Rape Culture In India: Inferences of Justic Leila Seth & Leslee Udwin

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The Nirbhaya case put India's rape problem on the global map but hasn't quite brought much change to the situation on the ground - women continue to get rapes, many in urban settings and those in rural areas are rapes for reasons as bizarre as raising their voice before elders or some such silly thing.


One of the city's literature festivals saw a panel discussion on rape culture in India with Justice Leila Seth Sonia Faleiro and heard Leslee Udwin of “India’s Daughter” fame (she couldn’t make it to the event, participated through skype call). It was moderated by Srijita Mitra Das.

Although the talk began with how rape victims are treated in our country, it gradually escalated to the idea of marital rape. Leslee Udwin shared how in more than 15 countries that she visited in the African continent, the word of law states that it is okay for a husband to beat his wife in order to domesticate.

Justice Leila Seth also pointed how a majority of the women that are alive and married in India, were married when they were 18 years or less, and how child marriage is a real issue and not just a soap opera plot. In a personal conversation, she shared how she faced ridicule and was always asked to be on the back seat of everything in the beginning of her career. One of the audience members also pointed out that her recommendations from the anti-rape commission were ignored. To this, her wise and sweet reply was rather simple- 'we beat one thing at a time. And even if they ignore us, it doesn’t mean we stop pushing for change, especially with something that affects us, on an everyday basis.' Leila Seth is the first woman in history to be the chief justice of a state.

how child marriage is a real issue and not just a soap opera plot

On intolerance, Udwin shared how, to her own surprise, some ‘feminist’ groups in the country objected to her movie, stating it too intimate and objectionable. Well, being a student of feminist practices and professionally blogging on the idea for a decent amount of time now, I feel that the movie was a true feminist movie. Not only did it portray the prevalent misogyny through violence, but it also effectively captured the multiple structural problems in our country. While on one hand there is an illiterate rural woman (wife of one of the rapists) is totally dependent on her husband and makes claims that she would commit suicide if he is found guilty as she has a young son and no capacity to be an active part of the labor force, there was the rapist on the other, who thought it was provocative of women to step out of their houses late. The film was an accurate deconstruction of the various problems like poverty, lack of education, patriarchy etc. that operate the rape culture in India, and that’s EXACTLY what feminism is trying to say.

 Udwin shared how, to her own surprise, some ‘feminist’ groups in the country objected to her movie, stating it too intimate and objectionable.

I did have a few thoughts unattended, due to paucity of time, but I would like to leave them to the readers:

One of my acquaintances was fortunate enough to be one of the top 50 students from various academic and research institutes in the country, to be invited for an all-expenses paid trip to Russia, for the BRICS Summit in Russia. S/he tells us that the conversations in the summit were truly thought provoking and made her/ him realize how much deeper the problems in our society had penetrated. On their return, the students were asked by the Ministry to present a recommendation paper on the gaps in Indian Education. When the papers came back from the ministry, all sentences that had the word ‘sex’ or ‘sex-education’ had been omitted. Therefore, my question is, How do we aim to bridge these gaps of culture, if we can’t even bear the sight of the word? And what is the point of such burdens on the exchequer, if the consequences of them are seemingly being altered?


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