Thursday, June 18, 2009

Two Rapes and a Bandh

During the fag end of last week, one was assaulted with twin rape stories, a gang rape of a girl and a rape of a domestic help by the house owner. What’s interesting, or rather revolting, is the way people/media/the police interpret rape and these cases. In the first case, the police say that the victim was in a ‘compromising’ position with her boyfriend. For once, the state viewed this statement from the police through a feministic lens and promptly transferred him! Well, one mustn’t forget the fact that this incident happened in Gujarat (whoa! Only the name sends shivers down one’s spine), where 1000s of Muslim women were not only raped, but also had steel rods and wooden planks inserted into them during the Gujarat 2002 riots! Before looking at the communal edge this rape victim has over the several other women raped in her state, we must try to see how rape is used as a tool by the patriarchal society to: 1. Perpetuate violence on ‘the other’ community, class, and gender 2. Subjugate woman by making her think that honor is all that MUST matter to her. 3. Make the woman herself responsible for the violence as well.

Rape, as a lot of movies, media, and books would have us believe, is not about sex. It’s about power. Several studies have been done and books written to ascertain this fact. It about the ultimate subjugation of the prey by the predator, where the predator uses all available mechanisms to acquire the prey. In a way speaking, if rape can be considered murder (of course, it’s an extrapolation), it’s a premediated, cold-blooded act. Therefore, it is a well devised tool to cause damage to ‘the other’s’ sense of dignity and humanity. This takes us to the next point: honor. Here comes our understanding of the origin of private property, which led to the commodification and ownership of women. In this scenario, the woman and her body are owned in toto by the nearest patriarchal figure: father, brother, husband, or son. So, any ‘harm’ done to the woman’s body (she doesn’t have a mind, you see!) directly affects the owner. And hence, the man is supposed to protect his woman with his life (in reality, by erasing any semblance of her real self). No wonder, the society developed institutions such as the purdah, sati, dowry, sindoor, and many other practices, basically to make a commodity or an inanimate object of a woman. She’s the most guarded, especially her sexuality, which if left unbridled or unchecked can cause the biggest shame to the family, even worse than her death. This idea will help us understand the honor killings that happen in most parts of the country even today. This brings us to the third point where we look at the codes or rules of behavior (unwritten, at least, today) for a woman. She (if she comes from a lower class that depends on the upper class for its sustenance) cannot afford to be alone in the presence of a man from another community or class (as happened in the Ahuja case) or be in a ‘compromising’ position with her lover (in the Surat case). In both cases, the woman invited it upon herself! And, this is not pronounced by some uneducated, fundamentalist fools (who we can ignore), but the guardians of the constitution! If this is what the police will say, what is point of a State? Or a law and order department? If women must take care themselves, which is, basically, shut themselves up in their homes, not study, learn household chores, have arranged, caste-, class-based married and of course get raped again (marital rape, I believe is still not recognized as rape) and be safe! Women needn’t be equal partners in nation building, in bringing the revolution, in making new discoveries, or (damn it!) in anything! Should all the women just disappear into thin air?

Now, the communal angle! In just hours after the incident, one of the right-wing parties in Surat called for a bandh! I mean what kind of an opportunism is this? The same state where 1000s of women were inhumanly raped, killed, and burnt, is calling for a bandh for the rape of one girl? How is this girl different from all the other victims? Is it because she's among the beautiful people of the society? The bourgeoisie or the uppercastes? Whereas, all the women ambushed in the riots were from ‘the other’ community or from working class backgrounds? After all, who is the society for? Can’t we have sanity even in the way we deal with crimes? Can’t we divorce ourselves from our hangups about class, caste, and gender at least while dealing with crime?


Anonymous said...

you must look into the story of two delhi students kidnapped and then rescued by police in anna nagar chennai...

me1084 said...

well written.

//the state viewed this statement from the police through a feministic lens and promptly transferred him!//

it's a pun, right!

//Is it because she's among the beautiful people of the society? The bourgeoisie or the uppercastes? Whereas, all the women ambushed in the riots were from ‘the other’ community or from working class backgrounds?//

i feel your words are getting somewhat drifted here. The two motives of VHP getting involved in this incident is, one to bring a communal angle to this sensational incident and second to cause a pain to Modi. The main concern here is religion and not class.
It is not because the rape victims are hindus as in the past there were rapes by hindu teachers. The only aim now is to project that muslims are rapists and chanting the same old invasion story of ghajini, gori and jihad.

Anonymous said...

You are so right! Rape is about power! You must read Susan Brown-Miller's Against Our will: Men, Women and Rape.


Sridevi Seshasayee said...

First VHP did not have any business to involve themselves in this case nor take sides. Modi has to be either hanged to death or shloud be tried for genocide. I agree with what you have expressed...!!!!!

Franco said... havent mentioned about the 'frustrated Indian males'. ie., men who were never able to impress a woman. Such men go on attacking women in the name of moral policing and rape. How can the elite Indian male tolerate the sight of an young couple with hands joined?

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