Why rape culture in India is as much YOUR fault as the rapist’s

This is not the first or the last time that anything other than the rapist will be held responsible for Indian women getting raped.  A swami something or the other is ‘trending’ on Facebook for mouthing asinine stuff like women are getting raped because of worshipping Shani. Yes. It is ridiculous but what is worse is armchair activists and Facebook vigilantes taking umbrage over the issue. These are the people who actually do not give a crap about rape. They are the ones (or should I say ‘you’?) who post everything from the Nirbhaya case to this Swami’s stupid comments on your page with a comment expressing disgust and shock and loathing, but will never get a grip on their own mindset.

I know so many of you who post or “share” such links and obnoxious videos and pictures with politicians and rapists talking rot and stupid photos of Deepika’s cleavage or Kate Middleton’s Marilyn moment with remarks like “wtf” and other forms of disbelief and shock and rage. The discussion is often just a momentary reaction, no deep, meaningful conversations on even exploring their own gut reaction. Because aside from the collective revulsion towards the perpetrator, what is it that you all feel exactly?

Rape is horrific because of the physically violent nature of the crime and instantly provokes a reaction. But, this is not about the nature of the crime. It is about perpetrators of crimes against women blaming the women. Have you ever blamed someone for walking the street provocatively dressed and then “asking for it”? Or, said she was asking for it when you saw a father hit his daughter? Or said that it was her fault she went to the guy’s apartment? Or, what was she thinking when she slapped her boss’s arm playfully? Or called someone a slut? Or condoned a “guy” for just being a “guy”? Or laughed when someone made an inappropriate sexually offensive remark in your presence? Or wondered how a guy like him could be with such a “behenji” type?

All these attitudes go a long way towards shaping how as a society we condone the perpetrators of the so-called softer crimes and then we are so shocked when somebody does exactly what we have been doing – blaming the victim.

Rape as a horrific outcome always gets our goat. But, we ignore the collective mindset which encourages gender discrimination and male privilege and never examine our own attitude, which endorses rape culture. How are you helping this culture thrive and creating an environment where people mouth off like this Swami? I would like each vigilante to explore the answers to a few questions:

  1. What would you do if your own cousin, aunt, sister, mom, or daughter told you they had been sexually abused?
  2. What would you do if they told you that it was x,y, or z “guy” who you know so well and would never in a million years think he could do something like that?
  3. What would you think if it was somebody in your own family who was being abusive or offensive or guilty of any other crime against women, which is not rape?

Are you going to be concerned at all? Or, is it like the dowry crime to you? Someone has to burn the bride for you to sit up and take notice? Daily verbal torture is not enough?

There are a few of us who seek to understand what we can do as a society to change. There is a simple solution:

“Be the change you want to see.”

Sit up and take note of all behavior that violates a person’s body or mind or both, instead of sitting back and getting outraged at murders and rapes. Female mutilation, rape, infanticide, foeticide and other physically violent crimes are horrific. But, the ones that don’t leave a very visible trail are scarring too.

Well, here’s a list of things you say or do, which contributes to creating a society where rapists reclaim family honour and marital rape does not have legal recognition. Before you argue about how rape is horrible and rapists are psychos and these 20 statements are innocuous and not really responsible for a heinous crime like rape, think carefully, and STFU if you have been guilty of any of these:

  1. She is such a slut, she has so many boyfriends
  2. Don’t come home late, it is dangerous.
  3. What else do you expect with the clothes she wears?
  4. Her poor husband, wonder what she feeds him after reaching home so late?
  5. I can’t believe he would hit her. She probably deserves it.
  6. How can we interfere? It is a family matter.
  7. Why are you wearing lipstick? You go to college to study or attract boys?
  8. Be a ‘good’ girl.
  9. Take a pill to postpone your periods, puja hai.
  10. It’s a little girl’s birthday, let’s buy her a Barbie, what will she do with a Lego set?
  11. Boys do so much masti. You are so lucky you have a girl.
  12. You are a brave boy na, don’t cry only little girls cry!
  13. So what if your in-laws say that? So many of your women friends get beaten or worse!
  14. She is pregnant, should we give her a promotion?
  15. How many female chess players do you know?
  16. Women’s cricket is a joke!
  17. You are a woman, you won’t understand.
  18. You are one of the boys! (And that’s supposed to be high praise!)
  19. God is a man. We refer to him as ‘he’.
  20. And the old classic: You are a girl and don’t know how to cook?

This list could go on and on. But, the point is this: crimes against women will not end till we put a stop to it collectively in our own family, in our own neighbourhood, and our offices. Stop thinking that it happens to other people. I know that in India women are supposed to put up with a lot and we do, but we need to put an end to it at some time. This is my time. Hope it is yours!