The rape hysteria

SABRINA IQBAL SIRCAR’s  take on being ‘appropriately dressed’


Every time I go out I think what I am going to wear…No not exactly because I am fashion conscious but because I have to think of the crowd and the stares that will greet me when I am there. Starting from the park, to the mall, to the market I have to be ‘appropriately dressed’… why? But of course if a man tries to rub against me or harass me in public it will be because I was not ‘appropriately dressed’ right? Because of course… men will be aroused… like they say… it’s only natural. It is the women who need to ‘tame’ themselves and be covered.  Well I draw this from the comments made by many supposed leaders and people of this country who justify inhuman acts like rape and gang rapes. ‘Boys will be boys’ yeah! What more…masturbation in public?  Many might even be critical of me writing in such language, because we are a ‘traditional’ and ‘conservative’ society. Well guess what? We are going to explode in terms of population in a matter of a few years, but we cannot talk about such serious issues as adults. Then comes, sex education in schools? What are you talking about? This is India, its taboo! Don’t you know that?

We are a society that tells the girls to be careful and dress properly, not go out at night but the boys are free to do as they please. Cliche’ yet right…It is a man’s world. You can now officially Google India as the worst place to be a woman!  Question is where do we start? In Uttar Pradesh, a father cuts off his daughter’s head for falling in love with a guy of a different caste, every second woman who commutes to and fro from work by public transport has be conscious enough to defend her dignity as she boards and un-boards buses, trains etc, single women commuting at night are viewed as vulnerable and easily accessible because they are ‘alone at night’! A respectable woman is never alone on the streets at night, right? No matter if she has to earn her living or do other important stuff, that, labels her as a slut. Small girls should wear skirts below their knees, and girls in high school should be in  salwar with a dupatta of course; a girl in her twenties and not married yet? She must have some issues, why isn’t she married so long?!!

Bottom line is it all comes down to the women. It’s the women who need to correct themselves, because as they say these are ‘women’s issues’ right? I just recently happened to watch a video on Facebook, where a man talks in this context.  He highlighted some very important issues. Firstly, when we say women’s issues there is a spontaneous reaction on the part of the guys that those issues do not concern them because as the term implies, they are “women’s” issues.  This kind of reaction immediately isolates the men from major matters that concern them; and once they isolate themselves, there is not much that can be done. He further illustrates how these terms impact human behaviour — when we use terms like gender, it is accepted to be implying women, when we use terms like race, it means the Africans, or Asians or Latin Americans etc, similarly the term sexual orientation automatically is taken to imply the LGBT community — he highlights how surprisingly and quite ironically the dominant group is sidelined by the usage or rather the pattern of usage of such terms. He then talks about the ‘bystander approach’ – In a group of boys or men, when a guy or a man makes a sexist or derogatory comment about the opposite sex, instead of laughing along, the other guy/guys should retort back saying that ‘hey that isn’t right!….You shouldn’t be saying so!’ – because if there is no reaction on the part of the other members of such a group it becomes equal to consent —- as silence is equivalent to approval.  So instead of being a bystander, the guys need to speak up! A woman speaking about such issues will not make much of a difference as they have been speaking for centuries now. But when a man speaks about these issues, he draws attention and people begin to slowly realise that you do not have to be a woman to support feminism or feminist issues, just like you don’t have to be gay to support the gay rights movement.

Much has been said about all this, it’s high time for action now.  This madness and cruelty against the women need to stop! I mean how can one even think of saying that ‘men will be men’ as a justification for rape?  If the needs of men are just so desperate the Indian government should think of legalizing prostitution to bring down the rape figures. So that the women can be safe on the streets and can commute to and fro from work without the fear of being groped, molested or raped. Its humiliating, when India is in the news for such issues. And we need the government to adopt a pro-women approach in governance and work on the implementation mechanism of the schemes meant for women safety.

We need a change at the level of the civil society, which should learn not to question the woman’s dignity every time a crime against some woman is reported. It is more important to teach the youngsters and the coming generations to not rape rather than not to get raped.

We are in 2014, and India is expected to emerge as a super power in about the next 15-20 years, but with such mindsets, we will get ourselves nowhere! So instead of telling the women to dress better the men should be taught to respect better. I am a woman I will continue to dress the way I have been dressing all my life. The change needs to come from the other end. Not all men rape, and it is these men who need to take up the beacons for this paradigm shifting change.

Sabrina Iqbal Sircar

Sabrina Iqbal Sircar

Sabrina Iqbal Sircar is a writer and a faculty in the department of Political Science at Cotton College State University, Guwahati.