempted from the trauma of rape? An advertising company called Signpost India thinks so, or so it seems from their billboards. The Twitterati erupted in outraged when someone posted this photograph of the billboard on social media.

It seems like the poster is appealing to men to be merciful to women and their families, by not raping them, because rape doesn’t just affect one life. Rape is a heinous crime. While there are many reasons why men shouldn’t rape, to be merciful to a woman’s family isn’t the most important one.

Is it right to sell not raping a woman as some deed of kindness? Doesn’t it place the power of choice in the hands of men, whereas there shouldn’t ever be a choice in this matter?

Stop reducing women’s identity to that of their family

This billboard reduces a woman’s individual identity to that of her family. By extension of this argument is it then okay to rape a woman if she is not someone’s sister or daughter or wife? Is our individual existence not enough for men to realise that violating our bodies is wrong? Time and again men are reminded to see women as their sisters or daughters. They are told to remember that a woman may be someone’s wife or mother, so you should see the face of your own in hers, before having any “dirty” thoughts about her.

SOME TAKEAWAYS

  • A billboard has invited wrath on social media because it tells men not to rape women as it is akin to raping her entire family.
  • Is a woman’s relevance as an individual so weak in our society, that a rapist must consider what impact his actions will have on her family, to not go ahead and rape her?
  • Despite having its intentions right, this idea reeks of misogyny. Women are not considered human enough, that the consequences they face on sexual aggression should weigh on the minds of men.

A woman has no individual standing in our society. We are so subhuman, that we must always be seen in relation to our patriarchs, to be of any relevance? This reduction of women not being humane enough on their own is also what prompts many men to treat women so viciously. Women are always burdened with the honour of the entire clan, and safeguarding of this honour somehow ends up to be a bigger issue than women’s well-being. So, what this billboard, and many who identify with its message do, is that they only rephrase the message of misogyny and hence it has zero impact on men. It does nothing to uplift the state of women.

To reduce sexual aggression against women, the society itself first needs to look at women as individuals, that too as equals.

She is someone’s sister or daughter, yes, but she is a human first most. Sexual aggression is a humanitarian crime, it is wrong on the basic level of human conduct.

The last line on this billboard reads, “You never just rape a woman. You rape everyone else too.” It couldn’t be any farther from the truth. It is a woman’s body which is violated. The physical, mental and emotional trauma she goes through is incomparable with that of those who love her. A survivor’s family feels sad and devastated. Their lives are indeed never going to be the same, but their struggle is nowhere near to what the survivor will endure throughout her life.

Stop such trivialisation of women’s identity and the struggles of a rape survivor. It only keeps men from seeing us as individuals. It only tells them that the damages they are doing to a mere woman aren’t grave enough, there is a much more relevant familial picture which they must look at. And it does nothing to empower us but only pushes us further down the ladder of relevance as individuals in the society.

Also Read : Clergy Exploiting Nuns: Are Women Not Even Equals In Church?

Yamini Pustake Bhalerao is a writer with the SheThePeople team, in the Opinions section.  The views expressed are the author’s own

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