En/Countering the Politics of Rape in India


justice for asifa

Rape culture exists due to the society’s obsession with female bodies as a site to demonstrate power. Rape is unleashed onto a female body to proclaim that a woman has no ownership over her own body and that, she should never desire sex. By doing so, men convert a woman’s body into flesh that is tortured, mutilated, raped and strangled. This act depicts the symbolic consumption of human flesh by another human being. Rape is never an act of sexual need but of sexual appetite and power; for rape should also be understood as a language that defines the existence of women into groups: already raped and inherently rape-able. Thus, Mary E. Hawkesworth, in an article entitled “Knowers, Knowing, Known: Feminist Theory and Claims of Truth,” makes three claims: that rape is real, in the sense that rape is fixed, determinate and transparent to understand; and that feminist politics must understand rape as one of the real, clear facts of women’s lives. To this I would like to add that rape is also irrevocable in terms of damage and does not stop with a single act of penile penetration, in fact, rape happens time and again to the same victim in other forms such as ostracization from community, family, and unleashing of social stigma. The truth remains that neither state, nor society and not even the family knows what must be done to a raped body. So, very often a raped body is killed by the perpetuator or buried alive (refers to physical and mental confinement) by family-society apparatus. However, these days reported raped bodies are fortunate enough to become topics of heated debates and discussion on news channels and social media. The communal divide that recent Kathua Rape incident has incited shows the absurdity of herd mentality for using the raped body in instrumenting communal divide when, people should have stood united in condemning the barbaric incident, irrespective of religious, political, ideological and gender differences. The demand of the people in asking for a religiously neutral investigating panel for the Kathua Rape Case exposes collective farcicality that is plaguing our society. In other words, the act of rape can never be justified nor can ever be defended.

In the wake of the recent rape cases-the Unnao and the Kathua rape case people have come out on streets. But the questions that arise are: how did our country witnessed another gruesome rape after the December 16 Nirbhaya incident? Have we become incapable to prevent rape? Why does rape happen in 21st century? The answer lies in understanding that rapes have always existed since the advent of civilization and that rape has always been instrumental in terrorising, and in avenging revenge against individuals, families, and communities. The politics of rape is to either humiliate the woman(victim) or to defame family/community. In other words, a woman’s vagina carries the pride of her family/community and her vagina, also becomes a potential site for the enemy to attack. The society as well as the state have reduced a woman’s body, especially her vagina, into a battleground where honour is stripped, mutilated and annihilated. By the grace of state and society, a raped body is annihilated, buried and decomposed such that no traces of it remain so as to remind potential perpetuators that rape is not venial. So, have we not learnt our lessons after the Nirbhaya(s)? Sadly, we haven’t, because, we are way too busy in debating essentialist politics behind rape. We are busy in fixing the religious or ethnic or caste identities of the victim and the perpetuator. The recently published article “Nationalist Rape’ Times: Hindutva Juggernaut Shames India Once Again” by Shamsul Islam draws some analogies by studying three recent rape cases.[1] He infers that:

“In all these gruesome incidents, rapists/killers and perpetrators are affiliated to Hindutva organizations especially RSS/BJP.

The rapists/killers have been secular in committing crimes as they did not spare even a Hindu minor girl and a woman.

The States of Jammu & Kashmir and UP where these crimes happened are ruled by the RSS/BJPleaders, former State being ruled with Mehbooba Mufti’s PDP as equal coalition partner.

RSS/BJP leaders took diametrically opposite stand on punishing the perpetrators. In Jammu & Kashmir they took the side of the perpetrators whereas in Swami Chinmayanand and Unnao rape cases the government of Mahant Yogi Adityanath tried to save the culprits despite victims being Hindu women, one of them a sadhvi.”

Does the rape of Hindu woman by a Hindu man shows secularisation? How did he fail to address the rape of a savarna woman by savarna man; a Muslim woman by Muslim man; a Dalit woman by a Dalit man? Kathuwa case is clearly an example of religious intolerance but we should also not forget that the victim belonged to a nomadic bhakarwal/gujjar community that has been greatly stereotyped for being backward and uncultured. The lowest rung of any religious/ethnic community has always been victims of violence within the community and outside the community. And women remain the most frequently targeted as they become victims of atrocities released by their family, community and society. Thus, a woman is triply subjugated and thrice removed from reality.

The sad truth remains that in India when people essentialise or identify with any rape victim’s religious identity they often forget that Indian social identity does not pertain solely to religion but also to class, caste and gender equally. As seen in this case, social media stands segmented over a Muslim girlchild’s rape by Hindu brahmins-a group that has been historically famous for disseminating violence over powerless bodies. Rapes have happened in the past centuries but were silenced. Today the destiny of raped body to reach news channels, social media and protest marches. Due to this, there is an inherently lurking polarization of religious fraternity over a raped body and consequently, people are forgetting that rape of any woman/girl/child remains by any man remains venial.

Kathuwa rape case was perpetuated with a religious purpose while other girl children who were raped are victims of other kinds of power exhibitionism. Again, while agitating against the incident, people are forgetting the mutilation of a ‘female body’ but are more eager to focus on ethnic and religious identity. However, if we look back there are abundant examples of gruesome acts of rape and with each passing day it is increasing in terms of number and in the degree of severity. Institutions such as religion, state, family do not want to curb the problem of rape and therefore never address the issue of sexual violence. This is because the state does not penalize marital rape, similarly, family or religion never recognizes the sexual rights of a woman. Rape perpetuated by armed forces are often legitimised in the public sphere as nations’ interest and such incidents are not attracting the protests like other rape incidents. This clearly shows that the public sphere is very selective in demonstrating the resistance as well as public demonstration often depends on power and identity of the accused.

Grace Mariam Raju is a Research Scholar at the Centre for Latin American Studies, Jamia Millia Islamia. She can be contacted at [email protected]

[1] https://countercurrents.org/2018/04/14/nationalist-rape-times-in-india-hindutva-juggernaut-shames-india-once-again/


Support Countercurrents

Countercurrents is answerable only to our readers. Support honest journalism because we have no PLANET B.
Become a Patron at Patreon

Join Our Newsletter


Join our WhatsApp and Telegram Channels

Get CounterCurrents updates on our WhatsApp and Telegram Channels

Related Posts

Join Our Newsletter

Annual Subscription

Join Countercurrents Annual Fund Raising Campaign and help us

Latest News