Are we trying to threaten Indian women with rapes as punishment for modernity, independence and self reliance?

It seems, Ram Singh, the Delhi bus gang rapist and Madhya Pradesh BJP leader Vijayvargiya both believe that rapes are a punishment for Indian women who anger rapists (by not being submissive, and doing as they are told, or by crossing their ‘limits’ or Lakshman rekhas etc). [Links for both, here and here]

The rapist Ram Singh was angered into teaching the Delhi bus gang rape victim a lesson, for crossing her lakshman rekha by being with a male friend in a public space, and then for fighting back.

The Guwahati molesters too accused the victim of being in the wrong place at the wrong time, and the rapists in the link below also blamed the victim.

“…we were let go, with a final long lecture on what an immoral whore I was to be alone with a boy. That infuriated them more than anything. They acted the whole time as if they were doing me a favour, teaching me a lesson. Theirs was the most fanatical kind of self righteousness.” [Link]

According to Vijayvargiya Sita was also taught a lesson. So we know how far back our culture of victim blaming goes. I was under the impression that Sita was abducted because that’s how men fought with other men even in the ancient Indian culture. Lakshman had chopped Ravan’s sister’s nose (men in Afghanistan still do it), and because Sita was living in exile with her husband the way wives were (still are) expected to do.

Vijayvargiya claims that, Women will be punished like Sita’s ‘haran’ by Ravan if they cross ‘maryada’ (moral) limits: Senior BJP minister Kailash Vijayvargiya quotes Ramayana.

What makes some of us come out in such direct support of rapists? Or are we simply trying to threaten Indian women with rapes for disobedience/modernity/self reliance/fearlessness? If that’s not the case, then maybe Mr Vijayvargiya should get out of the world of mythology and rape myths and read the two links below :

1. I am the Victim and I Blame Myself,
2. If I went to the Delhi cops every time I was sexually harassed, I’d have no time for anything else.

27 thoughts on “Are we trying to threaten Indian women with rapes as punishment for modernity, independence and self reliance?

  1. We need a total revamp in the political arena. We need younger well educated politicians with broader outlooks and modern views. We need to hear their views regarding issues through debates etc before we cast our votes for them. I am glad that atleast because of this recent horrific gang rape, the middle class has been stirred from its reverie and is taking to the streets demanding for a change.
    And as for people who quote the ancient scriptures, can go live in the ancient times…they have no place in today’s world!!

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  2. Answer to the question in your title? Yes. That’s exactly what they’re trying to do. More important is this. Where does it end?

    Would I be left alone if I stopped wearing western clothes? No, then the point of comment would be the length of my sleeves or the coverage of my dupatta or the drape of my pallu.
    Would they leave me alone if I stepped out in full sleeved salwar-kameez, no makeup, no heels, no layered haircut, fully oiled hair? No, I would be asked why I’m out alone or with other women and not escorted by a male – father/brother/cousin/uncle
    Would they leave me alone if I was out appropriately escorted? No. I would have to make sure I cover my head to denote that I’m a married woman. I would not be allowed to go everywhere I liked. Perhaps to the temple and if I’m a good girl, a family restaurant or a movie and occasionally a sari shop. Certainly not work.
    Would they leave me alone if I agreed to all restrictions on movement? No, I’ll be asked to stay home except for going to college. Then stop studying because it’s no use. I won’t have a job anyway. Then I’ll be asked to keep my face covered and head lowered at all times. And then? Then what? I know of my aunt’s mother-in-law whose husband hit her so hard that her earring fell off tearing her ear. Her fault? Too much salt in the curry.

    Can these moral guardians give me an assurance that there ever going to be anything I can do to get complete or even any respect and safety in return? No. That’s just not how our society works.

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    • Completely agree with your comment!

      Where will it stop? We can only guess. It seems as if we are now turning back the clock on any rights women have managed to have recognized.

      I don’t particularly view Sita’s story positively in general, but using it to say that women ought to “stay within their limits, or they will be punished” does nothing but infuriate me. I was also under the impression that Sita’s abduction was more about the enmity between Ram and Raavan, and the (still prevalent) attack on women’s sexuality to strike against their father/husband/brother. What exactly was she “punished for”? And who got to decide what her “maryada” was? Her husband? Her brother-in-law? Society? Everyone but she herself.

      The Sohaila Abdulali article broke my heart and yet inspired me as well. She did what was necessary to stay alive, and came out of the trauma a stronger human being. Not a “zinda laash” as many would have wanted her to be.

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    • By the time your husband hits so and your ear is torn, you will have lost all perception of being alive, of being human. You will see yourself as Vijayvargiya sees you, as a disposable commodity that can be raped, beaten, burnt, no questions asked.

      That’s what he wants to reduce women to. A Zinda Laash, as another BJP politician said recently. Men like him are angered that women refuse to be puppets on a string, when he is convinced that that’s what they really are.

      The BJP says that they respect women. Yes, but only if she’s a Zinda Laash, a walking, talking automaton.

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  3. I heard that Vijayvargiya speech… and it almost looked like he was threatening that if lakshmanrekha’s are crossed then its just natural… pathetic.. he seemed to be approving… sigh…

    its going to take a lot to change the mentality our people have… and I completely see why extreme reactions are needed.. or else no one bothers..

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  4. The minister in question here has resorted to an age-old, tried and tested technique to assert male superiority over females, which is – religion. I have always felt that religions were created as a tool to discriminate against females by bringing God into the picture. This minister must have been under the impression that by bringing religion into it, not many will be able to question him. And though he has made a reference to an epic, most people associate it with religion.

    Sadly, a lot of people would still believe the twisted logic this guy is trying to provide. Much of the male-dominant mindset believes that whatever is depicted in epics like the Ramayan is ideal. A deity like Lord Ram can do no wrong even if he sent his pregnant wife away into the forest. If Sita was kidnapped, that was her own fault by crossing the ‘Lakshman Rekha’. Like IHM rightly points out, victim blaming is not new. It has been going on since ancient times. And things which are mentioned in the very epics, which are considered synonymous to religion by most are so deeply ingrained in the society that it boggles the mind calculating the number of generations it will take to come out of such a mindset.

    I came across a blog post defending Lord Ram’s actions towards Sita. I tried to question the author without being disrespectful to his religion or the Lord Himself. But I had to give up after repeated attempts after getting responses from the author like :

    “maternity is fact paternity is faith. Thus, the chastity of women was probably a requirement both economically and religiously in the minds of people. Changing ideas about that involved a lot more than trusting your wife or not. You wanted to be sure that it was your son who was inheriting your wealth; the King’s son who was succeeding to the throne; and your son who was performing your last rites – and all of this was predicated on the chastity of women.”

    The post can be read at – http://floating-diamonds.blogspot.in/2012/08/in-defence-of-ram.html#links

    If we still believe and follow such twisted mindsets in this age (and I’m talking about a very normal and decent Indian male who wrote this) do we have a hope that things will change ? If we could not provide justice to Sita to this date, what justice should we expect for an average woman ?

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  5. Absolutely, any doubts on that !
    And to cast aspersions on a women has been from time immemorial. I don’t know how many of you have read the stuff in Manusmriti : http://nirmukta.com/2011/08/27/the-status-of-women-as-depicted-by-manu-in-the-manusmriti/ . This is more like the typical mentality of the indian male.

    I often wonder in plan simple logic why they care about the lakshman rekha, etc only for the women, isn’t raping crossing lines for the males?

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  6. 1. Sita was wearing a saree not jeans and flimsy tops.
    2. Sita was wearing all the ‘necessary’ embellishments that a married woman ‘should’.
    3. Sita was not walking with her boyfriend at night. She stepped out of her house to give alms – some consider that a good deed.
    4. Sita was not drinking.
    5. Did Ravan happen to eat chowmein?
    6. Much as I know, this was in Bharat. Not India.
    7. None of the characters spoke English.

    Yet, as per Ramayana, Sita haran happened. And yet, she’s the one being blamed by politicians. What does that tell us about Indian politicians?

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  7. People get the politicians they deserve. While what the BJP leader (and other politicians) said is incredibly backward, his viewpoint is depressingly shared by an overwhelming number of people in our country. Just today, I heard one of my colleagues say that she should not have been out after 9 PM; she should have behaved according to the society she was living in and not as if she was living in US. I felt very infuriated yet helpless on hearing that. Most people in our country think the same way (even though they may not say it out loud).

    Apart from the utter insensitivity and injustice of such statements, what these people do not realise is that when they ask women not to go out after 9 PM, they are actually saying that, after 9 PM, India becomes a land of rapists and molesters. Any woman who dares to go out, does so at her own risk. What they are not willing or able to understand is that when law-abiding citizens start ceding public spaces to criminals, it’s only going to make our society less safer day by day. Today, 9 PM might be the threshold for women to stay out, tomorrow it will be 8 PM…there is no end to this.

    An overwhelming number of rapists are men. If the goal is to reduce the incidence of rape on the streets, wouldn’t it be more logical to ask men not to go out after 9 PM? This might be just as unfair as curtailing women’s movement at night, but no politician has ever dared to make that statement. They make irresponsible statements about curtailing women’s freedoms because they see women as more vulnerable and more easily controllable. They know that they will not face any consequences for making such brainless statements. Women, as a group, have very little political weight in our country. Unless this situation changes and there is a strong feminist lobby to effect at least political change, these statements will be depressingly frequent and regular.

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    • Most people in our country think the same way (even though they may not say it out loud).

      They do indeed, and I’ve found that one of the most effective responses to that is pointing out the alarmingly high prevalence of marital rape. Even if women don’t go out after 9 PM, or whatever your preferred curfew time is, they could simply be raped by their husbands at home.

      It might sound like a trivial point to some, but it’s not so obvious to people who have been brought up believing that rapists are strange, mysterious creatures who dwell in dark alleys and isolated roadways. I’ve seen people genuinely struck by the idea, and I’ve even changed a few minds. An average person’s perception of rape does not really match up to the reality of the crime. This stilted perception produces the sort of ‘advice’ you heard from your colleague, advice exhorting women to avoid going to dodgy places at dodgy times, with people not realizing that practically any place, including the home itself, can be ‘dodgy’, so to speak.

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      • //”……and I’ve found that one of the most effective responses to that is pointing out the alarmingly high prevalence of marital rape.”//
        I think this is an even tougher thing to do in a country where people believe that the wife has to ‘submit’ to her husband as per his sexual demands and wishes. “Marital rape, how is that possible?!!!”
        You will find mothers/MILs advising girls who seek help from husbands who are brutal (read raping them), that it is ‘a woman’s lot’ and you simply have to ‘adjust’ to it. It is a real job convincing such people and I am not even talking of the older generation here. :(

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        • Shail,

          My feeling (and personal experience) is that the ‘how is it possible?’ response is typically more of an instinctive default than an unassailable belief, at least amongst the educated, urban sorts.

          The reason mothers/MILs tend to ignore abuse isn’t that they think it’s an okay thing to do. Most people do understand that a marriage in which the husband beats/forcibly has sex with his wife isn’t the healthiest relationship imaginable. The problem isn’t usually peoples’ moral compass, but rather the idea that the marriage itself is paramount, and that the task of ‘saving’ it holds a higher priority than individual happiness. On this matter, even genuine well-wishers tend to dig in their heels, probably because of a general perception that at least as far as women are concerned, there is something inherently abnormal and damaging about being single beyond a certain age, and that such single women are not only vulnerable themselves, but also open up their immediate family to abuse and ridicule.

          I concur with you in that it is often impossible to change peoples’ minds on that, but even while falling short of agreeing with us there, I find that many do understand that physically forcing a wife to perform an act (especially a sexual act) is wrong on some level. Even people who think it’s okay to beat your wife if she did something ‘wrong’ sometimes get that idea. You’d be surprised (as I was) at how many people actually do recognize that marital rape is a ‘thing’ and is wrong, although of course, their suggested strategies for dealing with it (‘adjust, work it out, or die trying’) tend to be very different from what you or I would likely suggest (‘get a divorce and don’t look back’).

          They may not immediately acknowledge it, but you can see from subsequent interactions that there’s a subtle difference in the way they think about rape, even if there isn’t any difference in their attitudes towards marital abuse. I’ve seen it, and I found it gratifying in a small way. A very small victory, I suppose. We do what we can.

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  8. On one hand I am extremely pleased that there are large group of people who have gotten together and actually see rape as a crime and not victim asking for it. Its the very first time in India since am born I have witnesses people actually addressing the real issues that manifested through rape and have strongly voiced their opinion. People have strongly spoken against victim blaming and stressing on equality of women(which is the one remedy for such acts). On the other hand I get extremely distressed when I still see people blaming the victim. Its not just the rape and molestation they threaten women with but also murder.

    I can across a blog post which had this link. I am posting some comments from the new article and without reading the news article if u glance at the comments you would think the guy is a victim.
    These are some of the comments made by our dear educated countrymen

    “Pitty the guy, what a mess in his life.In stead of booting her out of his life and taking care of his parents this is idiocy. Beware, current generation, this is where the reality is. Devious girls are screwing innocents lives like this and if you fall prey to their deviousness then you land up in mess, like this, only”

    “I think the guy was literally tortured that his parents are around and this girl was creating scenes or may be worse than scenes. girls are greedy and class conscious these days are extremely prone to show offs and can ruin a guys life who is trying to eek out a living. This is a torture that only a guy goes through and it is unnoticed in our society. The girl deserved her end probably she should have been stoned in public as they do in Islam. Moreover, Guys should know their rights. If a girl creates scenes, it is a more than reasonable ground for divorce. If a girl denies sex repeatedly, its an honest and reasonable ground for divorce. Its important to know that divorce is not necessarily a loss of fortune. Its a gain of a life that God probably wanted you to enjoy alone or with your friends rather than with a silly wife who doesn’t respect your hardworking parents. This guy should have saved. He is innocent and he should file a counter case for torture against his wife. ”

    The story is that the man who is an HR Manager murdered his wife because he accused her of not respecting his parents. I am shocked the way people had commented. Somebody is so pea brained to suggest that he should come up with counter charges on her for torture. On whom? the woman he killed. wow. We have such brutal people living amongst us who justify murderes and rapists as long as they are men.

    This was two years back. I somehow can across it from a blog. Here is the link

    http://www.ndtv.com/article/cities/she-ill-treated-my-parents-infosys-employee-tells-cops-44757

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    • This was two years back.IHM feel we still have people with same venomous thoughts even now. Because of a lot of objective people who dare to slam such comments on tv and blogs these misogynists decided to shut up and have kept it to themselves.

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    • I have come across this mentality before and I just do not understand it! I read through the comments and there were some like:
      – “guys suffer the most”
      – “the so called educated wives treat their husbands as unpaid servants and yelling by wives is a common in the family”
      – “there are thousand of ill treated husbands, who are suffering”
      – “Abusive wives in India have all the rights and husbands are left to suffer emotionally and even physically as though they are not humans!”
      – “In india, men are treated as second grade citizens in so many matters (divorce, 498A,and on and on)”
      – “men are dejected sad and helpless victims most of the time and still try to keep a brave face, their only option.”
      I mean, are you kidding me. Are these guys living in Narnia to think that men are the main targets of abuse in India? To think that it’s common for Indian women to be the abusers? And all this sympathy is for a man who murdered his wife…

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  9. Of course it is a threat about punishment. Since society gives every rapist the power to turn a woman into a living corpse, it’s only logical they exercise this power and even feel justified in it. Rape has a long history as punishment dished out by men and as long as politicians openly condone such stone-age views, people will act on them.

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