The idea of Rape Culture in India

Meghna Jaswal
Since 2012, India’s narrative and general discourse on violence perpetrated on women has grown and a sense of awareness has been generated on the issue. Regardless, in light of the recent events it has become a fact that a predominant “rape culture” is established in the society.
Rape culture in its essence refers to the creation of an environment where sexual violence and rape is prevalent and in some cases is normalised. This culture of Rape does not limit itself to the established norms of sexual aggression or violence against the victim; rather it is often an indirect result of the kind of society where we live in. India has always been an extremely traditional and authoritarian society. However, despite the onset of modernity in the country, it is now that cases of sexual violence, rape and extreme forms of brutality are coming up to the attention of the nation.
The modern woman does not curtail herself when it comes to living her life. Women work, they get out of their homes into the world to do whatever and whenever they want. This concept of Modernity which was earlier a foreign concept for Indians is yet to become entirely normalised in the country. The reasons for this being we still follow “the hush” concept when it comes to talking about certain things related to women. Everything which is innately natural, a small example being periods or menstruation becomes a taboo. This “hush” concept prevents our society from understanding basic functions of a human body. The underlying flaw is the absence of sex education in India which is present in all Western countries. It is of extreme significance that boys and girls need to know about their bodies and make informed decisions. Sex education also incorporates the idea of consent which can be taught from the level of a high school education.
Therefore, once the concept of consent becomes clear to young boys it becomes easier for them to understand what they are not supposed to do. That being said, consent is not the only issue here. The issue is also our lack of understanding between the terms sex and gender. While sex ideally denotes a bodily difference between men and women, gender is the social construct established by a patriarchal society to give certain characteristics to men and women. While women are essentially viewed as weak and timid, men are expected not to cry, to be aggressive. This “toxic masculinity” is another great cause of men indulging in such acts. The sensitivity is eroded out of men from a very young age when a father tells his five year old son that “boys do not cry” or “be a man”. The problems with such statements are twofold. First, it psychologically damages the boy as he becomes aggressive and tries to hide his sensitive side which also creates a certain frustration in him. Secondly, it psychologically damages the self esteem of a girl as from a very young age she is made to believe that she is weak and inferior in comparison to a boy. Hence, both these ideas significantly contribute to the rape culture of India. Education thus, needs to begin at home where parents need to realise how pertinent their role is in shaping young minds both of boys and girls.
The popular culture in India, the influence of television and Bollywood has been shaping the thought process of society. People idolise their favourite actors and actresses. Recently, a movie called “Kabir Singh” was released. While one would say that the actors performed brilliantly, the direction was amazing and the movie overall looked well on the screen, what essentially bothers me is when people say this is the kind of love which is missing in this society. Having a lover who is abusive towards you, who in the beginning of the movie threatens a girl with a knife and asks her aggressively to take her pants off, goes on trying to control his girlfriend and then also body shames the girl he wants her girlfriend to be acquainted with does not signify an “everlasting love”. In fact, if a man is so abusive; the first action the girl should take is to move away from him.
This is just one example, there are many other serials and films where women are extensively objectified. Encouraging item numbers in movie also encourages the objectification of women in society. Therefore, now after some prominently talked of rape cases bring out an urge in people to talk about the cruelty of such gross aggressive acts, it is similarly pertinent for people to voice out their concerns when such acts of violence and well as objectification are being idolised by the cinema in our society.
A society is a reflection of the ideas and the thought process of the people who make it, therefore every movie, every action, every rape signifies our failure to build a good society for ourselves. Rather than only talking about cases of extremely cruelty when it comes to rape and also disregarding the cases where a girl from a minority community gets raped by a member of a so called “high class” community, we as a society need to come forward and take measures to remedy the underlying issue here which is a lack of education from the side of parents, the government as well as institutes of education. Caste, Gender and Class as concepts need to be done with. The hush concept needs to go if we want to see a real change.
That being said, the recent rape case in Hyderabad has been in the headlines since a while now because of which many other rape cases around India are also being similarly highlighted. There was a lot of pressure on parliament to amend laws regarding punishment of rapists and to implement more stringent laws. Also, pressure was being put on the judiciary to fast track such cases in order to ensure that justice is served well on time. However, all this discourse on law and order, slowed down after the news of encounter formed the headlines. While this filmy idea of “justice is served” is circulating around and people are glorifying the policemen involved in the encounter, my question is; Does this not put a break on the increasing discourse surrounding the change in punishments and judicial backlogs and slowdown? Does this also not completely shift the narrative from talking about the underlying issues of rape to only talking about this was the best solution? This vague idea of justice does not suddenly solve the issue at hand which is the fault in our society. It also does not remedy the law and order to make it safer for girls. Therefore, as a woman living in this country, I urge everyone to reflect on these thoughts and do not think of women as being the daughters or wives of someone in order to protect them and amend one’s behaviour but think of them as humans. Think of them as someone who deserves the right to live fearlessly without being someone’s other but being their own.
(The author is a student of Masters in International Studies at Christ University)