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Protest Against Rape Photo

The recent dastardly incidents of the rape and murder of Zainab in Kasur, Pakistan, Ayesha in Mardan, Pakistan, Asifa in Kathua, two young girls in Jind and Panipat in Harayana, and also the unabated rape incidents in other parts of India, have and must shock us all. Here in Kashmir, as we are yet to come to terms with the tragedies of Asiya, Neelofar, Tabinda Gani, Rumana Javid, women of Kunan Poshpora, Zalangam, and many others, these acts of barbarism tear apart our heart and soul. Such dreadful acts and their perpetrators need not only to be condemned in the strongest terms but also be brought to justice. There was wide outrage over these incidents indeed, but there have been condemnations of these acts in the past well, but the question that needs to be asked is that have we, here in South Asia, failed our women? There is indeed a general contempt for rule of law across much of the South Asia which always encourages the perpetrators of the criminal acts to pass off the hook. There are incompetent legislatives, executives and judicial systems which have failed to ensure the safety and protection of women. Far from being able to ensure the safety of women, the governments in South Asia can be seen providing cover to ministers and bureaucrats to go off the hook after their involvements in such crimes as rapes, molestations and sex-rackets. We must continue to pressurize our governments and systems to usher in effective implementation of laws and make law enforcing agencies more accountable in stopping the crimes against women. It is being assumed that the harsh punishments to the perpetrators of these acts would possibly act as deterrent mechanisms in containing the crimes against women. And one hopes the deterrence works. But the harsh reality which we face in our contexts is that the problem does not end here. Mere protests, condemnations, or even, punishments are probably not going to put an end to these acts. We need to ask some harsh questions to ourselves? There are some latent patriarchal attitudes which actually foment the criminal acts against women.

There is a deeply ingrained malaise in our societies which often undercuts the inhuman acts against women–the deep rooted misogyny of our society where, rather chillingly but so obviously, men are valued much more than women. In the recent years in South Asia, literacy, education and income levels may have improved across South Asia, but as numerous studies reveal, there has also been a steady increase in the cases of foeticide, infanticide, domestic violence, ill-treatment of women over dowry, rapes, etc. against women of all castes and classes in this period. In urban and rural areas, developed or undeveloped regions alike, there is not much of a discrepancy in this unfortunate aspect. The problem lies in our general attitudes towards women in our societies. Howsoever, we may be in denial to ourselves, an honest appraisal would always infer that we belong to those social realms which ‘objectifies’ women at all levels. Our social perception of a woman, both at conscious and unconscious levels, is that of a secondary entity on which masculine powers can be enacted and exercised freely. It is how we view her as a family member or as a part of the larger society. As our regressive traditions teach us, woman has to carry the burden of modesty and moral keeping of our societies while men can always enjoy a leeway. This kind of thinking informs our sensibility. As various studies have it, this is further complicated by the existence of various violent conflicts in South Asia which finds women as soft targets. Various scholars argue that a long period of militarization and conflict, as in Kashmir, Northeast, Naxalite Belt, Balochistan and FATA, or the occasional pogroms against minorities in both India and Pakistan, provides the ideal scenario of an increase in violence against women as the aversive attitudes towards them are aggravated further. The most unfortunate part is that this kind of attitude towards women appears to legitimize violent acts against women in both public and private spheres in our society.

The recent horrifying incidents have again proved the deeply misogynistic nature of our societies in which sexual predation is a common social theme. And it is this inclination for sexual predation which is also sometimes employed to score political and military objectives. In the various parts of South Asia, studies have revealed that violence on the bodies of women, as rape or other forms of sexual assault, serves as a well-entrenched mechanism of political suppression. Scholars like Binalakshmi Nepram in this regard states that “rape, or other types of physical assault in conflict or under a repressive regime, as in Kashmir and Northeast, is neither incidental nor private; it routinely serves a strategic function and acts as a tool for achieving specific military or political objectives”. Such acts are propelled by an idea of keeping a woman confined and under submission. Since our cultures wrongly put emphasis on women’s sexual purity and honour, the oppressive forces attempt to violate this ‘purity and honour’ in order to hurt our collective sense of societal honour. There is another scholarly argument which links the increasing domestic violence as being further exacerbated by violence and conflicts of various kinds. Since much of the South Asian society witnesses violence almost on a daily basis, it also mushrooms a culture of intolerance towards women which then manifests in the form of rapes and murders. As a result, gendered violence becomes more common in our contexts in which generally there is a scant respect for rule of law. The result is that violence against women gets institutionalized in the form of a general culture of impunity coupled with regressive cultural attitudes. We need to abhor and condemn our own regressive attitudes towards women first, only then the application of laws will be effective.

Basharat Shameem is an English teacher from Kulgam, Jammu and Kashmir

One Comment

  1. K SHESHU BABU says:

    Violence against women is spreading into remote parts of society and even the villages are being affected by male hegemony leading to rampant acts of brutal suppression, rape and murder of women