Why Sexual Violence Doesn’t Offend Us Anymore

BLEED WITHOUT FEAR- Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. (Picture Courtesy: Rishika Singh)

A protectionist mindset warrants a sexual hierarchy in which men are dominant and women submissive

Written by Rishika Singh | April 15, 2021

Just 15 days after the Hathras case left the country rattled, a similar case of gang-rape was registered in Balrampur, Uttar Pradesh. Not even a month after that, another case of gang-rape of two minor girls had been registered in Jaipur, Rajasthan.

According to the 2019 annual report of the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), a rape case is reported every 16 minutes in the country.

According to women rights activist Yogita Bhayana, also the head of People Against Rape in India (PARI), the high rate may have been a result of increasing awareness among women to talk about sexual violence and report it. “Because of social media, the reporting of domestic violence has increased. Women have become more vocal and they have less tolerance, which is very good,” she noted.

What is happening here, you ask? To what do we owe this swell in sexual crimes against women and even little girls some as young as two years old?

What we need to understand here is how fundamental sexuality is to the basic concept of gender in Indian society. And in a semi-feudal and intensely increasing gender-divisive society like ours, sexuality remains central everywhere to define males and females.

While submissiveness and non-assertion embody female qualities, domineering behaviour is deemed proof of male power.

Indians are fast developing callousness on the subject of rampant sexual violence against women.

It is plainly evident that despite all the publicity over stringent new anti-rape laws and kadi saza pronouncements from the system, not much has changed on the ground for Indian women.

Late Justice Leila Seth, one of India’s finest judicial minds and member of the celebrated Verma commission that rewrote India’s rape laws said “Women continue to be raped daily”, and also added that the normal approach, remains protectionist.

Protectionism presumes women need protection, not as a matter of right as citizens, but because they are weaker and subordinate to men.

Even today this protectionist mindset exists among many members of the executive, and the judiciary— despite the major legal amendments the Verma committee report helped usher in— and the public continues to reinforce and validate a sexualized hierarchy in which eroticized dominance (seen in films like Bahubali & the Fifty Shades trilogy) defines masculinity and submission eroticized (seen in Bajirao-Mastani & again, the Fifty Shades trilogy) defines femininity, all of which counsels and supports the moral policing of women.

The legislature chose to leave marital rape out of the list as a punishable crime despite the recommendation of the Verma committee. And more recently when the courts took up the triple talaq matter, the related issues halala and polygamy had been neatly excised.

National Commission for Women’s chairperson Rekha Sharma said domestic violence cases against women have been on the rise since the pandemic started. “Economic insecurity, increased stress levels, anxiety, financial worry, and lack of other such emotional support of parents/family’s side may have resulted in domestic violence in many instances,” she said.

It is beyond doubt to anyone observant enough that at this point, the State will not contradict the socially constructed and historically and legally validated terms of men’s entitlement and access to women, without a care as to how they affect the lives of millions of Indian women.

Real equity and equality of sexes in the eyes of law can only be brought about, only if society accepts that gender inequality is a relentlessly shrewd socio-political construct that determines that most victims of sexual crimes will be women and men, the perpetrators.

Equality—as a concept— requires acute change and a new dynamic established between life and law for Indian women before they can safely seek redressal in the erstwhile anti-rape laws.

(all pictures and elements are owned by the author)