Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Of rape and the internet


There's been a lot of talk of Rape in the capital recently. There are numbers flying through the internet like nobody's business. All this talk of "Such and such number of rapes in just two years" and "So many rapes in moving vehicles" has been said, relayed and splashed through social networking sites so many times they've become as meaningless as the constantly diminishing hope that we and the people we love can make it out of  our youth without the scars of a misogynistic, violent, cruel society decorating our minds and bodies.

With every incident, there is anger. Where there is anger, there is hate. Where there is hate, there is stupidity.

As it is with everything on the internet, the rape of a young medical student on a luxury bus in the city has sparked an outburst of tweets, facebook statuses and blog posts (like this one, I suppose) full of opinions that are clearly formed in anger, fear or insecurity. I picked out a few of my favourites and responded as I saw fit.

1. "I'm from Delhi, I'm not a rapist. Stop saying Delhi is full of rapists"

Stereotypes are bad, even when they're good. There is little that can be said to justify pulling a large group of people under the blanket of a single characteristic just because its easier for someone to comprehend. Not all Punjabis are drunken brawlers, not all Bengalis are haughty, not all Americans are stupid and every man from Delhi isn't a savage animal with a raging libido.

But there are two things worth noting here.

One, no one said everyone in Delhi is a rapist, but to deny that Delhi is FULL of them isn't stretching the truth too much, given the statistics of sexual crimes in the city over the last decade. Saying Delhi isn't full of rapists would be like suggesting Hitler's Germany wasn't full of Nazis simply because there were a large number of attempts to overthrow the Nazi regime from within the country.

Two, its awfully easy to sit in your comfortable bed and type the words "I'm not a rapist" out on your nice little laptop, but no one ever thinks the words "I'm a rapist" to themselves, do they?

Its not like the men on that bus spent years telling themselves that it was a fantastic idea to get on a bus together and wait around for a young woman to stumble on to it, then assault, rape and, possibly fatally, injure her.

Rape isn't a crime of logic. Its the result of a sick, patriarchal, oppressive society that spends years telling men that they have the upper hand. Its in that moment when that lifelong inculcation of Male Privilege goes out of hand that a rapist is born, not through a logical, calculative reasoning, but through the uncontrollable, neanderthalanian urge for sexual relief backed by years of back-patting for being born with a penis.

The "potential to rape" is in all of us, to deny that is stupid. Its the unfortunate justification that society allows male sex offenders to give themselves that helps them realise it.


2. "Its unfair that everyone is so angry about Delhi, but so many rapes happen across the country no one cares about"

This blew me away. It took me a while to understand what the whole thing meant because it was inconceivable that anyone could be as daft.

You're pissed because the rape that happened in Delhi got so much media attention when rapes in smaller cities go unnoticed? Then I've got an exercise for you.

Think about the last sexual crime you can think of that happened in the city before the "bus incident". Then try to think of the one before that. Keep going and see how far you can get.

In all likelihood, you got a far as four, maybe, five cases. You still think these cases get ENOUGH attention?

It takes a great deal of cynicism to see the wrong in a case of sexual assault coming to the forefront in this manner. True, rapes in smaller cities DON'T get enough attention. True, the mainstream media tends to confine the top stories on the subject to the major metros. But, to see the kind of upheaval that has taken the city by storm, a city that had, pretty much, resigned itself to being the "rape capital", is heartening.

It may be a passing phase, it may be an internet fad, but its in the right direction. Don't turn the other way just because you think its getting more attention than another, albeit equally important issue. You're not helping ANYONE.


3. "That celebrity dumped his wife and married another woman, now he's talking about rape like a hypocrite"

I remember when Satyamev Jayate did a segment on crimes against women and a lot of people I know (and love) were all up in arms about how Aamir Khan was a hypocrite for doing that segment after walking out on his first wife.

Are we really equating the falling apart of a marriage to the violent sexual violation of an innocent woman? Have we, as a people, really set the bar so low that leaving a spouse and violating basic human rights are judged on the same scales?

And why should ANYTHING anyone has done be a deterrent to his right to speak out against an undeniable injustice? If a former sex-offender chooses to speak out against sex-crimes, would you turn him away? If the answer is yes, then, perhaps, you need to sort your priorities out just a little bit.

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All said and done, rape is a heinous crime. It is not a crime of passion, nor it is a crime of lust. Its as violent as homicide, except with more sustained consequences.

But in all our anger and insecurity, our accusations and defenses, let's not lose our heads. Let's not say things that set us back fifty years on the already disappointingly static perception of rape in Indian Society.

Remember, if you don't help, you enable.

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