The Endangered Gender

It sickens me to see yet another story of rape in the news. On one hand the country is celebrating the arrival to the Supreme Goddess – Ma Durga – and on the other hand we have a teenager being gang raped and burnt for settling a family enmity, a school girl being kidnapped and raped for two days and a businessman raping a minor on the pretext of giving her a job. And this is only in the headline news. Asking where is this country heading to no longer suffices. Between female foeticide / infanticide, dowry related abuse and rape cases I think we will soon have to classify women as an endangered species.

Why do we, as a society, hate women so much? Why is the birth of a girl still considered as an unfortunate occurrence? One answer to this, of course, lies in the vicious circle that has been created due to the practice of dowry. For marrying off a girl one needs to give dowry, often to the extent of crippling the girl’s family financially. Even after that it is possible that the bride suffers abuse in her marital home. Whereas if one is blessed with a son, money flows in instead of out and there is no worry about the aftermath. So often, the easiest way out is to eliminate the problem at its root, hence female foeticide or infanticide.

And rapes? Women ask for it – that is the common refrain when such cases are reported. She was wearing jeans so she was raped. She was speaking to boys and so she was raped. She was partying into the night and so she was raped. Where will this end? She is a female and so she was raped? How else does one explain the cases of such a heinous crime, irrespective of age? From infants to women old enough to be grandmothers – nobody are spared.

Our esteemed politicians and the khap panchayats, who are probably enjoying the limelight, are evidently considering this problem as one of utmost importance and are coming up with their unique solutions. While one of the most prolific Chief Ministers of our country, a woman herself, keeps shuttling between Maoist conspiracy theories and the increasing so-called wantonness of womankind as the probable cause for the spurt of rape cases in her state, the panchayats are a step ahead. Public outrage had greeted their contention that lowering of an already low marriageable age was the solution to counter these crimes. But their latest solution has silenced all, I guess because it has pretty much rendered the public speechless. Apparently consumption of chowmein leads to rape. I am still wondering what to say about this.

Statements like these just trivialize the heinous crime that is rape. Rape cannot be justified, period. Even if the victim is a prostitute by profession. Even if she is wearing a miniskirt or a bikini or jeans or whatever clothes that are considered skimpy. Even if she is drinking or dancing at a pub past midnight. Even if she is the daughter or wife or sister or mother or any other relative of one’s sworn enemy. The law and society in itself need to be more sensitive. Rape is a stigma but not on the victim – the stigma should be on the perpetrator that he has committed such a vile, shameful act. God only knows how many cases of sexual exploitation go unreported to uphold the family ‘honor’. Do we not need to change this?

Sexual abuse is a crime that leaves its scars on the very psyche of the victim – such scars do not heal easily. Remember this when the next time you read about someone being abused and your reaction tends to be ‘Maybe she deserved it’. These victims have already gone through physical and mental torture. Do not vilify them in thought as well. Respect women and teach them to respect themselves. Men and women together form the foundations of humanity; this edifice cannot survive without either of them.

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