Let us talk about rape, shall we?
Women are objectified from the very grassroots. A woman’s modesty is sacrosanct only as long as something more important does not come along.
Formalities and protocol apart, there isn't anything truly outraging about rape anymore. The frequency of the crime, the taking in of such an 'update' and the general perception around it are languid to the extent that it establishes that it is but an expected occurrence. A degrading Indian society and people now seem too unmoved and accustomed to give in to any outrage. Rape, in India, is normalised. What is per say an act of sexual violence has, in fact, little to do with sex on the larger scale. Rape is essentially a method to overpower and to prevail. Rape is an instrument of deterrence and a method of enforcing subjugation. Planning and executing the gangrape of an 8-year-old in Kathua to evict her community from the region explains this with the most dreadful details. Studies support that rape is not always about sex.
As a society, women have been conditioned to be wary of anything that might put them in a situation of dominance by a man – beyond the confines of personal space. Patriarchy dictates that women abide by this norm and this is enforced more emphatically by women – on other women and on men in ways that traditional society does not permit us to talk about. As much as the culture of dominance and intimidation has been allowed to thrive, it is the need to acknowledge and understand that potential offenders and criminals are socially engineered to malfunction against women and the vulnerable. And given the deplorable state of legislation, they are also emboldened to give in to animality.
When, in a certain case reported recently, the parents accepted money (because they were poor and needy) to foil the daughter's rape trial and tried convincing her to drop the charges against her rapist, or when a father 'gifted' his adult daughter to his friends and then joined them to rape her, it betrays that women are sexually objectified from the very grassroots. A woman's modesty is sacrosanct only as long as something more important than that does not come along. The glamorous entertainment industry is only just one reflection of that.
This past week had many reported rapes that garnered media attention nationally and internationally. We take for granted that foreign news houses are just at work to highlight rapes in India, but when the IMF chief makes a comment about the "revolting" Kathua tragedy, the implications of this crime are clearly spilling over to India's presence beyond its territory. Christine Lagarde pointed out that the Indian Prime Minister did not mention women enough in the country's growth story in the Davos conclave. A country where nearly half the workforce is barely acknowledged (let alone be safe), why would a profit-seeking economy consider dealing with it? The fractured human resource and generally tattered social fabric (irrespective of its texture) are sufficient deterrents to make India pay for its social, legal, and political apathy for women with its external associations.
Getting accustomed to crimes against women and growing indifference to it at the legislative level is most appalling. The Trafficking of Persons (Prevention, Protection, and Rehabilitation) Bill 2018 was drafted two years ago. This long-pending legislative initiative could just not be introduced in Lok Sabha because our Parliamentarians got arguing about more important matters of national significance. So much about the concern for the protection of the vulnerable. To add insult to injury, several lawmakers have publicly belittled incidents of rape on account of it being too common a thing. Suavely skirting the issue without daring to make a statement regarding the government's disgraceful failure to address this calamity is a novel technique of artistic affront.
This nation has a handful of genuinely remarkable individuals who work for the people and not just themselves. Atishi Marlena, advisor on education to the Aam Aadmi Party-led Delhi government figures in the list of party functionaries who were dismissed by the Centre because the post was 'void' – quite understandable, the method of functioning did not structurally comply with the next level of organisation. That there ought to be necessary changes is an alien concept, almost an anathema. This shows that between the established structure and innovative methods, only the latter can be compromised with. Meaning thereby, that education may be valued only if the methods to make it happen subscribe to the bigger method of state functioning. This rigidity trickles down to the strata of society and so we have poor and needy parents taking money to make their daughter drop charges against her rapist.
We are a state that does not value education and its fruits. And we are a society that does not value individuals. Atishi Marlena happens to have a formidable background in education. If a leader is not sufficiently educated, it is expecting too much that a fundamental foundation of society and economy like education will receive attention beyond formality. To quote a few pertinent examples, Angela Merkel has a PhD in quantum chemistry, Justin Trudeau's Cabinet has quasi-academic ministers dispensing their services in fields that they are also academically well-versed with, Barrak Obama used to be a lawyer, Bashar al-Assad is a trained ophthalmologist. These people are leaders from their personal apolitical calibres as well, not just people gifted with the ability to influence people and win elections. If a leader is not educated, he/she cannot truly value education.
Deepika Rajawat, the harassed lawyer battling to bringing to justice the Kathua case expressed to the national media that she is not sure how long her honour is intact because she is going against a lot of established systems just because she refuses to be daunted from doing her job. This is also how normalised rape is at any level whatsoever. A part of society is, however, growing in awareness. This makes the contrast even starker between the black and white of the Indian society and the many greys in between.
(The author is Senior Copy Editor with Millennium Post. The views are strictly personal)