Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The Ravishing of Women

                         Suicide of Lucretia 508 BC

The burst of outrage and the leaderless demonstration and protest in New Delhi against the gang rape of a young woman in a Delhi transport bus has been a windfall to the media in terms of ratings. I would not be surprised if they juxtapose commercials of condoms in between the coverage and programs on the appalling incident. The opposition politicians, sans party lines voiced ridiculous demands and expressed angst. The government in power which displays astounding imbecility in all things except corrupt practices and sleaze was irritated by the protest, which according to them was much ado about nothing.

Certainly rape is not an endemic scourge confined to India.  The ravishing of women has been man’s vicarious pleasure from ancient times in human history. The Roman attitude towards women and rape was that of property felony against the husband or the lord of the house. The rape and suicide of the Roman noble woman “Lucretia” triggered the rebellion that is said to have overthrown the Roman king and paved the way for the Roman Republic.

I happened to read the poignant article of Kevin Alfred Strom,” Ravishing the Conquered Women of Europe”. To say that the feeling it gives is distressing, is a misnomer. The depth of revulsion at the human race which we represent is fathomless –

Rape as a weapon of war has been in use since early human times. Lust, liquor and loot were the offer for the victorious. This was taken to horrendous proportions by the victorious allies in Europe after the Second World War. Since history is always dictated by the Victor, atrocities piled on the vanquished are seldom known.

The wide spread anguish and outrage that is now a phenomenon in Delhi over the past few days has not even in this age of instant visual beaming by television channels,  provoked such demonstrations in other parts of the country. About a year ago a woman in her late teens was pushed off a running train in God’s Own Country- Kerala and raped before being killed by the lone rapist. Not to be left behind, recently a father was arrested for repeatedly raping his adolescent daughter. Local channels are all with such distressing news 24 x 7.Tender age doesn’t seem to be deterrent for physical abuse. Infants, teenagers and the aged are at equal risk- be it in the sanctuary of the home or outside the walls of the house. This is when one has to acknowledge that it is not power and subjugation alone that is behind the mindset of a rapist or a molester. How could a father engage in such demonic acts on his child?

The matter that looks rather perplexing is the sudden out-pour of anger after the Delhi gang rape. Rape is a daily occurrence by the hour .Not to forget even men are sodomised and raped. In Kerala a former Marxist Chief Minister was quoted to have said that in the USA, rape is as casual and common as having a cuppa.  This was a Communist’s reaction to the mass abuse of a woman in Kerala.

Why is it that the unbridled anger that we now see not directed to the systematic abuse of women by the State? Be it the questionable powers given to the paramilitary and army personnel in the North East resulting in rape of women by security forces (seldom reported to the outside world); the outrage the disciplined (sic) Indian army continues to commit on women in Kashmir; the rape and murders of tribal women in the central heartlands of India by the Para military deployed against the Maoist?

Moving buses, speeding trains or police stations, the safety of women is not going to be secured. Firstly, because the male psyche finds excuses on her dress codes and her presence in a particular place at a given time. This fantastic theory is seconded by the likes of Sheila Dixit, pathetically herself a woman, who was quoted to have questioned the indiscipline of the gang rape survivor in being outside her home at that unearthly hour of 9.30 at night. Even after the Supreme Court ruling to the contrary the survivor is placed in a situation where she has to prove she is not guilty of provocation and of loose morals. The court also has stated that non-consensual sex even among spouses can be seen as violation of woman’s right. Because a woman goes the way of harlot, it does not give man or the social order the right and impunity to violate her. Either the learned court is ahead of our times or we insist that we would like to confine in barbaric social laws and notions.

Political clout of the perpetrator or his long hands reaching high places will ensure that the investigating agency- the police re- writes the sordid saga with the victim as the villain and profane. The rest will be handled by the incorrigible lies that barristers of the defendant orate in court rooms, tarnishing the victim and shredding her character to smithereens. The sanctuary law provides is deftly used by the practitioners of the law to vilify and pillories the victim and ensure the case is dismissed or the accused gets away with a knock on the knuckle.

What assurance can a rape survivor hope for even from an all women police posse who would taunt and lambast her for a “putain”? The social acceptance by her family her spouse and his family? Are young men noble hearted and chivalrous to descend and grab her by the waist and speed away on horseback? How many among the outraged young men demonstrating in Delhi are disposed with the audacity and are knightly to offer the survivor, solace, love and security of a home?

We are missing the woods for the trees. The fact that has to be acknowledged is that the fire has been burning since the dawn of man – rape and violence against woman is not a nascent phenomenon taking cue from Bollywood flicks. Sexual violation on women and the insensitive assault on the hapless young woman in the Delhi bus was only a tiny aspect in the anarchy and decadence that has set in man’s mind. State sponsored tyranny is another extension. It is not that all is well with man and sexual abuse of women is the only pernicious issue, an exception that has to be immediately corrected.

The means suggested for this is equally anarchic like the act itself. Castration, death penalty and so on that are vociferously demanded can be also extended to other crimes. Why not amputation of the limb for larceny, stoning to death for adultery?

The reason why the spontaneous protest in Delhi lost its halo was because of obstinate demands and emotional statements on punishments that have to be legalised. Bringing down the insensitive government to act has other means that are democratic. Why not vigils at the India Gate like the ones in Tahir Square, Tiananmen Square or even the Wall Street? Instead vociferous calls for immediate and unconditional action from the authorities like the pigheadedness of the Anna Hazare bandwagon will only eventually result in the movement against sexual abuse of women whimpering out.
And women will continue to be ravished.


Happy Kitten said...

Anil: I think the govt. was shaken this time though it required so many voters to line up to remind them that it is their votes that put them there. Maybe we shall see some changes.. I would hope for more women frndly police stations with specially trained personnel to listen to complaints from women. Maybe we are also ready to change our views on rape. As for the punishment; how about 100 lashes daily for a few months? Pain like that may make rapists think twice?

Meera Sundararajan said...

Anil, agree with everything you say. I am giving below a link to an interesting article by Flavia Agnes in The Asian Age. You might like to read that ( if you have not read it already)
It is atleast refreshing that the government has set forth a panel and this panel has publicly called for advise from civil society, law makers and women's organizations to come forth with suggestions for the new criminal code on rape.

BK Chowla, said...

What we saw as a reaction to the incident is amazing.It is not a protest.It is not an agitation ...It is a movement and handling a movement is another story.
For sure,govt,the MEA and the police have list their credibility

rama said...

Looks like nothing concrete would come out, each one is trying to divert the attention from the main issue.
People in the government are just not bothered or even inclined to come up with any thing concrete. For them this has become an additional headache that is not going off so easily.
They keep trying to buy time, so that by that time people would go back to their own business, and leave the the government to be its own lethargic self. The government will not improve , nor the police would improve.
This would go on till the next election, and maybe we would have a different set of monkeys ruling/ ruining our country in its own unique way.

rudraprayaga said...

All are selfish and self-centred. They lose nothing, when someone else is tortured.

Elizabeth said...

Your post is absolutely on dot...But the bare truth in your article leave me worried...and I worry more about my 10 month old daughter and her safety in this world..

There is no point in waiting for some govt to bring stringent laws as long as the deep rooted mentality in the world is not changed...I have just promised myself that I will send my daughter to learn Karate or Judo..Kung Fu so that she can atleast defend herself...

Sandy said...

A brillant write that points out so many signs that we, as human beings, fail to care about today or fail to find ways to prevent these things...Would death to the rapists stop it? Yes, maybe so..stiffer laws.....Yes, years ago this horrendous thing happened and will continue to happen. An atrocity that seems unstoppable...Where lies the answers?????

Sandy said...

As I have just learned of the woman's death, the brutality makes me sick..The whole thing saddens me..I wonder why someone did not step in to help in some way....

Musings said...

@ Happy Kitten,

Asha, the governments that wield power will seldom get rattled. Shaken? may be off guard for a moment.
Though law and its balanced and forthright adherence is a problem, the issue of rape is more of mans's mindset, of the societies prejudice.
No amount of punishment will be a deterrent enough for the attitude of the society where girl child is not safe before and after she is born.

@ Meera Sundarajan,

I read your article now. Cannot agree more with it.
My opinion is mentioned in the reply noted to Asha above.

@ BK.Chowla,

Yes it is a protest, agitation and a movement. have we slid to a state where only severe and archaic punishments will somewhat deter such heinous acts?

@ rama,

You have said a fact that is more likely and out come more probable.

@ Rudraprayag,

Yes as long as I'm comfortable in my cocoon why bother about the rest outside?

@ Elizebath,m

Thanks for the comment.
Yes you have , we all who have daughters and sisters have to be really worried.

The training in self defense is indeed a wise and pragmatic thing when you know nothing much will come out of the present acrimony.

@ Sandy

Imagine a situation in India if the gun laws were as easy as in the USA. We would be the most barbaric nation.

Sickness, revulsion and revolt within is what one feels.

Insignia said...

Haa bang on. I am pleasantly surprised reading the comments above...esp from women folks that you weren't damned Anil :)

Yeah, its pathetic on the government'a part, on the media's part and on the public outrage. Slogans like punish the criminals like they do in Saudi Arabia and giving names to the rape victim by the media were al ridiculous to say the least.

Protests everywhere were fueled with emotions. It was an emotional outrage; where is the action? Now what is the govt going to do? I doubt