India’s Rape Epidemic: We Must Ask Who is India’s daughter?
Who is India’s daughter? What does she look like? In my head I am fearless, fierce and firebrand. In my surroundings, I am careful, conscious and cursed. As India’s rape epidemic grips mental conscience of the nation, here’s a look at everything that’s wrong with us.
OUR DAILY LIFE!
Do you know that feeling, when you walk on the street and you are constantly, looking left or right, with your eyes stretching to see if someone is walking too near, or is following you? Just that subconscious life where you oscillate between alert and alarm. Those moments when you pretend to do something at the store shelf but instead are thinking of your safety in the aisle? Forcing those ‘eyes’ at the back of your head to track any signals? That meeting where you wait for the uncle in front to get his eyes to your eye level and not stare at your breasts. That editor in the cubicle who feels it’s his right to suggest when you can or cannot marry and have your baby. This is how women ‘live’ in India. Forever pulling down the length of their skirt. Adjusting their dupattas. Hiding their bra straps. Loosening their tight clothes. Giving up jeans for salwars. Dressing not for themselves. But for others. For society. For being who they should be. Not being who they are.
Do you know that feeling, when you walk on the street and you are constantly, looking left or right, with your eyes stretching to see if someone is walking too near, or is following you?
Recent incidents of rape and assault have shaken up the nation. 8 year old raped in Jammu and Kashmir. 11 year old brutally raped and murdered in Surat founded with 86 injury marks. Woman assaulted by Armed Forces police squad in Pune. Another girl in Odisha was raped. The little girl was found naked and covered in blood, with head and neck injuries. To say there is a rape a day in India would be conservative. It’s more like a rape every hour.
This should force us to sit up and think? Why are women and girls raped in the country? In a democracy, we have right to freedom of speech. It’s a diverse country, progressive and women are rising and growing here. Because in India, you are ‘inviting’ rape when you choose to wear skirts, jeans or eat chowmein noodles. In India, you can be raped for loitering in dark places. Here you are raped for going to bars to drink and have a good time. You can be raped because of orders by a khap panchayat or salishi sabha. You will be raped because a politician or his son set his eyes on you and wants you. And you can also be raped and murdered for falling in love outside your community. In India, you can be raped because you happened to be an innocent child who was made into a poster case to prove a point to community nomads to refrain from entering certain areas.
What I have just shared is the ground reality. But in India in text books too, we force women to believe they have to follow ‘rules.’ Some school books talk about how women should not dress provocatively. Where have we empowered girls and women? Where have we supported their spirits? How are we inspiring them to do more? Surely slogans alone are not enough.
We have no concept of consent. We have never raised children thinking of it. In India, we believe everything is our right of way.
The problems are many. As a society our moral compass is shaky. Lets analyse some issues we have.
We have no concept of consent. We have never raised children thinking of it. In India, we believe everything is our right of way. We believe encroaching people’s spaces is normal. We barge in. Not just that, we don’t believe girls should have public spaces at all. That they should be free to roam and loiter. So they must be caged back home or to hostel after sunset.
Rape is also ‘acceptable’ it seems. Recently veteran Bollywood choreographer Saroj Khan said there was nothing new about Bollywood being bred on a diet of sexual favours in exchange for roles. She said it had been happening for decades. “At Least Film Industry Gives Work, Doesn’t Rape And Abandon” was the gist of her bizarre statement. Problem with what she said is how casually she said it. As if this should be perfectly acceptable. You can be disgusted at this comment and you can also be sad that this is the state of our film industry. Where no one speaks up. And lets things pass as they are. Since the Harvey Weinstein disclosure, India’s $3 bn Bollywood has been on tenterhooks with pressure mounting on them to reveal the dark web within.
We fail every single time to stop rapes. There is no deterrent. There is not a single time where the nation has seen kasab-like treatment of a rapist. If we don’t kill the rapists and make the punishment so severe that every day when boys dress up and leave their home, their moms should say, “do whatever but don’t touch a woman.” While there is one argument for death penalty, what we also need is swift justice. The punishment must come quickly and the cases must not hang around. Look at Nirbhaya’s case, it’s yet waiting for conclusive closure.
HOLDING US BACK?
What’s holding us back? Are we as a society not able to see that we need an end to rape in the country? TV shows after shows discuss how rape is an issue that needs change in mindsets. That we need to change the flaws in the upbringing. Don’t we all know that? Ok, perhaps thats another debate is it not? Shall we not confuse immediate punishment with what’s changing the entire fabric of the nation?
LAW FIRST, MINDSETS AFTER?
It’s relatively easy to change the law, but it’s important to change the system. The judicial system. The law and order system. The complaint mechanism.
Let’s not talk of changing mindsets right now. This is the time we need to secure women with the more obvious. Law and order. Severe of severest punishments. Sacking of professors, politicians and officials who have remotely been complicity. Public shaming. A nationwide campaign on training boys how to behave, and how to control their urges.
WHO IS INDIA’S DAUGHTER?
I come back to the question. Who is India’s daughter? What could she look like? She is the girl who wants to start on her own two feet, have her own mind and speak, express, dress as she pleases. Do not tell her what and how to do. She is no lesser citizen.