THE BLOG

India Should Care More About Rape Victims Than National Pride

03/26/2015 05:30 EDT | Updated 05/26/2015 05:59 EDT
Pacific Press via Getty Images
KOLKATA, INDIA - 2015/03/17: Christian community of Kolkata led by the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Calcutta organized a protest rally to expressed solidarity with the 72 year old nun who was ganged rape at convent school in Ranaghat, Nadia. Archbishop of Kolkata Thomas D'Souza led the rally which started at Allen Park. (Photo by Saikat Paul/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Recently, the documentary "India's Daughter" by British filmmaker Leslee Udwin was banned in India as it was stated to be a "conspiracy to defame India."

In year 2012, Jyoti Singh a 23-year-old medical student was brutally raped, beaten, punched, masticated, an iron rod was forced into her vagina and her intestines were pulled out. This all happened when she boarded a bus while going back home after watching The Life of Pi with a male friend of hers.

The two were badgered and interrogated by the six men on the bus, about being together after dark and being boyfriend and girlfriend. Jyoti voiced her disgust at the demeaning enquiries and was raped to "teach her a lesson" about a women's place in the Indian society.

We all see where the problem lies, don't we?

Being out with a male member to watch a movie at night and voicing your disgust can lead to a rape and more so, put your life at risk. This is my beloved, goddess worshipping, Mother India loving, 'Jhansi Ki Rani' embodying, so-called Bharat-mata (mother), or India for you.

At its rotten heart, the country is more concerned about hiding the shame than protecting its women.

Women like me -- irrespective of where they are located now -- who grew up in India, know this oh-so-well that India's pride lies in worshipping the mute goddesses rather than empowering the voices of the suppressed gender.

From the beginning, girls are told to be homely, master the culinary skills, be obedient, and respect the elders especially the male members of the household. As a changing face of India, a lot of us were fortunate enough to have parents like that of Jyoti Singh's, modern, forward-thinking, feminists in their own rights and who would take immense pride in their kids who were more than just a daughter or a wife to somebody.

However, that doesn't make it easy. There are still people outside home, who believe that our sole purpose in life is to find a suitable partner, marry him, bear kids, serve our in-laws above and beyond we ever took care of our own parents and act that all of this is okay. Our careers and dreams are not a priority; we cannot be selfish, that if we choose to make them a priority, we hold no position in their self-righteous, traditional and patriarchic society. And this sentiment is so deep-rooted in our society that it is well echoed by the men and women who have given their whole lives to the cause.

We are to this date cautious of what our families and distant relatives perceive of us, our Facebook profiles are often restricted to those who are quick to judge us with a glass of wine or a short dress.

Growing up in India, my friends, cousins and all other girls my age, always showed remorse in the society we lived. We all had gone through experiences of some lewd remarks by strange men passing by our schools, stares at public places, scrutiny over a pair of jeans or god-forbidden short skirts, obscene texts and emails or worst, explicit suggestions by an authoritative male co-worker. Most of them never reported or addressed, as one doesn't want to invite more trouble and is well aware that rarely anyone will come out to help. But, we all draw a line somewhere and Jyoti's case it is.

We have all been there, we have all been asked to mind our own business and shut up in subjects that matter us the most. We all have somebody in our lives who thinks, it is his duty to save our honour that we are better off as a submissive puppet than a decision maker in the house.

The remarks made by the accused Mukesh Singh and the defense lawyers does not surprise me. "In our society, we never allow our girls to come out from the house after 6:30 or 7:30 or 8:30 in the evening with any unknown person," said one of the lawyers, ML Sharma.

"You are talking about man and woman as friends. Sorry, that doesn't have any place in our society. We have the best culture. In our culture, there is no place for a woman."

Yes, there is no place for a woman in the orthodox, male-dominating pig society that still exists in India and lets-face-it, many parts of the world.

The other lawyer, AP Singh, had said in a previous televised interview: "If my daughter or sister engaged in pre-marital activities and disgraced herself and allowed herself to lose face and character by doing such things, I would most certainly take this sort of sister or daughter to my farmhouse, and in front of my entire family, I would put petrol on her and set her alight."

Bravo, we all know you would. There are numerous examples of honour killings where girls are burnt alive to save a family's respect.

The reason a lot of Indians stood strong against the documentary is not because they are ashamed of what happened in 2012 or that India was declared unsafe for women. Believe me that ship has sailed a lot long time back. None of it really agitated their consciousness, but the fact that they were stripped naked of their ideologies and it was out for the world to judge. The morally mindful men concluded that it was a conspiracy to defame India, keeping it true to their misogynist cultural traditions and misplaced national pride.

Now, I wonder what would their reaction be if, Leslee Udwin were an Indian, mirroring on her own experiences and culture for introspection. I guess, in that case, it would be rather easier to slate her as one of us, independence-gone-to-head, bringing shame to one's own country kind of witch.

Coming back to my question, do we really see where the problem lies?

In order to protect one's family honour, we as a society have done every possible thing to tame our girls, but what about the boys?

Are they ever told to sit properly or behave so they don't bring shame to the family? Are they taught to be empathetic, towards the women in their life? To show respect and give every woman a place she deserves. Believe me most modern men, will read and laugh at this, stating, women already have enough!

Don't get me wrong here, not all women are at your mercy or deprived of their freedom. We have managed to navigate and live with the age old norms that still exist around us. If you can't fight it, then ignore it, to say the least.

Lets not forget India is not the only country where rape happens; it is a worldwide issue. And there is nothing wrong in a British woman who was so moved by the protest that followed Jyoti's rape that she left the comforts of her home to spend two years in India to explore the mindsets and belief-system that exists in men who conduct such heinous crimes. How else are we supposed to learn?

To Udwin's surprise these men were not monsters or mentally disturbed to any degree. They were the genuine every day men you and I are surrounded by. By no means is Mukesh Singh remorseful in the documentary. His unconcealed certainty that they raped a girl and left her to die is no big deal, is solidified by the fact that many men get away with such crimes and never get reported due to the stigma and the shame attached.

"When being raped, she shouldn't fight back. She should just be silent and allow the rape. Then they'd have dropped her off after 'doing her', and only hit the boy," he said.

"The death penalty will make things even more dangerous for girls. Now when they rape, they won't leave the girl like we did. They will kill her. Before, they would rape and say, 'Leave her, she won't tell anyone.' Now when they rape, especially the criminal types, they will just kill the girl. Death."

Wake up India, its time to smell the coffee. It's time to be less predictable, admit our issues, swallow our false pride and do the right thing. Let us not be a part of the attitude that allows such crimes; let's be the change. We all have seen it; it's time the people living in India get to see it.

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