The above definition has been pasted directly from dictionary.com
Why am I talking about this? Because I feel that these definitions are confined only to the pages of a dictionary. In reality, the word is worth nothing. It is just a sequence of characters when it comes to crimes against women.
All of a sudden, I wonder why, no matter where I look, I am hearing about rape.
I read books (The Girl With A Dragon Tattoo series), its about rape in Sweden, I read news and blogs, they are about rape in India, I listen to NPR radio, and I hear about rape in Brazil, I watch movies, they are about rape (in chronological order: Amar (1954), Ghar (1978), Highway (2014), Mardani (2014)...60 years of rape!!!).
Its interesting how justice is dealt with in each of these stories. The news, blogs and NPR show are of course, true stories, and the others fiction, but isn't fiction always based on fact?
Thinking a little bit about all these sources and stories have me confused. I don't know how justice is defined anymore. It seems it is different for different people.
What prompted this post though, was the movie Amar...from 1954. There are three main characters: a well respected lawyer, his educated fiancee and a poor milkmaid. In the first 10 minutes of the movie it is established that the lawyer is morally upright. He advises a rich client that he has committed a crime and he should confess even though there were no witnesses. Why? Because it is the right thing to do. Somewhere in the middle of the movie, this lawyer rapes that poor milkmaid. What led to this? She was trying to escape a local goon who was desperately in love with her and wanted to marry her and ends up seeking refuge in the lawyer's house. The lawyer who had once called her dirty and stinky, rapes her. Which apparently is better than being raped by the goon..who loved her and supported her even after it was known that she was pregnant as a result of this rape. It was 1954, everyone shuns her, but this goon. He still wants to marry her, but she says she's already married (!!!!!!!!!), she prays for the lawyer's recovery when he is ill (barf!) The goon ends up dead in a fight with the lawyer when he goes to avenge her. SHE takes the blame for the murder. And finally the "righteous" lawyer confesses. Does he go to jail? Oh no! He marries the milkmaid...who wanted that all along.
HOW??? What logic is this?? The goon's love was wrong because he was a goon, and the lawyer's rape was ok because he was a lawyer? What would have been the outcome had it been the other way round? What if the goon had raped the lawyer's fiancee? Would SHE be glad to marry him? We all know the answer to that.
I am very thankful that the situation is different now than it was 60 years ago. Slightly different, but different. At least the victims don't think marrying the rapist is the way out. Thankfully (or rather, hopefully), the victims are not as stigmatized as they were, lets say, a decade ago. At least not all of them are, I believe most still are.
Coming to a more recent movie on the topic, Highway. It speaks of child abuse. A very influential man repeatedly rapes his friend's daughter. She tells her mother, who tells her to hush. (We would like to believe this is fiction and that mothers would not do this, right? But we all know the stark reality)
The girl speaks out as an adult, and is again asked to hush. She doesn't this time and leaves her parents' home. Is the "uncle" punished? Nope.
Now moving on to the news reports. The most talked about one is the Nirbhaya case from December 2012. There was a big hue and cry, the rapists were arrested. A commission was set up to inquire into this, and laws were changed. The case went into fast track, and they were all sentenced, some to prison, some were given the death sentence. One even died in jail, how he died is open to speculation. The accused appealed and their death sentences have been stayed INDEFINITELY. Ladies and gentlemen, justice has been served!
There are countless other stories where justice has been served according to the books, cases are closed, but that justice would definitely not fit into any of the definitions above.
In 60 years, from 1954, where justice meant marrying the rapist, we have moved to 2014 where justice means stayed executions. I wonder why the progress is so slow. The justice meted out changes, but the ugly face of the crime stays the same. How about we try to eradicate the crime itself then?
I think it is the women themselves who can bring about change. No one else. If they have managed to move from lives that they led in kitchens in foot-long ghunghats to lives they lead in boardrooms in power suits, they can definitely change this situation as well. They did not make this move all on their own of course. They were helped by their parents and teachers, friends and colleagues, spouses and children. And these are the same people who can empower them again!
Parents need to stop setting different standards for their sons and daughters. If its ok for the son to stay out late, then it should be for the daughter too. If they trust the boy to be responsible, they should instill that same confidence in the girl too. They need to teach their daughters how to take charge of their own safety, be smart about it. A friend of mine said her father took her to a bar and made her taste all different types of alcohol. He knew he could not stop her from drinking at some point in her life, and he also knew the dangers of ignorance. So he taught her the difference between a regular drink and one spiked with god knows what. That is good, sensible parenting! And parents need to teach their sons to look at women as human beings, as their friends. I am glad to see this is already happening in the younger generation of educated kids. Boys are definitely more respectful of their female friends. And they are actually friends, regular, wholesome, friends, nothing more, nothing less! Not like when I was in school where even talking to a boy was sinful!
Schools should have courses in self defense, for both boys and girls. In the Nirbhaya case, she was accompanied by a male friend who was also beaten up. Now imagine that they both were trained to defend themselves. Things might have been different. I am not expecting Bollywood style fights where one person takes down twenty with a single kick, but it certainly helps to know where to kick and how to kick. A small can of pepper spray can go a long way. I have a friend who actually managed to tackle a potential rapist and sent him running with his tail between his legs. So it has been done before by one and it can be done by all!
Now, lets talk why rapists feel so...safe.... It is about shame. Objectively speaking, rape is a crime. Just as robbery is a crime. Subjectively speaking, its a whole different ball game. If you do not ostracize someone who has been robbed, then why do that to a rape victim? When you are ok telling your friends about a car that was stolen, then why are you ashamed of speaking up about molestation? Yes, rape is definitely more personal and violates a person way more than robbery does, but a crime is a crime is a crime. And the victim did not commit the crime, and is no way at fault!!!!! Removing the stigma associated with rape will go a long way in making the world a safer place. Thieves know that if someone sees them in the act, they will call the cops, they will be punished. Whereas rapists are confident no one will speak of their crime. See how we are actually enabling them?
Finally, people need to know what steps to take if they know victims or are victims themselves. The government needs to step up here, make the laws more people friendly, make hotlines available, take rapid action, and basically let rapists know that they cannot just get away with it. This is very difficult to do in a country like India, but we can at least try! Success of any type is better than nothing at all, right?
I agree this is a very different matter from that of women being educated and financially independent. One is about rights and the other is about crime that exists in all levels of society, across all age groups. And it is also about awareness, about confidence, about that innate strength that women have. If anyone can bring about a change, it is us! Instead of pleading to men and the government and to whoever else to protect us and help us, we need to take preventive actions ourselves. The cure may or may not happen, but prevention is definitely somewhat in our hands.
Rant over. Do I think I will see anything change in my lifetime? No, I don't plan to live another 60 years!