In search of the ultimate justice: Dismantling rape culture in India

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20th March 2020, the Nirbhaya accused were hanged in the wee hours, at 5 o’ clock, and we all woke up inhaling the sense of closure. Deep down it wasn’t so oblivious that the death sentence would actually never serve as a future deterrent. But, nevertheless the perpetrators left no stone unturned to make the crime what is called ‘the rarest of the rare’. Therefore hanging was not merely the sum total of pressure on the government but also the need of the hour to establish an example, to duly abstain from. Have we established one? Yes. Would it really abstain individuals from committing such heinous crimes? Hard to say.

Rape is not just the act of coercive sexual intercourse but a culmination of different layers of a ‘man’s’ identity, unconsciously stacked by the society. The anatomical differences have given a safe space for the sense of superlative in men, and hence the moral responsibility of shielding the sanctity of a woman to flourish in our society. Rape not only breathes, now and then in this very society, it thrives here. Anatomy stands for privileges, anatomy stands for domination. Just a pinch of prudent placement of the words like ‘sacrifice’ and ‘responsibility’ as a burden or a favour and the soup is ready to be consumed, you’re obligated to acknowledge the whole facade.

Even the top-level bureaucracy is the flagbearer of this concept. Take for instance the controversial statement by the Chief of Defense Staff on why the Indian army is not equipped for women at combat roles. He had put that a woman had to be cocooned separately, because the system will be required to wrap a sheet around her when she complains that someone is peeping at her. And, he also stated the uncertainty around army officials from rural areas following orders given by a woman army officer of superior rank. He even mentioned the problem encompassing maternity leave. We definitely have counter-argument for every ounce of the word he spoke but it is shattering and flabbergasting to see the person who is in the topmost position of the department that stands for vigilance and defense of the country to cite this anatomical difference as a shortcoming with such a nonchalance. The anatomical difference justifies the subordination. It does not look at mending the society that peeps at a woman, instead it believes in correcting a woman, the way she is supposed to carry herself or better advising her to flee past the perimeter. She can be the corporate boss, dictating a whole company at her own terms but no, not the army because it circumscribes the dearest attribute of a man’s possession, the ‘man’s virility’.

Rape is the final act of appropriation. The appropriation of masculinity with male genitalia and feminity with female genitalia. This reaches its threshold when toxic qualities at the extremes of these attributes are cherished and encouraged to cultivate by the virtue of one’s sex. This leads to acceptance and hushing of the scars of crimes like marital rape. The form of crime that the court fails to pay heed to even after the recommendation of the Justice J.S Verma Committee formed after the Nirbhaya case.

Rape is not just the physical attack on a woman’s body but the celebration of slut-shaming for political biases too. No matter which side of the line you associate your ideology to belong to, holding a woman’s pregnancy as an object to be questioned and ridiculed upon, does only reflect the hind side of the perpetuating rape culture. Safoora Zargar, the MPhil student of Jamia Millia Islamia who is pregnant and was charged under UAPA, a draconian law that makes it near impossible for the accused to get bail was shamed and trolled on social media. The twitter was jam-packed with filthy and vulgar tweets by the right-wing supporters like- ‘Desh Todne Chali thi Lock tudwa baithi’ (the lock clearly standing for hymen in the vagina), ‘Saheen Bagh ki sherni ko ghori kisne banaya’ (the sex position in which the woman is fucked), ‘sabhi ke boond gere thein uske matke mein’ (the semen of multiple men that fell into the ‘pot’ of the vagina). Be it a rape victim or an activist, a woman’s identity is always reduced to her vagina, and, this is mercilessly exploited to threaten her. The society of the rape victim which constantly makes her realize that she is now maligned and has now lost everything that defines her, the steady judicial system that requires her to remember every minuscule detail afresh for years, the medical official who examines her body as a mere piece of evidence and the police who advises her that covering up the matter would be in her best interest, all equally constituted to the phenomenon of her rape.

The ‘boys lockerroom’ finally unveiled and the social media stormed with people posting that the so-called ‘feminazi’ has made its own tomfoolery by making a fuss out of the incident. ‘Fuss’, often termed to any complaints made by a woman about the things that made/make her uncomfortable. The social order based on sex would not have thrived in the first place if, ‘Fuss’, ‘hush’, and ‘cover it up’ was replaced by, ‘C’mon! It’s okay, speak up!’. The conclusion of the boys locker room was titled ‘Big Revelation’ by the news portals, indeed because it came out as a surprise for everyone. So, bragging of being a real champ by abstaining from standing against what seemed evident is sheer ignorance of ones underlying patriarchal fervour.

A punishment can never be deterrent to a crime that is backed by a set of belief systems cultured by our society. A punishment can only give a brief-zestful satisfaction to us, but in the long term, the fundamentals of gender has to be fitted in the frame of everyone’s mind, be it the state itself. It’s time to unlearn and learn the fluidity of gender and for that it is of utmost importance that gender studies be included as a mandatory discipline in schools. This would enable the budding minds to appreciate the gender diversity naturally in their actions then constantly correcting the previous belief system before conducting oneself in a gender-neutral way. Indeed some issues amongst us do not require an order-driven by adrenaline rush but an empathetic, well-thought-out approach, to be really called an ultimate justice.

Shaily Mishra is final year student pursuing BA(Hons) Journalism from Kalindi College, DU.



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