What should be done to the rapists?

Posted on June 26, 2005

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I wrote parts of this piece 7 years ago on an Orkut discussion board, as a reaction to the online uproar against the then ‘popular’ rape incident. The topic of discussion was “what should be done to the rapists?” This stands relevant even today, when the social media is buzzing with demands of capital punishment, stricter laws, more police, lights, no tinted glasses et all. Let me start with the cynical question – How many people take part in the message boards/groups/pages? For how long would discussions continue? Days, weeks and months…? At the end of the discussion how many past, present and future victims would we be able to help? Are we actually turning a single pebble?

Now, common reaction to my cynicism, “We might not be able to actually help anybody but by these discussion we are trying to bring a change among ourselves, sensitizing ourselves on the cause”. I agree. “Its not in our hand to help, we can only suggest ways to improve the scenario the implementation has to be done by authorities.” I agree again.

But since they are not doing their part should not we as individuals actually do some overt physical act to help the situation? CAN WE as individuals do something about it? Do we even have any responsibility to do something? And by ‘something’ I am not talking about teaming up, starting an NGO, collecting funds and bungling funds…I am talking about things we can do with our ‘hands and feet’ ‘ears eyes and mouth’ ‘heart and mind’.

Let’s not anymore come out with suggestion as to what the police, judiciary and government should and should not be doing. Debates and discussions are of immense importance I totally agree, but as we can see, there already is a huge intellectual young lot debating and discussing. Some of us have to do the action part as well.

Now the question that next arises is what can we do? Are we going to become policemen watching out for probable criminals? Are we going to train girls on how to carry handy weapons, raise an alarms, act smart and run? My answer is No.

Rape is a very very sensitive issue. To begin with we must ask the question ‘what’ and ‘why’ of Rape. “What should be the punishment” is a question that has to be raised much later. To end rape, we have to know and understand how it started? RAPE being a subject we (the moral, conservative, decent Indian) don’t talk about openly, few of us have actually ever tried to find answer to the questions ‘Why’ and ‘What’. There’s very little research done on the root causes. Mostly people are of the opinion that there are no cause, it’s just that the guy was a heinous criminal. That, to a great extent is true. Assuming so, lets consider the next point What is Rape. How is it different from the other crimes defined in the Indian Penal Code? Why is there a taboo around it? What stops the victim from reporting the crime? Why must Rape lead to raised eyebrows and painful murmurs in the society.

Rape is a gender based crime, which means it is committed upon a woman for her reasons of being a woman. This itself identifies the reason of rape. Rape is a crime born out of man’s self assumed power over women. Secondly, rape is a crime born out of lust. A man’s way of satisfying his sexual need by overpowering the weakest woman around. Since it is related to lust, the natural tendency is to blame the victim for being lusty. This problem is rooted in the mindset that men are otherwise asexual and can only be turned on by sight, sound, touch etc other external factors. If you go all the way back to the mythologies, the concept of apsaras based out of heaven is responsible for today’s victim blaming. Whenever the earth bound Muni Rishis embarked on a mission that posed a threat to the God’s rule, they summoned the Apsaras presumably heaven based escorts or prostitutes to visit these men on earth and seduce them so that they are distracted and fail in their Tapasya. The idea that women are distraction for men is still deeply rooted in our every day life.  Young boys are routinely taught to concentrate on studies and career and stay away from girls. Now, when a sexually hungry but repressed man sees a woman on the street, he presumes she is there to distract her. She might just be standing there in a burkha yet the man would still presume

I am very curious to find out how my mom and dad (middle class) would react if tomorrow I introduce them to a friend of mine who they know to be a Rape victim. I wanna know how my maid servant’s mother (Lower class) would react and how my Boss (upper middle class) and how the Ambanis and Birlas would react to the same situation. How comfortably and confidently can a victim walk in her neighborhood. Because if she can’t she would be reluctant in reporting the incident and as long as the criminal knows she is reluctant he would have a upper hand. In criminal jurisprudence it is said that ‘the criminal is not the victim’s criminal it is of the society’s. That’s why a victim is not allowed to withdraw from a criminal complaint. Punishments work as deterrent on future criminals but seldom helps a victim. And I think in cases of rape as much as the victim needs to see the rapist being brought to justice she also needs umpteen support and care. We hang the Rapist while the neighborhood was still murmuring about her clothing style or hour of work, while she was walking down the streets. Did she get peace? Its important to take away the taboo, the inverted comas from the word rape. It has to be understood that rape and sex is not synonymous. Sex is a natural desire. Rape, like murder is a crime. Sex involves the desire of both parties while rape doesn’t. We have to understand this difference and not out-rightly jump to conclusion that she (victim) definitely had a hand in it. We don’t I know. We at orkut don’t but there are people who do. One has to identify them and try to change this clichéd mentality and attitude that they have.

Conduct informal surveys, interviews, extend the present group discussion to those members of the society whose voices (read it murmur and rumor) matter when it comes on that girl walking down the street. Can we do it? Can we give up our weekly barrista hangouts, bear the scorching summer sun, face the public ogling at us trying to figure out what we are upto when we ask them questions no one dared to ask…think about it.

I am not a crusader and I don’t claim I can give up my weekly barrista hangouts but who knows may be… as for now I just wanted to put my thoughts here. I am not trying to launch a new ball, am not trying to change the course of ball set to roll by a fellow community member. I respect all of your thoughts and ideas. This was mine.

I never got a response to the above post of mine and the discussions on this topic came to an end.

Soon I found out there was a new topic on the board, “whether Government’s decision to ban cigarettes in movies is fair?” And this is what I posted….

“I havn’t read any of the above posts and I don’t care what you guys have been saying. I kind of know bout the latest topic for intellectual frustrates (i being one of them)

Just wanted to remind all of you and reassert my stand.

Reminding you about my post on the previous topic “what about the rapist” if you haven’t read it yet, read it now if u wish to, doesn’t really matter if you don’t. all i tried to convey there is that this discussion on orkut is senseless and a sheer killing of too much of leisure time. i of course had conveyed this message in a much more politically correct and sugar coated words but today i am in a particularly pissed off mood. My words – just stop flattering yourself by calling yourself a social thinker who sits in Barrista and thinks over a cup of u know what.”

Some one pls gotta do something more than talking.

Reasserting my stand that it would take a blink of an eye for us to forget the present social cause and find a new one…see how fast we forgot the rape issue
just think about it.

Didn’t get any response to this one either however the discussions stopped for a while and was subsequently resumed.

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Posted in: Stigma / Taboos