By Mehr Tarar
December 12, 2014
On December 5, 2014, one cold Friday night, a 25-year-old woman was allegedly raped en route to her home. In a taxi. In Delhi, India. The furore is expected, the outrage understandable, and the debate on rape continues. Disbelief: it-happened-again. Anger. Shame. Blame-shifting. On December 16, it will be two years when “Nirbhaya” was raped by six men in a moving bus in front of her friend. Much agonising, soul-searching, public lament, media discourses and passing-of-new-laws later, another case of a woman’s rape in a public place makes uncomfortable headlines. The initial investigation post-arrest of the taxi driver shows his criminal history of assault, which went unnoticed by his latest employer. More outrage.
The company’s negligence may be criminal here, but the issue runs much deeper than the safety guidelines a corporate entity coulda-shoulda implemented. Banning it is not the solution. It’s not even about the newly amended stricter legal system. And it’s not even about the alarming rise in the number of reported rape cases in India. To me it’s about the attitude, the mindset, and the ethos behind the violence that overlooks the enormity of this unmentionable crime. It’s the taxi driver’s insidiously nonchalant “Ghalti Hogayi, Saab, Kya Karun Ab?” It’s the “boys-will-be-boys”. It’s the “come-on-boys-make-mistakes”. It’s the “Arre-Iss-Mein-Aurat-Bhi-Kasurwarr-Hai-Jo-Aise-Kapde-Pehnti-Hai”. It’s the “why-do-these-‘modern’-women-think-it’s-okay-to-be-unaccompanied-at-night?” It IS the excuses, the pretexts, the explanations, the justifications. Unless the narrative simply zeroes in on a plain fact, nothing will give. It is very simple. When a woman says ‘No’, it is what it is: a No. Nothing more, nothing less.
Why go into rape statistics? India leads most of the lists, and the US, Germany and Sweden make to those lists too. Why go into the placement of rape-deterrents? Most countries have the strictest laws for sexual crimes. Why be concerned about the high-pitched speeches of feminists and the shrill censure of the parties in opposition? All I hear are the muffled voices of millions of women across the globe who beyond their faith, culture, skin colour, profession, and temperament is victims of sexual violence, in one form or the other, at one point or the other. Millions of these crimes blur into the ‘nothing-happened’ realm, and the victims remain wounded. In the soul after the bodies heal. Millions of these crimes go unreported because underscoring the dishonour of body is tantamount to bringing dishonour to an entire family. Millions of these crimes are perpetuated by those who fall into the category of those who promised to protect the women — fathers, husbands, uncles, boyfriends, friends. Thus, the silence. Who do you turn to when the perpetrator is someone holding you tight, shushing you to calm down, with oh-it’s-no-big-deal?
Women, girls, young boys… all are raped. Demurely-clad girls inside their homes are raped. Old women, barely coherent, are raped. Skinny, wide-eyed boys are raped in alleys, in dark rooms. Infants are raped, snatched from their cribs, their feeding bottles tucked inside their tiny mouths. Dead bodies are raped. Women in their workplaces are raped. Girls in schools are raped.
A rape does not occur because of any provocation or stimulation or for sexual gratification. A rape occurs to unleash an emotion of misplaced masculinity. Of a frenzied anger. Of barely suppressed frustration. Of a show of emasculated power. Of boys-will-be-boys. Of dominating the weak. Of men-can.
It all starts with that subliminal training that boys are superior. That hitting a female sibling is kosher for a boy. That beating the neighbour’s kid is merely puberty. That casual, lurid commentary on females is a display of machismo. That badmouthing/boasting about your girlfriend/fiancé, boisterously, among men, is you being a man. That hitting your wife is just another nothing. That mental-undressing of females is your hormones acting normally. That, women are there to be taken as and when desired, disregarding that quiet or very clear NO. That when a female’s entire body and soul scream a NO it is not a sign to stop but to continue the violation of her body. Because after all, what is the big deal about disregarding a NO? It is just another word that emerges from the being of a person who you — the rapist — has been indoctrinated to disrespect your entire life: a woman.
Mehr Tarar is a former op-ed editor of the Daily Times and a freelance columnist.