We live in insensitive times. Trying to be smart, we often land up being rude. The Now Gen, uses cuss words at the blink of an eye. The F-word has creeped into our conversation in such a way that it is often used at homes, offices and other public spaces with impunity. Women’s body parts, along with our mothers, sisters, daughters are used as galis (abuses). Rhiti takes a hard look into the prevalence of rape culture that’s no longer a submerged reality (read violence). The author gives a clarion call to put an end to the rape culture. An in-depth report for the special issue of Different Truths on Human Rights and Legal Issues.
When a certain Bollywood celebrity loosely used the term ‘rape’, there was a massive mass media and social media outrage.
Were you angry too? Were you offended like the rest of us?
May I question, why this outburst of anger at one individual, when we all have trivialised rape in one way or the other. This is simply a reflection of rape culture that our so called civilised society harbours.
And you may like it or not but you and I are an equal part of it. Yes!
First, let’s get it straight, “What is rape culture?”
Rape culture prevails in any society where sexual violence is not only regularised but seen as normal and excused in the media and by popular culture. Rape culture is propagated by the use of misogynistic language in creating a society that disregards women’s rights and safety.
In simpler words, when we as a society take part in victim blaming, use rape jokes, objectify women in media, glamorise sexual violence, don’t report it to police out of shame or fear, use it as a tool of warfare, it all adds up to rape culture.
Rape culture affects everyone. Worldwide.
The rape of one person is a degradation, terror, and limitation to all of humanity.
However, over thousands of years it is mostly women and girls who limit their social behaviour, dress accordingly and live in fear of rape. Men, in general, do not. That is a curse of our patriarchal society, which we bear often silently.
Rape functions as a powerful means by which the whole female population can be held accountable and kept in a subservient position to the entire male population. Even though many men don’t rape, and many women are never victims of rape. This vicious rotation of fear is the legacy of the rape culture.
To be absolutely precise, I am going to bullet point almost all the things that add up to rape culture. And no, it does not belong to India alone, it is a global epidemic.
- Victim blaming is a prime example of the prevalent rape culture. It is when we blame the victim instead of the rapist! For example: ‘She deserved it’, ‘She was asking for it’, ‘She was so sexually active that it is no surprise that someone raped her’, ‘Forcing a prostitute to have sex is not rape!’
- Slut shaming is another way of contributing to the Rape Culture by using statements like: ‘What was she doing there at night?’ ‘Why was she alone?’ ‘What was she wearing?’ ‘Was she drunk?’
- When responsible people in the media, political or social circle trivialise sexual violence with statements which encourage violence against women. ‘Boys will be boys!’, ‘He was just having fun’, ‘If you can’t stop rape, you must enjoy it’
- When rape jokes are made, circulated in social circles and considered funny it is the foundation of Rape culture. You may search the internet and will find millions of such examples. (See attached Images.)
- Relating rape to only one gender is another aspect of rape culture. As much as women are victims of it, it is equally horrific for men and transgender people who have been subjected to it. Yes, men, boys and transgender people are raped too! And being gay has nothing to do with it; a person’s sexual orientation can’t be blamed for this heinous crime.
- When we teach our girls ‘not to get raped’ rather than teaching the boys ‘don’t rape’ adds to the same circle of rape culture.
- Sexual objectification of women in media enhances this as well. The surge of item numbers, use of vulgar language in songs is on the rise. It is perfectly normal for us to sit in our living rooms, with our family and watch the heroine gyrate obscenely to songs like “Mein toh tandoori murgi hoon yaar, gatkale saiyan alcohol se” (I am a tandoori chicken, eat me up with alcohol!)
- The false notion that it is okay to force women. How many times we have seen films where the hero forces a heroine to say yes, or go out with him by following her, singing and whistling and dancing behind her?! And in the films at the end, they finally live happily ever after. This is a completely wrong message to put across! For, in real life ‘the hero’ following and pestering ‘the heroine’ could be a potential stalker and sexual offender.
- When rape threats are used to scare people in cases of political feud, property disputes and general arguments. Threats like ‘Teri beti ko utha ke le jaayenge’ are so common. ‘We will rape your daughter/wife if you don’t listen to us’ ‘We will see how the women of the house return home unharmed at night’ are examples of how crudely rape is used as a tool of terror.
- When the word rape is used to signify something else, like a sports team being defeated badly or to state a different physical condition or mental condition, is another prime example of rape culture. Example: ‘Bangladesh was raped at the ODI by the Indian Team.’ ‘I felt like a raped woman after the gruelling session at the gym’ ‘My ears were raped by the loud music playing at the bar.’
- Unreported rape cases, unknowingly add to the rape culture as well. A lot of families and individuals do not report a rape case out of fear or shame, even the police sometimes advices not to pursue the case if a celebrity or an influential person is involved.
- Use of rape as a war or oppression tool. When it is used by armies to terrorise and punish groups of people. Wartime sexual violence throughout the world is probably one of the most gruesome techniques used in warfare in our human history.
The list could go on and on. But you get the picture. Right?
Do you know how many rapists are behind prison bars right now? Of all the reported rapes only three per cent of the accused are currently serving term in the world. I am not even counting the numbers, which were not reported. If this doesn’t scare you what will?
How to stop the Progression of Rape Culture?
- Avoid using language that objectifies or degrades women, transgender people and gay men.
- Speak out if you hear someone else making an offensive joke or trivialising rape. Stop forwarding WhatsApp messages which contain such material. Stop friends from cracking obscene rape jokes. Report the person to the police, if necessary.
- If a friend says she has been raped, take her seriously and be supportive instead of asking her to forget it and move on with her life.
- Think critically about the media’s messages about women, men, relationships, and violence. Boycott advertisements, songs, films, books which make people think ‘It’s okay to rape’.
- Defy patriarchal norms, give your daughters as much love and respect at home as your sons.
- Demand for fast track, efficient legal actions against the rapists. Sign petitions. Write about it. Make people aware.
- Do not generalise and say ‘All men are potential rapists’. They are not. Most men are good and well principled, who think of rape as a heinous act of violence. Always remember men don’t rape, rapists rape!
- Don’t draw parallels of other events like sports with ‘being raped’.
- Be respectful of others’ physical space even in casual situations
- Teach the meaning of consent to children. The difference between a yes and a no!
- Do not let stereotypes projected in the media shape your actions, men and women are not meant to be boxed in defined by the media.
We can fight this, together. Please help spread awareness. If you and I can’t leave a better future for our children, who will?
Let’s search our souls and say no to rape culture.
Feature pic by author.
Pix from Net.
Based in Bhubaneswar, Rhiti is a mother to two adorable trouble makers. She is a writer and editor, with several online and print publications. She is also the founder of Incredible Women of India, an e-zine, documenting real life inspirational stories of Indian women. When not writing, she morphs into an obsessive cake and cookies baker, a self-proclaimed Madhubani artist and a compulsive reader.