Ladies, It's Your Fault!

October 10, 2015 Written By Kartik Maini

“Ladies, it’s your fault!” exclaims Kalki Koechlin, as she stares  out of your  screen. Not surprisingly, many agree with her – sans the satire. In a discursive domain where most see ‘culture’ as a term of astonishing grandeur, the association of ‘rape’ is almost unsettling. Yet,there is perhaps no starker reality than the fact that ‘culture’ has enmeshed ‘rape’ so profusely, that it’s time to take notice.

rape culture is any culture that creates, sustains, normalises, and trivialises rape. It does so through varied tools at its disposal – its media, its administrative and legislative machinery, its people. In the first place, a culture creates the practice of rape by dominance; whether a man rapes a woman, a woman rapes a man, a man rapes a man, or a woman rapes a woman, it is, in every way, an assertion of dominance, and/or control. In a postcolonial country that emerged in the wake of a harrowing massacre – one where women of opposing religion were raped just to ‘humiliate’ their religion – we are no strangers to assertions of dominance. We have internalised it so much that we, in fact, sustain it.

When people like Sushma Swaraj talk of the 2012 rape case survivor as a zinda laash, as India’s Daughter who needs the country to save her honour (and her dignity), she touches on every schema tied to rape. A rape culture sees rape as a stripping away of honour, of dignity, and in the Indian context, of purity. It is not surprising, then, that several rape survivors are married to their perpetrators, for who else will marry an impure woman? For men, similarly, rape culture spins an insidious web – a microcosm of shame and triviality – that keeps them from reporting when they are raped. So when we rejoice, with patriotic pride, when Barkha Dutt defends India (for women), let us remember that ‘case’ and ‘incidents’ are skewed equivalents.

If, by sheer, sheer luck, survivors find their way to reportage, a culture of rape makes justice a rarity. Legal recourse for male survivors of rape, especially in India, is in abject insufficiency. Although legal recourse for  women is not as limited, it is a far cry from ‘acceptable.’ Certain tests of medical examination to prove the validity of a supposed rape survivor’s accusation are too regressive to belong to the twenty-first century. The two-finger test, for instance, is based on the insertion of two fingers in the woman’s vagina, as a measure of chastity. A chaste woman, of course, is the only kind whose claim to rape is justified, and an unchaste one is not entitled to justice, for her rape isn’t rape. Having fallen from virtue, it is as if they deserve to be raped, or must have asked for it. Such jarring statements, sadly, aren’t exaggerations – cases of legality, as well as comments of politicians, continually voice these assertions, solidify them, and therefore, sustain rape. Not to be excluded, moreover, is cultural lingo such as the ‘rape face,’ or sports fanatics openly using the terminology of ‘rape’ to define their team’s triumph.

I am not denying that there will not be people who misuse the paradigm. However, in a culture of rape, ‘use’ and ‘misuse’ are both inconsequential, and their lines blur. Terribly so.

Ladies, It's Your Fault!

October 10, 2015 Written By Kartik Maini

“Ladies, it’s your fault!” exclaims Kalki Koechlin, as she stares  out of your  screen. Not surprisingly, many agree with her – sans the satire. In a discursive domain where most see ‘culture’ as a term of astonishing grandeur, the association of ‘rape’ is almost unsettling. Yet,there is perhaps no starker reality than the fact that ‘culture’ has enmeshed ‘rape’ so profusely, that it’s time to take notice.

rape culture is any culture that creates, sustains, normalises, and trivialises rape. It does so through varied tools at its disposal – its media, its administrative and legislative machinery, its people. In the first place, a culture creates the practice of rape by dominance; whether a man rapes a woman, a woman rapes a man, a man rapes a man, or a woman rapes a woman, it is, in every way, an assertion of dominance, and/or control. In a postcolonial country that emerged in the wake of a harrowing massacre – one where women of opposing religion were raped just to ‘humiliate’ their religion – we are no strangers to assertions of dominance. We have internalised it so much that we, in fact, sustain it.

When people like Sushma Swaraj talk of the 2012 rape case survivor as a zinda laash, as India’s Daughter who needs the country to save her honour (and her dignity), she touches on every schema tied to rape. A rape culture sees rape as a stripping away of honour, of dignity, and in the Indian context, of purity. It is not surprising, then, that several rape survivors are married to their perpetrators, for who else will marry an impure woman? For men, similarly, rape culture spins an insidious web – a microcosm of shame and triviality – that keeps them from reporting when they are raped. So when we rejoice, with patriotic pride, when Barkha Dutt defends India (for women), let us remember that ‘case’ and ‘incidents’ are skewed equivalents.

If, by sheer, sheer luck, survivors find their way to reportage, a culture of rape makes justice a rarity. Legal recourse for male survivors of rape, especially in India, is in abject insufficiency. Although legal recourse for  women is not as limited, it is a far cry from ‘acceptable.’ Certain tests of medical examination to prove the validity of a supposed rape survivor’s accusation are too regressive to belong to the twenty-first century. The two-finger test, for instance, is based on the insertion of two fingers in the woman’s vagina, as a measure of chastity. A chaste woman, of course, is the only kind whose claim to rape is justified, and an unchaste one is not entitled to justice, for her rape isn’t rape. Having fallen from virtue, it is as if they deserve to be raped, or must have asked for it. Such jarring statements, sadly, aren’t exaggerations – cases of legality, as well as comments of politicians, continually voice these assertions, solidify them, and therefore, sustain rape. Not to be excluded, moreover, is cultural lingo such as the ‘rape face,’ or sports fanatics openly using the terminology of ‘rape’ to define their team’s triumph.

I am not denying that there will not be people who misuse the paradigm. However, in a culture of rape, ‘use’ and ‘misuse’ are both inconsequential, and their lines blur. Terribly so.

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