Raping Culture, Tradition & Values
It appears that there is no end to rape cases in our country. The recent rape of a six-year-old girl by a school staff in Bengaluru, and the cover-up by the School Chairman is but another stark example of the rot. In Lucknow, a twenty-five-year-old girl was not only raped but murdered brutally after inhuman tortures similar to that of the Nirbhaya episode. These two cases once again have caught media attention amongst the multitude of rapes happening every now and then.
There was so much outrage this time too, but can outrage change things? Sexual violence runs deep in the country, and unless it is dealt with at the source, it will continue to pour forth. We should all ask ourselves, how we as a civil society can do to check such heinous crimes? Can the police the government alone can curb such menace without participation and support from the society? Humans are social animals. If there are no blood relations, at least social relations exist. Further we live in a democracy, where every citizen has a certain responsibility and accountability. Civil society today is too selfish, coward and ignorant. That is why such sexual crimes are increasing day by day.
An alert, vigil and responsible society always make the police, government and administration vigilant, accountable and efficient. If society is strong and responsible, criminals simply will not have field days and crime will come down. If we feel that the law and order conditions in our society and country have to be changed, we first need to change ourselves.
The recent enormous spike in rape incidents has been ascribed, in urban areas, to women joining the workforce and facing aggressive male resistance; and in rural areas to the all-pervasive caste system. However, the underlying problems go far wider, and point to a deeper crisis, which India must urgently address. In India sexual suppression is created by parents, priests and politicians. Parents are the silent sufferers, but the role of priests and politicians who are rather too vocal and shoot off their mouths is now common. After each press hyped rape incident, bizarre reasons are given from all the corners and the only person who is blamed for it is the girl. The most outlandish comments come from politicians (despite Prime Minister Narendra Modi asking the leaders to stop pscyho-analysing rapes). Leaders have blamed rapes on eating fast food and non-vegetarian food, use of the mobile phones, spread of television to rural areas, wearing jeans, even skimpily dressed mannequins in shop windows.
But what reasons will these so-called ‘experts’ give on the rape of a six-year-old in her school in Bengaluru? This is not the first case a child has been raped, incidents in the past have shown that even babies who are few-months-old have been raped. What theories will our leaders give for such cases? The school is supposed to be the safest place for a child. What has happened to the guru-shishya parampara that was held in esteem since centuries?
Every child must be educated from the school level about respect for women, for personal spaces and for the rule of law. We need to introspect, all of us, on how we contribute to the objectification of women, from the popular culture we consume to the way we bring up our children. Girls only see the pictures of Maharani Laxmibai and Sarojini Naidu in their history books. They must be taught that they are equal. We need self-defence classes in school for girls. And to teach boys that girls too are equal. Even in our elitist schools we have no programmes to sensitise young children on matters of sex and sexual crimes. We need to tell them what is wrong. Schools should make that effort, along with the families of the children. What needs to change immediately is the way that Indian society thinks about gender, about masculinity, about femininity, about what it is to be a strong man or a strong boy and what is the role and position of women in modern society. Indian society traditionally believes in the family being the bedrock of society. This is the safe cocoon, where one retreats from the outside world. But actually, in more and more cases, the family is a violent place, a very unequal space, whether it’s between a man and woman or parent and child. It’s quite terrifying.
The Government of India did a survey in 2007, which reported unbelievable rates of sexual abuse of boys and girls. It was found that there were a higher percentage of boys who were exposed to sexual abuse. If the child is exposed to so much violence in the home, whether it’s physical violence or sexual violence, this is what he learns. This is a sad and grim reality.
Sexual violence in the home, sexual violence in rural communities, and in very low-income communities is extremely underreported. It really goes back to what the position of women is in the society. Do women have stakes, do women have autonomy, do women have agency, and do women have earning power? What does a woman’s voice count for? But it’s also a children’s rights issue. India is the world’s leading democracy. We have one of the world’s most ancient civilisations with some of the finest historical traditions and human values. These rapes expose how hollow our claims really are today!