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Rape, rape culture, and everything in between

Updated: May 13, 2020

You're probably too tired of talking or reading or listening about rape. To be honest, I'm tired too. When I was asked to write this blog, the first thought in my head was *sigh*.

But then, I think this exhaustion, of our brains, as a society; and the exhaustion of our collective empathy towards rape has cost us far too much.

I'm 20, and probably too young to grasp the gravity of this act. Perhaps, no-one can really grasp the gravity of it: no, not really. But I've survived a rape attempt, repeated child molestation and multiple glares and slight brushes over my body over and over again in the few 20 years of my life. I've been luckier than most.

Statistically speaking, there's a 76% chance that I was molested by a person I knew (this person can't be my husband because "marital rape is not rape"), and this statistic proved true in my case.

I knew my perpetrator, and didn't just know him, but loved him, trusted him and most of all expected him to be my protector instead. In fact, I thought he reciprocated the same emotions. If he did or did not, I wouldn't know, but the question is, why, a person I trusted would do something so horrible to me, a kid, over several years?

The answer may lie in the deeply embedded rape culture we brew as a society. According to Google, rape culture is "a society or environment whose prevailing social attitudes have the effect of normalizing or trivializing sexual assault and abuse".

Let me take you through a few anecdotes from my childhood to explain exactly what I'm trying to convey.

● Class: 10th; Year: 2014

Subject : Moral Science (yes, ICSE is ambitious that way)

Chapter: Gender Equality

Opening credits by the teacher, "Girls create ALL PROBLEMS." ~ female teacher, mind you

● Class: 9th; Year: 2013

Place: Assembly line, students being picked out for not having proper uniforms

A fellow classmate was picked out of the line because her hair had "too many" hair clips.

● Class: 8th; Year:2012

Place: Classroom

This was just days after the Nirbhaya Gang-rape Case blew up. Everyone was talking about it, all kinds of discussions, and I witnessed one of them. Here is a loose translation.

B1: What happened was unfortunate man, but she also shouldn't have done that.

B2: Done what?

B1: She was out at night, wearing a skirt.

G1: That doesn't matter dude

B1: It matters. You can try going out wearing short skirts, it'll happen again.

G2: I just stood there dumbfounded.

There's a reason I narrated these incidents in a 'recent to past' timeline. Imagine a 13 year old with the view that a woman deserves to be raped because she was out at night, wearing a skirt. It was bound to happen, no-one could save her, she asked for it. Over the years, what he witnesses, further reaffirms his predicament. A 14 year old girl being cat called by a teacher for having too many "hair clips". She deserved to be shamed, even punished for it. A whole class of 15 years olds being taught 'gender equality', the lecture opening with misogyny and reeking of patriarchy.

This reaffirmation of misogyny by authority figures, their constant sexualisation of teenage girls (read: all women) mixed with the attitude of using 'shame' as a punishment for self expression, breeds rape culture.

Although, this is just one element of rape culture. It grows from normalization to degradation to assault.

Therefore when Salman says he felt like he was "raped" in the ring, he's normalising rape, the practice of it and the institution. A whole lot of porn categories normalize rape. And since most of our sex education in India comes from porn, the degradation seems normal, routinely. We recently hit a new low as Indians: a rape victim's name was trending on porn sites.

Over the past week we've witnessed some of the most horrible rape cases, and as a country, we were shook. Lawmakers dived in with all kinds of answers to rape prevention. From lynching the rapists to capital punishment to a filmmaker suggesting "welcoming the rape" with a condom, we heard it all.

Would capital punishment to my perpetrator serve justice to me? Maybe, probably, I'm not sure.

Would it solve anything for me or women? No, not really, at least not from where I see it.

What would really solve things for women is institutionalised eradication of rape culture. We learn it from the institutions in society: family, school, workplaces. And here is where we should start unlearning it.

Sex Education in schools might be somewhere to start with. Teaching kids the concept of consent, sexuality,sexual orientation, gender fluidity, gender equality, self expression, ownership, masculinity etc is not really hard to teach. 'Consent Classes' by 'No Means No Worldwide' is an excellent example. There has been a 51% drop in rape cases in Nairobi, Kenya since the beginning of this initiative.

Now, some food for thought. Politics affects all of us, whether we realize it or not. From our education system, laws, to public sentiment, everything and anything that goes on in the country is affected by politics and politicians. We still have no laws to bring justice to male victims of sexual violence, or for that matter trans people. From 2014-18, 327 candidates with cases of crime against women were given tickets by recognized parties.In 2018, the current ruling party has the highest number of MPs with cases of crime against women.

We could choose better leaders no?

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