Is torture less terrifying than death?

Is torture any less terrifying than death? Specially cruelty caused by hatred, like seen in the Guwahati molestation video? Which one do you fear more? This 23 year old rape victim has been brutally tortured and raped in a moving bus, she has been through surgeries and is on ventilator now. Do we have any separate laws against such torture? The victim’s condition is ‘very critical’ [link]. Do you think the sentence for physical and mental torture, and injury be different from the sentence for rape? (Awarded in addition to the sentence for rape)

Do you think the gang rape in a moving bus was about sex or more about impunity, perversion, hatred and aggression?

Please do watch the video below. (Video shared by Anoosha Reddy).

Compare this screen shot to the depiction of sex workers in Talaash.

The woman is shown to be enjoying this

With women being asked to either cover up or make (and keep) themselves beautiful, is it any surprise that these men believe that ‘women are for’ being molested, raped, ‘teased’ or owned and hence protected?

That's what women are for

Do we make any efforts to make Indian men see that sex and rape are not synonyms? Did media, religion, teachers, political leaders or his family tell this man (and others like him) ‘why won’t we tease’ (molest) a girl no matter how offensive we find her clothing? Is he aware that a disapproval of a woman’s clothing is not a reason (legally) for raping her?

Nobody has told him why not

Video shared by Anoosha Reddy.

61 thoughts on “Is torture less terrifying than death?

  1. women as objects has been an issue for long,even the abuses men choose for each other refer to sexual assault on women that being considered the ultimate insult to a loser and the most assertive act of display of prowess….I ask again what kind of sons are we raising? and if we continue killing our girls,forcing them to remain dependent we are adding to the perversion of the men who think of women only as sexual objects.

    I have been a working woman in Delhi and have traveled in buses and even the metro,the fellow passengers,fellow women all become mute and blind when a girl is being teased or abused.

    • Bloggers can possibly come up with some kind of a movie certification. This will hardly make a dent to the footfalls in the theaters, but over time it will create a stigma around such movies and their makers. A very small step, but an important one.
      A rogue’s gallery of the movie industry or an annual ‘worst movie award’ are other alternatives.

      • Yes I agree ,bloggers can do their bit.In a free country like ours where the right of expression allows people to make the kind of films/ads/TV serials they want to even if those are regressive and sometimes plain offensive to women,the least we can do is analyse them critically and criticize any content that is unacceptable formally in our own spaces.

  2. Well, the video makes me feel angry. It is a systemic problem with the attitudes and a lousy lousy government, judicial system and useless law enforcers. I never wanted a daughter in India and this is one of the reasons I do not want to come back

  3. Do you think the sentence for physical and mental torture, and injury be different from the sentence for rape? (Awarded in addition to the sentence for rape)

    When charges are framed, efforts are made to book the accused person under as many laws as possible, so as to maximize the possibility of a favorable verdict.

    The charges here are very probably going to go beyond mere rape. I am not fully aware of all the facts of the case, and I am no criminal lawyer, but generally speaking, apart from the obvious Section 376 IPC (Rape), there appears at the bare minimum a reasonable case for punitive remedy under Section 323 (Voluntarily causing hurt). Depending on the circumstances of the crime, the prosecution may choose to prosecute under Section 325 instead (Voluntarily causing grievous hurt) or Section 326 (Voluntarily causing grievous hurt by dangerous weapons or means). The three of these are, of course, in increasing order of seriousness – a conviction under S.326 carries a possible life sentence. A double count (since they also beat up her friend and chucked them out of a bus) would almost certainly carry a life sentence.

    There could also be a case under Section 354 (Outraging the modesty of a woman), although that would be a relatively minor charge compared to the rest of the charges these guys might be facing.

    As more facts come out, the police will have more to go by, although I’m sure most people would have forgotten all about the incident by the time the chargesheet is filed.

    For now, my thoughts are with the victims rather than the criminals. There will be a time for introspection, legal debate and finger pointing. Now is the time to hope or pray – whichever be your stripe – for the recovery of the girl and her friend.

  4. Can’t we do something more about this? A petition? A march? A deluge of letters? Something like the Pink Chaddi campaign? A sensitization campaign? Anything?

    • There are protests going on infront of the Vasant Vihar Police Station, and the issue was raised in the parliament too, though I disagree with Sushma Swaraj asking for capital punishment for rapists.

      • Yeah, Castration would be better. They’re too ruthless to be scared of prison or even death i think. To make them suffer while they’re alive would be better.

        • They’re too ruthless to be scared of prison or even death i think.

          And you know this how, exactly? The vast majority of people are terrified by the thought of death. If these guys were as hardened as you claim, I sincerely doubt they would have gone meekly along with the police. I also sincerely doubt that you’ve actually met many rapists.

          I have.

          Most rapists aren’t particularly brave people, nor do they tend to be the kind of hardened criminals who genuinely aren’t afraid of dying. Many of them are terrified of prison; what they are banking on is that in a skewed justice system, they’ll never have to go there.

          I don’t get why after every widely reported violent crime, there are these bizarre calls for state-sponsored torture.

          If we’re going to be as bad as them, we might as well give up the idea that our law is based on any kind of humanistic principles, might as well return to mob justice, because the same ideological backdrop that creates murderers and rapists also creates the myth that calculated violence is an acceptable response to criminal violence.

          The State is not a lynch mob, and must not be turned into one. Deterrence is necessary, yes, but not retribution. That is not what the legal system is for, and the punitive remedial system must not be hijacked for that purpose, not matter how legitimate the cause is made out to be.

        • @Praveen, No i’ve not met any rapist. What i meant is….. the way i see things – death would be like setting them free – without any pain.

        • @Mir,

          I am with you on this one. I usually champion for some clemency (yes, even for rapists) but never for reckless levels of forgiveness. The death penalty is a strange combination of too-harsh as well as too-mild and, I feel, is appropriate only in situations where other penalties have other overriding negatives or side effects. (Yes. I feel India is not ready to suspend capital punishment as things stand.)

          @Praveen,

          // Deterrence is necessary, yes, but not retribution. //

          Also, though I am a pacifist, I am opposed to the complete rejection of retributive elements in a justice system. It seems to me that society is happier, on the whole, when criminals are dealt a small amount of punitive action (i.e action that is not intended to be restorative to the victim or corrective/rehabilitative to the guilty). Is this not what rigorous imprisonment is all about?

          Note that harshness in punishments can well exceed the levels needed for deterrence. I am unhappy with this but if it makes society happier on the whole, I feel the law should prescribe it. When the active campaigning of pacifists changes society to take a more lenient approach, the law should change accordingly. At some point, the levels will border on not being sufficiently deterrent. Society on becoming unhappier, this time with rising crime, will raise it again and an equilibrium would be reached.

          Perhaps, I have misunderstood you here. By retributive justice, do you mean a literal interpretation of the Hammurabic “eye for an eye” rules?

        • . IAlso, though I am a pacifist, I am opposed to the complete rejection of retributive elements in a justice system. It seems to me that society is happier, on the whole, when criminals are dealt a small amount of punitive action (i.e action that is not intended to be restorative to the victim or corrective/rehabilitative to the guilty). Is this not what rigorous imprisonment is all about?

          Punitive action is not equivalent to retribution. Punitive remedy in India is meant only to produce deterrence in potential perpetrators, and absolutely nothing beyond that.

          Rigorous imprisonment is indeed about punishing the perpetrator. However, it has nothing to do with revenge, and everything to do with deterring future criminals.

          Most deterrence IS based on punitive action.

          I am unhappy with this but if it makes society happier on the whole, I feel the law should prescribe it.

          Making society happier is not the sole, or even primary purpose of a functioning legal system.
          But even if one were to admit such a purpose (which I absolutely do not, and which the Indian judicial system absolutely does not), there is no evidence at all that overly harsh, violent punishments make society ‘happier on the whole’. What they do is make violence official, so to speak. They glorify and legitimize violent revenge as a way to right complex social wrongs. They are the worst possible example to send to the general population. They are state-sanctioned, ceremonial versions of what heinous criminals do.

          In the United States, between 2000 and 2010, states which practiced the death penalty had between 25-46% higher murder rates per capita than states which didn’t. The most stable, crime-free countries in the world have not practiced any kind of brutal punishments for decades (even when they weren’t so stable and crime-free). I’m sure it makes a lot of people happy to see a murderer or a rapist swing, but this is not a need that the State should be pandering to. That so-called happiness is meaningless and often a very personal feeling of things being ‘righted’. The brutality and the bloodshed, however, is all too real.

          This is not about clemency. These guys deserve no clemency whatsoever for what they did.

          This is about preserving our own sanity as a society, and staying away from laws which leave no difference between the State and the cold-blooded murderers it executes.

          Snapping a man’s neck into two by means of a rope, and then justifying it by saying you did it because killing is wrong, is more than a little ridiculous.

          Cruel and unusual punishments have no place in a modern society.

        • Hit submit too soon again.

          Anyway, the point I was making was, everything cannot be prescribed in accordance with the wishes of a majority of the population.

          There are certain rights and founding principles the government is mandated to protect regardless of the whims and fancies of public opinion.

          Human rights cannot simply be put to the vote, to be decided upon by the general public. If we did that, homosexuality would still be illegal in India, and elopement would probably carry at least a stiff jail term.

        • @Praveen

          I feel you have raised many different topics of discussion in your reply (for instance, capital punishment), in all of which I seem to be in partial disagreement with your view. As I had mentioned in my comment about capital punishment, those are for other reasons than I’ve elaborated and those are part of separate debates.

          But in the core point of this discussion, I think we simply have to agree to disagree. It just seems to me that I can’t even nudge you from your stance!

          Specifically:
          // Making society happier is not the sole, or even primary purpose of a functioning legal system. //

          Not sole or primary. But not even a little bit? The legal system is a product of and is drawn from within society, is it not?

          // Anyway, the point I was making was, everything cannot be prescribed in accordance with the wishes of a majority of the population. //

          Not everything. But somethings, surely, at least to some degree?

          I do understand that, taken to the extreme, we would quickly legalize and even subsidize female foeticide in our country if we let the majority have its way. I am not completely disputing your point. Just trying to point out that a legal system may be better if it did not completely distance itself from public opinion.

          I suggest we return to this discussion in my blog next year!

        • Not sole or primary. But not even a little bit?

          Not when it is in conflict with what IS the primary purpose.

          Although the legal system is indeed a product of society, it is not mandated to make society happier. That is, at best, a bonus goal. Courts are constitutionally, not necessarily democratically, derived institutions. This is a distinction that is subtle, commonly ignored, and exceedingly important.

          Of course, I am not suggesting that public opinion should play no part in a legal system. Courts do not function in a void, and cannot be divorced from such opinion. In any functioning democracy, the general public can and does play (indirectly) a substantial role in shaping policy, practice and ultimately, even jurisprudence.

          However, the structure of democracy, and the danger of unhindered majoritarianism, necessitates safeguards which prevent public opinion from destroying the very underpinning principles of this country, as well as the trans-jurisdictional human rights granted without associated costs of privilege to every human being, which all courts are mandated to protect.

          No amount of public opinion can therefore be allowed to violate those inalienable rights by means of overriding legislation, and in my considered view, legalizing excessively severe punitive remedies for rape (or any other crime) merely in response to public outrage, without true justification, does exactly that.

      • I agree with you. I’m not particularly in favour of capital punishment except in the rarest of rare cases where it’s a threat to society for the person to be alive even behind bars. Even then, the hanging is nothing to celebrate.

        I know there’s some level of protest each time something like this happens. But do you think it is enough? I’m not talking about this case in particular but rather in general. There’s some outrage for a few days and then it’s over. Not even a word about how women can try to protect themselves except for the usual “Girls should be careful”.

        Of course attitudes need to change and we need better laws and so on. But those things take time. What until then? What should we do to protect ourselves meanwhile? If, as PT says, it’s the idea of never being caught that increases such crimes, how can we ensure faster justice and stronger punishment as a deterrent? I wish you’d do a post on that also sometime.

        • You know, one thing a lot of people (specially a lot of younger people) don’t seem to get is that protesting isn’t a solution in itself.

          A bunch of JNU students protested at the police station today, pretty close to where I live. They came prepared to raise a stink. They yelled out stuff about how victims shouldn’t be blamed. They had placards. They had motivation. They wanted to do something, anything. And yet, I couldn’t help wondering if they wouldn’t have been better off just attending class instead. I mean, I get it. There’s a time and place for expressing outrage, and maybe this IS that time and place, but hey, let’s not mistake outrage for a solution, right? Public outrage is no solution. Not unless it’s directed someplace productive.

          As far as I can tell, there aren’t any quick fixes here. There aren’t even any mid-term fixes. The fixes that do exist need long term planning and political will.

          For a sense of perspective, consider that the current judicial backlog in India is estimated to be over thirty million cases. That’s a 3 with seven zeros. That’s the number of cases you’d get if EVERY person in the UK registered a case against one other person.
          It’s conjectured that if the judiciary got down to it, clearing that backlog would require something between 350 and 400 years of doing only that. 350 years ago, Canada was largely a French colony and King Charles II was still just a kid. It’s a long, long time.

          Faster justice isn’t something that will just happen if we fix something here and a little something there. Ensuring access to justice is an ongoing, never-ending process. It’s something that citizens can do very little about apart from raising demands for, which might hopefully create the political will that is so desperately needed.

          There are a whole bunch of other systemic issues, such as corruption, bureaucratic inefficiency, a top-down structure that disincentivizes actual street-level legwork, a truly gargantuan personnel crunch, political interference, inaccessible and complicated remedial frameworks… the list goes on and on.

          I’m not saying these issues cannot be solved. It’s certainly possible to do that, and encouraging steps have been taken. What I’m saying is that it is all too easy to underestimate the extent of the problem. A determined country can certainly clear out a lot of the cobwebs, but that determination doesn’t really exist, not yet.

          From a personal perspective, there’s very little you can do. It’s like living in Somalia. There’s a chance you could get killed by some random warlord’s random 16-year old Lieutenant any given day out there, but since there’s nothing you can really do about that, most people just kind of live with it and don’t worry about it too much, hoping that someone will eventually figure out something, and fix things. Some decide to become warlords themselves. Others demand change in exchange for money and weapons (in our case, public support). Others still write books about their experiences and try to gather the support of a sympathetic community. A few simply leave.
          Cynical reading, you may call it, but I find the parallel rather accurate, even if it is a bit extreme.

        • @Praveen (PT) Thank you so much for the post. i got all blazed up since yesterday and after reading your view(pessimist but true) , I think its time to calm down and think about the problem rationally. I don’t have a solution yet; may be technology can help because I never trust Govts.(people to be precise), but we will figure out a solution with a cool and clear mind. All this Hullabol and “Hang the A-holes” will certainly not help.

      • I agree. Death penalty is no deterrent to murder or terrorism. How would it be a deterrent to rape? If we were to introduce death penalty wouldn’t it complicate judicial matters? With death penalty at place wouldn’t the court become more apprehensive of meting out punishment even if there was slightest of doubt? Wouldn’t it in fact lower the conviction rate or aid delay in providing justice? Making laws stringent won’t help, what would help is certainty of justice being delivered.

  5. unless and until parents discuss sex with their kids, there is no chance of discussing the ‘difference’ between sex and rape. How many parents (especially in the place this video was shot) do you think, will discuss sex with their kids? telling your three year old son to “keep your undies on” does not count as sex ed.

    • //On the bus, the sources said, an argument began when the accused asked the man what he was doing with a young woman at that time of the night. The police sources said because she fought back hard, the assailants decided to “teach her a lesson”.

      The police said a man employed as a carpenter too has come forward now to say that the men on the bus used a similar ruse to rob him of Rs. 8,000.

      Less than an hour before the rape incident, the men on the bus reportedly called out to the carpenter in R K Puram sector 4, and offered him a ride. He got on and was robbed, he has alleged.

      The man was then dumped out of the bus on the busy outer Ring Road near the Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi, the police said, and the bus turned around to head towards Munirka, where the student and her friend boarded it. //

  6. It is a pity that Bollywood films encourage these things by projecting these things as heroics acts! I have mentioned this to a lot of women and they say “chodo yaar! it is just a film..” I don’t know what to say next!

    • I completely agree ! Since a long time the youngsters of every generation have grown up on a heavy dose of simply stupid portrayals in Bollywood movies. For example, the ‘hero’ eve-teases the ‘heroine’ not just on the roads but follows her inside the college classroom. And then as soon as he bashes the bad guys, the girl falls head over heels in love with him.

      The ‘educated’ class of the big cities (which consists of a great no. of youngsters) goes berserk over movies like ‘Delhi belly’. People forget that though it is just a movie for entertainment for the educated class, there is a vast population of impressionable minds (mostly the uneducated) which follow blindly what such movies portray. Abusive language (with mostly refers to sexual assault on women as mentioned in the first comment above) is the norm amongst almost all strata of the society which is further promoted by such movies.

      I wonder how many people who condemn sexual assaults on women like the latest one in Delhi actually refrain from using abuses which refer to sexual assaults on women in their normal everyday conversations.

      • I completely agree that the “eve teasing” portrayed in Bollywood films (I think it has largely gone out of style now) does contribute to sexual harassment on the streets. Especially in the ’90s, the hero’s main job in the first half of any film was to pass comments on the heroine, pull her dupatta, and make her life a living hell until she fell into the hands of the evil rapists (of course, she with her wanton ways and skimpy clothes), was rescued by the hero and thereafter changed to a docile and meek little lovesick doormat who cried over the injuries sustained by the hero in the subsequent second half. But Bollywood heroes have never, ever, EVER been rapists. They have never raped vamps, item girls, heroines, or any woman, regardless of her virtue. Where, then, do the self appointed moral police of Delhi get the perverted idea of gang raping a woman and throwing her off the bus to teach her a lesson? Not from Bollywood.

        I don’t really think “item songs” contribute to sexual harassment, and abusive language certainly does not. Sex sells everywhere; it sells in Hollywood. But, in the west, it has never led to oversexed delusional hordes of men taking to the streets in search of sexual prey. In any event, the women in item songs are willing participants, they are not being forced in any way – how does it fuel a rape fantasy? In these songs, the woman always sets the boundary of interaction. She decides what level of intimacy she enjoys, and the men around her follow that lead; they do not force their way with her (or, if anyone does so, the hero rescues her). The songs are tasteless and debauched, but the real problem is that viewers do not recognise the difference between consent and non-consent. If you go to a bar, meet a “Munni” who dances in front of you and professes a desire to be your Zandu balm, then, by all means, go for it. A normal and sane man would not project that delusion on to random women on the streets, or take it as licence to feel up any woman who goes to a bar. In an ideal world, a woman would be able to flaunt her body and still control whether, when, where, or with whom she wanted to have sex.

        You are of course right that the the taboo verbal abuses all relate to the abuser’s conquests over the abused’s female relatives. But the problem is the underlying attitude, not the language itself. Once the attitude changes, the language simply loses its original connotation and becomes a rather innocent term of insult. “Saala” (IHM, please edit if you prefer) would be such an example – I don’t think people really think too much about the meaning when they use it; we certainly don’t in Bengali. Many other abuses, however, allude to the abused person’s perverted or incestuous nature; the act here is derogated, not celebrated. Certainly it does not invite anyone to follow through on the acts.

        The point I am trying to make is that the conservative ideas of protecting Indian culture and womens’ modesty, by force if necessary, are far more responsible than sexualised dances on screen or non-sensical storylines, or offensive laguage. These rapists are not deluded by Bollywood into thinking that all women enjoy sex with random strangers, they are outraged that women have the audacity to dress as they please and still expect to be left alone. Once again, this comes down to an issue of control over women’s bodies.

        • Shy,

          You are right when you say that the ‘hero’ in Bollywood movies never rapes. Obviously he is the ideal guy. But the problem is that those who pick up his eve-teasing character just don’t know where to stop. In fact, when such guys see that a girl isn’t getting impressed (which obviously she wouldn’t in real life) then they resort to force. Not everyone is gifted with the high sense of morals which a movie ‘hero’ seems to have.

          As regarding verbal abuse, the point is not about language but the thought behind it. Why would a person need to use words which are derogatory towards females? Because somewhere deep in his psyche, females are considered as objects. Do you think it is okay to refer to someone’s mother or sister in abuses just out of anger or hatred? And if people don’t think too much about the meaning of an abuse when they use it, it just goes to show how much tolerant they have become towards any form of disrespect towards females.

          The conservative ideas of protecting Indian culture and women’s modesty is also greatly promoted by movies. Don’t we see the ‘heroine’ converting to traditionally dressed ‘cultured’ woman once the part of initial eve-teasing and wooing is done with? It has continuously been portrayed that a girl is fit to be married only after she covers herself from head to toe and becomes traditional. For example, just consider the portrayal of the ‘heroine’ of the movie ‘Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge’ (if you have seen it). I think it is one of the most successful Bollywood movies.

          It should be absolutely fine if a female chooses to wear a short dress wherever and whenever she feels like. But the problem arises when movies portray that wearing a short dress is not right. Just to give another example, there’s this scene in the Aamir Khan movie ‘Sarfarosh’ where Aamir is in the hospital and the female lead comes to visit him wearing a short dress. The conversation goes as :

          Aamir : Yeh kya hai?
          Girl : Dress hai. Socha tumhare is room mei thodi si raunak aa jayegi. Achchi nahi hai?
          Aamir : Achchi hai… thodi chhoti hai.

          And you have yourself mentioned it in your comment that \\ A normal and sane man would not project that delusion on to random women on the streets, or take it as licence to feel up any woman who goes to a bar. In an ideal world, a woman would be able to flaunt her body and still control whether, when, where, or with whom she wanted to have sex. // BUT, we are not dealing with normal and sane men here. AND, we do not live in an ideal world.

          It is not that such perverts would stop teasing, molesting and raping if item songs and other stereotypes were not shown in movies. But portraying such things in movies doesn’t help either. I don’t mean to suggest that all such gender-related issues/crimes are due to Bollywood movies. But the movies are only helping to strengthen the stereotypes Indian society has been using to suppress women since ages.

        • The songs are tasteless and debauched, but the real problem is that viewers do not recognize the difference between consent and non-consent.

          And that’s how these videos fuel rape fantasies. Because not everyone understands and realizes that the women in ‘item songs’ are willing participants who get paid to ACT; whereas real women, the ones who unfortunately pay for the seemingly normalized actions of ‘item girls’ are certainly NOT willing participants, and cannot be expected to behave the way the women on screen do. The basic problem is, the acts that women on screen engage in create the illusion that that is what women are supposed to (and want to) do – they’re supposed to want to be teased, and followed, and stalked, touched, and if a guy does this enough, lo and behold, she’ll certainly fall for you sooner or later, and then willingly engage in those acts.

        • Rajat and starlitwishes,

          I agree with your point about the moral teaching in Hindi films. It boils my blood when I see the whore-to-madonna transformation of the heroine exalted as the ideal. These are not objective narrations of real life, they preach a particular regressive and stifling morality based on subjugating women. But, if you agree with my point about the woman in item songs being a willing participant, then I would reiterate that the problem is with the viewer, not the song.

          I don’t want to overstate this point, because there are obviously many problems with these songs. They objectify women and they teach young girls to take the shortest route to success in a male dominated society, by using their sexuality rather than their talents. But if you simply demanded the removal of such songs, the problem would still remain, as long as women in real life wanted to dress sexily when they wish (and this is anyway very subjective). Your point, about movies teaching that wearing short skirts is wrong, is very well taken. In which case, I say campaign against that narrative structure in the films. Show more heroines in skimpy clothes, and normalise viewers to the fact that women who show off their bodies can in fact be monogamous and do not welcome lewd comments by strangers. Also show the item girl after her performance, and show that she, too, may not welcome such advances and is entitled to her right to safety and dignity. Show that her stage persona can be different from her actual self.

          But at the end of the day, if adult men in India cannot grasp simple concepts like the difference between a film and real life, or the difference between a consenting and non-consenting sexual partner (and the evidence suggests that many do not), then the problem lies very, very deep, and infantalising the population further by censoring (or self-censoring) in movies will not help matters. @starlitwishes, you say that we are not talking about normal, sane men – but we are! An alarming number of men on the streets of Delhi voice the opinion that they can “tease” women who dress like Rakhi Sawant. These men are sane, but they have internalised some very twisted views on women. Indian adults are constantly being told what they can watch, what they can wear, whom they can sleep with. How would we ever expect these people to take responsibility for their actions?

        • @Rajat,y

          “As regarding verbal abuse, the point is not about language but the thought behind it. Why would a person need to use words which are derogatory towards females? Because somewhere deep in his psyche, females are considered as objects. Do you think it is okay to refer to someone’s mother or sister in abuses just out of anger or hatred? And if people don’t think too much about the meaning of an abuse when they use it, it just goes to show how much tolerant they have become towards any form of disrespect towards females.”

          I completely disagree with this. Vulgar abuses, like any other literary form, enter a language at different times for different reasons, but they change connotations over time. To claim that every person who uses the term “saala” in everyday conversation objectifies women deep in his psyche is absurd. It has become a stock phrase of insult, so much so that it now has the non-sensical feminine form. I don’t think implying a relation with a woman’s sister is in fact more insulting than implying a relation with the woman herself, but that is the nature of language – the original meaning is now largely irrelevant.

          As a society becomes more gender-equal, references to conquest over a man’s “womenfolk” largely lose the original impact and so these terms would in fact start to seem less offensive; treating these terms as offensive will not change the attitude. In any case vulgar abuse is not meant to be taken literally, and it is meant to be offensive – that is the point. Language automatically and naturally absorbs a society’s changing attitudes and evolves with it. It is very difficult to go the other way.

        • Shy,

          What my point about the use of abusive language referring to females was about the attitude. A person using such abusive words towards another obviously implies that – hey, I’m being disrespectful towards your mother and sister (who are respected by you). What can you do about it? Of course it cannot be possible that a person uses such words without even knowing the meaning or the reference. The very reason people use such words is because they find it most effective to insult the other person by referring to his female relatives. But even for a sworn enemy, why does a person need to use derogatory words for females? If the target is a specific person, why not direct the words at him instead of referring to females?

          Secondly, many men can be seen having a normal conversation interspersed with such derogatory words as mere punctuations in their talk. What makes them do so? What makes them utter such words as a reflex while talking? Don’t such people consider such abusive words (which are not even directed towards anyone) as harmless even if they portray disrespect towards females? Isn’t it like – hey, its fine if I use derogatory words referring to women. I don’t actually mean it. I’m not hurting anybody.

          Even between friends, people use such words referring to incestuous relations with their female relatives. Of course they don’t literally mean it. And the receiver takes it in the same manner too. But why isn’t “hey buddy” a better option than “you ^#@^*#^”…. ??? What fun people find in giving and receiving such derogatory words is what I cannot understand.

        • @Rajat,
          I think at this point we are just saying the same things, but we feel differently about it. Yes, people use such words interspersed in their normal conversation and they don’t find it problematic. I am a woman, and I don’t find the language problematic either, when I know that the speakers are not meaning it literally. If you ask why people find the need to insult people’s mothers and sisters and not the men themselves, the answer is simple – these phrases are well established in the vocabulary; they are used because they exist as terms of insult, expressions of frustration, or whatever. I am also wary of the attitude where people’s mothers and wives are off limits, that to me is not what feminism is about. In fact, that is the attitude of the people who came up with these phrases – the reason these are such grave insults is precisely because people think it is taboo to call a man’s sister promiscuous. Well, you know what, that shouldn’t bother a man – it is none of his business.

          I am debating this point so far because I think it is ineffectual and superficial to try to change attitudes by forcibly changing language. I simply don’t believe that when a liberal and feminist man or woman uses such language, they are contributing to the disrespect of women. That is completely different from deliberate or prejudicial slurs, which are in fact meant literally. Treating language itself as taboo only further preserves the stigma on its associated attitude.

  7. A man has left the details of the vehicle as a comment. Would something be done, or does the police have a number limit to reach before it takes action?

    My mother remarks yet again – this is why I am afraid of you shifting to Delhi :(

  8. I never saw these songs the way I am looking at them today.I am sickened.This is so true that mostly the uneducated mindless men try to copy the Bollywood icons and try to act all macho.Bollywood has a social responsibility and high time it lives up to its name.Salman Khan said today that such culprits should be beaten to death .How ironical.Look at the movies he has been acting in and what role he plays.Hope our government could come up with a solution to safeguard our girls.

  9. http://ibnlive.in.com/news/3-acid-attackers-killed-in-police-encounter/80506-3.html

    The three attackers died two days after the attack while one girl still lives on (the attack was supposedly on her friend, who died). A death sentence or a police encounter is not what they deserve. When I first read the news, I admit that I was happy for a teeny bit, but now to think of what the girl must be going through is horrendous. They should be tortured, humiliated and put through immense physical and mental agony.

    • I remember this incident. I lived in hyderabad at that time. That was a terrifying year. There was a murder of a college student in her class room by some guy who claimed to be in love with her and there were a series of acid attacks on women. Even though all the criminals were arrested, it didn’t seem to curb the problem. I think it was because of the confidence that they could somehow escape punishment because of the slow judicial procedure. This “encounter” came as a shock to everybody somehow magically all acid attacks stopped. The criminals had an easy death, but it sent out a strong message to everybody else. That was the day I became a huge fan of the then CM of AP, Late Dr YSR ( incidentally, he was the first CM to appoint a woman home minister even before all this happened).

  10. Two thoughts.

    First, as always, I am disappointed again by the demands of violence committed on captured persons, even if they are criminals. After all this is the very same emotion which leads the criminals to commit violence on people they hold themselves in contempt.

    Also, I do not understand who will magically transcend to enforce harsher punishments. As long as we live under the patriarchy, what hope do we have for the punishments to be used and executed for the benefit of the women? The first and foremost thing to change is the way society thinks. First will come real disgust, by all people, for rape and molestation and then only punishments can be of any help.

    Secondly, sexualized portrayal of women in Hindi movies can not be the cause of rapes and molestation. In item songs, some women are shown as sexual objects, which they are, among other things, just like salman khan is a sexual object in his movies, among other things. In most of the item songs of late, women are shown quite in control. Yes, wanting sex, but not being abused by men. In my dictionary that is a positive thing. Instead of theorizing, why don’t we just look at the correlation between rapes and popularity of item songs. I think there is none. Is there any?

    • This is so depressing! But I cannot really expect any better. Victim Blaming is something we always do. I am bewildered at this constant need that people (mostly men) have to put women in their places.. to teach them a lesson!

    • While searching about the presence of any laws to tackle the menace of molestation, i came across a complete forum where men discuss their experiences of molesting women at public places in India. Just for the info of all those who thought molesters were just uneducated and jobless perverts, it goes to show how a lot of them are well educated men of big Indian cities who are well versed in English and know how to use a computer and the internet.

        • I agree,a few years ago in Gurgaon an autowallah harrased a friend and when she forced him to stop and complained to a patrol vehicle they said “arrey madam app itna kyun chilla rahi ho ,rape to nahin hua na” SHAMEFUL REALLY.

      • I am sickened. But as you pointed out sexually harassing a woman cuts across all the socioeconomic barriers. I remember one of my classmate passing lewd comments on a woman passing by in the college corridor. I studied in a prestigious Delhi university college and within my college premises I have been cat called by some of the guys of B.Com department. Another incident I remember is of sitting in the library and taking notes, suddenly a guy pulls out the chair besides me, sits there pretend to open a book, takes out his cell phone and starts playing a porn video and later goes on to ask me If I like what the porn actor does to the actress and if I would like to try it with him.

        I never shared these incidences with my parents, fearing that they’ll somehow blame me, curtail my freedom. Though I talked to a female teacher about it and she told me that I must have been at fault somehow because these guys I am talking about aren’t some hooligans rather they are educated people. She ended by saying that being a girl I should learn to grow a thick skin and just avoid them.

        • A very important point raised here. I have had my closest group of friends who have studied in the most reputed educational institutes of the country including the IITs, IIMs and Medical colleges. And the level of perverseness among students there (males, since I got to observe them closely in their campuses) is simply unbelievable. Ragging seems to be the break point to shed all inhibitions and express the all the perverted ideas which obviously must be there in the person’s character beforehand. How such males go on to behave when they leave college is anyone’s guess.

  11. @ shy – Completely agree that it is not the songs but rather the audience, and their lack of ability to differentiate between consent and non-consent. BUT, why is it that they cannot or will not do so? Because the songs and their content is in a sense context-less. For example, and while this may not be the most appropriate one, but its the one that comes to mind right now – when you see characters in movies smoking, you now have a warning that smoking causes cancer. Albeit, people continue to smoke, BUT, there is a sense of caution and awareness created by that little piece of information that is shared. In the same way, like you said, if there was a way for the audience to see (though many of us already do) that the women in such songs are being paid to ACT, and that they certainly would not welcome such advances in real life, then maybe the impact of the songs would be lessened (or one would hope, anyway).

    you say that we are not talking about normal, sane men – but we are! An alarming number of men on the streets of Delhi voice the opinion that they can “tease” women who dress like Rakhi Sawant. These men are sane, but they have internalised some very twisted views on women. Indian adults are constantly being told what they can watch, what they can wear, whom they can sleep with. How would we ever expect these people to take responsibility for their actions?

    Sorry, you misunderstood me. Never questioned their sanity. In fact, as you say, I agree these men may be quite sane in every other aspect of their life. But, the fact remains, that if they continue to believe, for whatever reason, that real women are willing to behave the way reel women do, and if they do not, the men can use force, then don’t you think something is fundamentally wrong with their mindset? And while this may be due to their socialization, it still is wrong. Part of it I think, is that children are exposed to such songs and messages about women and, as you say, they end up internalizing those messages because they are never educated about media portrayals vs. reality. But, not all of them do, or every man would be a rapist. As such, we ought to figure out why some do and some don’t, and target that ones who do for intervention. I would think media literacy (and I cannot promote this enough!) at home and at school is essential in today’s world. That would at least contextualize a lot of the information that is coming at us from everywhere.

    • I think, starlightwishes, that the message these rapists internalise is that “good” women do not behave a certain way, or dress a certain way; that they are either docile and void of sexual desires, or they are indiscriminant nymphomaniacs just asking for it. This is a lesson learnt at home, at school, on the streets, not from item songs on the television screen.

      A lot of things that seem to make common sense do not really work. The smoking warning you mention is an example of that. Most smokers are fully aware of the health risks of smoking, but they do it anyway. That is the nature of addiction. Maybe slightly off-topic, but this is another example of the government infantalising its population, assuming that viewers would be enticed towards smoking by the sheer image of a lit-up cigarette on screen. The other day there was a scene on “Lakhon mein Ek” where a man burns a woman with a cigarette stub, and this was accompanied by the statutary warning “Cigarette smoking is injurious to health”. I was left speechless by the irony the whole thing.

      • Like I said, I acknowledge that the cancer warning doesn’t necessarily work. But, while simply watching someone smoking on screen might not influence *your* behaviour, you’d be surprised at the number of people it does affect. If popular media figures endorsing products and services were that ineffective, why do you think advertisers spend so much money on them? Albeit, the influence is probably and rightly so, not as much as they hope, there ARE people, especially young, impressional media-illiterate minds that absorb this garbage like a sponge.

        I also acknowledge that item songs ALONE are not the CAUSE of anything. But, in combination with what is learnt at home, school, etc., they may be a contributing factor, as just another example of the Madonna/whore dichotomy.

        Wow, the scene you mentioned seems idiotic. Wonder what the creators were thinking, or weren’t as the case may be.

  12. //Next time, when you cheer an unruly group of lumpen men led by the macho hero collectively leching an item-girl on screen, don’t forget that you are encouraging a culture of sexual objectification and domination over women. Next time, when India’s criminal-politicians block the move to reserve 30 per seats in Parliament for women, don’t forget they are indirectly fostering violence against women.

    It’s not cool to be macho in a country where women are raped.//
    http://www.firstpost.com/india/new-delhi-rape-it-is-time-men-started-fighting-for-womens-rights-561789.html

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