Rape Culture and Victim Blaming
Too many people find it easy to pinpoint India as an epicenter of rape culture, for this claim to be dismissed as a propaganda gimmick. The official crime reports make it easy to make such claims to be true. Incidents of rape have gone up by 873% in India in the past 60 years. The National Crime Records Bureau's annual report of crime statistics also reports disturbing findings: A woman is raped somewhere in India every 20 minutes, and the number of children raped has increased by 336% in the past 10 years.
Thara Prabhakar, a Cochin based social worker says that ‘The average Indian woman is likely to be a victim of foeticide, infanticide, malnourishment, child marriage, dowry, domestic servitude, marital abuse, rape, honour killing, domestic violence, just because she is a woman’
The picture painted in our mind right now is horrible! The state of violence against women is so dire. Women say they have no idea how they are supposed to assure their parents and family when they themselves are not sure if they will come back home safely or if they will become a victim to a young man who feels entitled to every beautiful woman.
Experts define rape culture as a conducive environment for the act of sexual abuses to thrive. And what better environment than a society run by patriarchs who would rather blame the women than teach their boys. Unlike in the case of other crimes, victims of sexual abuse tend to end up being blamed for the attacks. So why does the Indian fabric become a perfect space to be embroidered by sexual violence, let us examine the most evident causes.
Of misogynistic leaders
Survivors of sexual abuse confront several obstacles to justice, including community pressure to dismiss the case, prejudiced attitudes among police and judicial personnel, limited legal assistance, and low conviction rates. Ruchira Gupta, journalist and volunteer at Apne Aap Women, in her article stated that ‘I have seen the steady creeping of a rape culture into the fabric of India. We work to organize women in prostitution to resist their own and their daughters' rape. The biggest challenge we face is the attitude of politicians, senior police officials, heads of foundations and even policy makers who view rape as a normal part of society. Many have told me: "Men will be men."
Of Unfriendly Legal System
Indian women, by and large, are handicapped when it comes to demanding justice for the crimes on them. The legal proceedings are tedious, lengthy and not easy to understand for the common man. It is easy to keep the women away from getting their deserved justice. The victims after so many experiences with the national legal system have deemed it unfit for any kind of dependency in terms of protection or rehabilitation. Where the tackling of violence is concerned, there are gaps and ambiguities in the law. The laws often tend to be patchworks at the best, focusing on only specific violence and genders rather than tackling all forms of sexual violence.
Of Cultural Licenses
The cultural facets in India, paint a rather unpleasant scenario, mostly favouring one gender over the other. The general outlook regarding women comes down to 24/7 available sex machines and baby factories. Boys from a young age have been taught to be superior over their female counterparts. This wisdom leeches upwards to their later years where they are unable to stomach female superiors. The famous brother of this comes as ‘water cooler talk’ or ‘locker room jokes’ where the sexual innuendos fill up the jokes, reducing women yet again to ‘seducers’ and their body size numbers.
Of Entertainment and Representation
Often, in these cases, the victims tend to be painted as someone who has deviated from Indian culture. So according to these misogynists, women of India should adhere to the culture that normalises the objectification and sexualisation of women through songs and dances termed as ‘item numbers’ that are increasingly becoming a part of Bollywood. There are so many literature, cinematic, dramatic, representations that use words like ‘white like milk’, ‘frumpy’, ‘yummy mummy’, ‘bomb’ and what not. The Indian Cinematic universe contributes the largest to the damsel image of women. With songs like ‘Blue Eyes’, ‘Kaala Chashma’, ‘Fevicol’, etc. we can see where the general men get the idea to sexualise women. Ashvin Immaneul Devasundaram, and Ravinder Barn in their research article ‘Performativity of rape culture through fact and fiction: An exploration of India’s Daughter and Anatomy of Violence’ give a detailed review of relation of entertainment media representation and rape culture.
Of trivialisation in media reports
Through an analysis of new reports on the rape incidents, we can note how the whole crime is subdued and the blame subtly shifts to the victim. There is no explicit mention of the women’s plight, no critique on the legal proceedings. The coverage is more on the gory, albeit unnecessary, details of the crime, in fact focusing on unique styles to portray it in order to garner attention, views, ratings, etc. Themes of trivialisation of the victim’s experiences and naturalisation of aggression and violence implicitly condone the crime. It absolves the blame from not just the perpetrator but the institutions of power — the government, police and civil society — by rendering them invisible in the narrative as it does not adequately critique their role in the perpetuation of violence against women.
Despite the threats, maltreatment, trivialising efforts, more and more women are coming forward with their experiences. With movies like Pink, NH10, and India’s Daughter that are repainting the female image there is hope yet for the picture to change. But this change is a long process that starts at the grass root level. It starts with you. Teaching your kids concepts like gender equality, consent, gratitude, anger management can help in the bigger picture. The road is long and hard but the change is worth fighting for.