Rape and clothing: How it’s all dressed up – A guest post by Praveen Talwar.

A guest post by Praveen Talwar.

Many years ago, in 1990, something changed in India. It wasn’t something that everyone noticed. It wasn’t something that a lot of people even cared about. But it was something big, something to do with how the law actually extends its protection to citizens in practice. In October 1990, the Supreme Court of India ruled in favor of one Banubi Sheikh, a woman who admitted in court that she was party to an extramarital relationship, a woman who also stuck to her guns in stating that that little fact should be treated as irrelevant to her main allegation that she was assaulted and raped by a policeman at her home.
 Like many things in law, it wasn’t the case that was important; it was the precedent. For the first time, the supreme court explicitly stated that a woman’s sex life was her own business, and no matter how many people she chose to have sex with, no matter what her moral standing was, no one had the right to rape her as and when they pleased. It was just a little reminder that women’s sex lives were really their own. It was a reminder that a lot of people found very hard to swallow back in 1990, and one that many people find hard to swallow now, in 2012.
 Talking about rape in India produces predictable responses. Women should take care. Women should learn to defend themselves. Women should carry pepper spray. Women should avoid certain areas. Women should maintain high situational awareness. Yes, rape is a crime, but a rapist is little more than an animal. Why blame an animal? If you provoke an animal, it’ll get you. Ergo, some restrictions are necessary.
 It sounds sensible, right? Well, not really. Not if you think about it.
 In this guest post, I will attempt to explain why the advice above is not as useful as it sounds. I will point out how culture ties into sexual assault, and put forward my opinions on why the current strategies for handling sexual assault are largely ineffective, and will remain so unless we take remedial steps. 
 I will finish by discussing a few possible solutions and the outlook for the future. 
 So let’s begin. 
 One of the traditional prescriptions to avoid being a victim to sex crime is to dress conservatively. It’s supposed to be obvious that attractively dressed women are more likely to get raped. It’s supposed to be so obvious that it goes unexamined. 
 Let’s examine it now. Here are three facts about rape:

   Most convicted rapists do not remember what their victims wore.
   Rape victims aren’t all single, attractive young women. They can be infants or grandmothers too. In fact, rape victims are not necessarily women, but that’s something I’m not going to get into right now.
   A United States Federal Commission on Crime of Violence Study found that only 4.4% of all reported rapes involved ‘provocative behavior’ (self-defined as a noticeable gesture towards the perpetrator, encouraging him or her to carry out the crime) on the part of the victim. In murder cases 22% involved such behavior (as simple as a glance).Clearly, there’s a lot going on in a rapist’s mind apart from, “hmm, this woman is attractive, I can’t control myself”. It is a mistake to call a rape a crime of passion. Let me repeat that. Rape is NOT a crime of passion.
 Rape can be far more accurately described as a crime of opportunity. It is not a beauty contest. While it’s not easy to conduct research on rape due to factors like under-reporting and skewed statistics, what we do know is that a rapist does not look for the most attractive women to assault. Instead, he chooses the most available woman, the woman he has the greatest access to, the woman he perceives to be the least likely to report the assault. That means girlfriends, coworkers, neighbors and even spouses. That means women in vulnerable, dependent positions. That means women close to the criminal. 
 And if all this talk of ‘choosing’ surprises you, it really shouldn’t. Research shows that most rapists premeditate their crimes. They know who they are going to assault and how. They decide this beforehand. They decide itbefore they have a chance to see how their victims are dressed on that particular day. And they do it because they are part of a culture which tolerates and encourages this behavior.
 Which brings me to my next point. Culture.
 A lot of people are surprised when I point out that sexual assault isn’t just a random act of violence. It’s not. As I’ve had occasion to say before, sexually assaulting a woman is a very specific violent act that is linked to a plethora of cultural tie-ins. For most rapists, the act isn’t about satisfying a biological need, it’s about satisfying a psychological need. It’s about power and control. And power and control are two things that, more than anything else, are culturally defined. 
 In a patriarchal society, where sexes are segregated and sexuality is repressed, women aren’t really people and sex isn’t really an activity. Both are objects. You don’t just have sex, youtake sex, you get sex. Taking sex is a way of taking power, snatching power, asserting power. From there, it’s only a short hop to rape being considered normal. 
India took that hop a long time ago. This is a country where raping your wife every night for years and years isn’t even a crime. This is a country where it’s considered mental cruelty for a woman to not have sex with her husband on her wedding night. This is a country where a woman gets gang-raped and the first thing people say is – you were probably behaving like a sl*t. This is victim-blaming, but it’s also much more than that. It’s resignation and normalization. It’s the acceptance of the idea that rape is a normal, inevitable outcome of certain situations. It’sworse than victim-blaming. And as long as we keep doing it, fat chance of getting rape numbers down.
 The whole problem with the legal attitudes to rape in India is that they are built within a patriarchal framework. Indian laws provide for harsh punishment for rape, but it has minimal deterrent effect, because in India, most rapists do not fear being caught. Many are actually surprised if they do end up getting reported. Because they live in a society where rape is considered normal in certain situations, they do not even understand the full magnitude of their actions. And the one true solution, perhaps the only solution is – openness.
 Open attitudes towards the sexes mingling with each other.
 Open attitudes towards sex itself.
 Open discussion of what’s really going on when someone decides to sexually assault a woman.
 Open education about sex and sexuality.
 Openness between men and women while talking about sex.
 That’s the key to a future where women don’t have to walk on eggshells all the time. As citizens, we owe this to ourselves. Let’s teach our kids to be open about things. Let’s teach our kids to communicate. Let’s teach our kids to robustly challenge assumptions about rape and women in general that just aren’t true.
 Putting women in conservative clothing isn’t a cure. It’s an ineffective, rather useless measure against a complex problem. By all means, dress sensibly. By all means, learn karate. By all means, carry pepper spray. But know that those aren’t solutions. 
 Let’s not go overboard with that stuff. Let’s focus on the real issue here. Wearing a salwar kameez instead of jeans is not a solution. It’s a home remedy that doesn’t work.
Women have lived in fear long enough. It’s time that changed. It’s going to take time, but let’s start to trudge that road, one step at a time.

Warm Regards,
Praveen Talwar


92 thoughts on “Rape and clothing: How it’s all dressed up – A guest post by Praveen Talwar.

  1. Wonderful post. As encouraging as it is informative. But we who use internet and can read all this, know this. What happens to those who don’t? Where should the educating process start?


    • Agree. There’s a lot of good stuff been written and discussed in this area. Unfortunately the reach of these valuable discussions remain confined to those who are literate, have access to internet. How do we get this message out to the masses ? The illiterates, those who need more effective, perhaps visual methods to comprehend the key points ?
      Perhaps TV shows, grass root campaigns with flyers, road side enactments of plays etc.

      This should be also be part of early education – at a primary school level – social sciences/community living curriculum in all schools. Knowing how to recognize a sexual crime, basic self defense tactics – a kick, an elbow punch, shouting and screaming out loud, specifically pointing to the person committing the crime etc – should also be something that should be taught at an early age to kids.

      Either ways, the core message should be ‘Recognize and respect every person around you – whether it is a girl, boy, man or woman – as a human being who has feelings, emotions, right to a safe and secure life, just like you. Do not do anything hurtful to others that you would not have have anyone do to you.’


      • Great perspective Wanderer and GT. I believe the moot cause is Value Education. It may be one step more primary than all the solution listed by Praveen Talwar.

        Open attitudes towards the sexes mingling with each other.
        Open attitudes towards sex itself.
        Open discussion of what’s really going on when someone decides to sexually assault a woman.
        Open education about sex and sexuality.
        Openness between men and women while talking about sex.


    • @Wanderer,
      Do you think they are not being educated? For a decade DG and friends worked amongst the grassroots mobilizing masses on power and control issues of violence against women. It all began in 1992 with the gang rape of sathin Bhanwari Devi in Bhateri, Rajasthan. It was that mobilization that brought about the supreme court directive on sexual harassment at work place. DG left field many cadres are tirelessly committed to the cause and working.

      None or most of those reading this here on internet never participated in any of the activities then and will not now. May be they were too young or too busy doing what ever.

      It is an innocent question you raised and many before you have done so. Just focus on what you can do to raise awareness amongst those in contact with you.
      Desi Girl


  2. Great post! Whenever I research/analyse any article on rape – be it a psychological thesis or a cultural analysis – there is one thing that is very striking, at least in the context of India – there is little or no information available – even for academic interest, as to the upbringing and background of the rapist.

    What makes a boy who supposedly touches his mother’s feet at every opportunity – to go out and grope a woman, molest her or rape her? What makes a middle-aged man, supposedly pious, supposedly a good father and husband – to grab a woman in a crowded bus because the opportunity presented itself? Still researching!


    • Sorry to hog your space IHM – Praveen’s analysis and thought process struck a chord with the way I see the whole thing; thought of sharing snippets from my blog. After reading volumes of comments on rape – this is my summary:

      “1)The average man on the street assumes that he has a privilege of forcing himself on woman because of the way HE perceives HER ‘moral quotient’ – ‘she asked for it’ justification.

      2) He assumes he has the right to grope, molest, rape a woman if he is aroused by her – apparently, SHE is responsible for HIS arousal and she ‘asks’ for it.

      3) He absolves himself of all responsibility by blaming everything else around – the woman and the anatomy she’s born with, the movies, the white man (and woman), and finally his own biological ‘weakness’ – of blood rushing down there at the mere sight of women.

      4)A woman is a commodity first, human later (if necessary and applicable). Hence the comparisons to inanimate objects when it comes to her body.”

      “How can a woman going about her daily business prevent a lascivious male from undressing her mentally? The problem has never been about what the woman wears – it has always been about what the man imagines and fantasises.”

      Here is an example of how we’ve handled sexually deviant behaviour for ages, and why our attitude towards rape or any harassment is casual-

      “Back in college, a group of us used to commute by public transport; of course there was no other option. There were many unsaid rules. We would wait for ages for a relatively ‘empty’ bus, where we could find a ‘safe’ place to stand. Otherwise, you would have creeps falling all over you on purpose. Even if you did get to sit, it had to be in the front two rows – where hopefully only women would stand around you. If you went any further behind, and sat at the aisle – then for sure some guy would rub his crotch against your shoulder. It was not just us – almost all women knew these unsaid rules and tried to follow them. I bet even today, the same rules are followed. This gives a snapshot of the trend – everyone knows the problem. Our solution as a society is to expect women, the victims, to make compromises in their lifestyle and avoid the problem. Tackling the real issue was never ever on the agenda. Thus as a woman, I had two choices – avoid buses altogether – or travel in discomfort – like standing through-out the journey even though empty seats are available. So ingrained were these rules that we girls never gave this whole arrangement a second thought. ”
      “That about sums it up. For centuries our system, our so-called great culture has dictated the lifestyle of a woman based on criminal behaviour of men.” The clothes we can wear, the places we can visit, the friends we can have – everything.


      • OMG, Sumana! What you have said was a daily occurrence back when I was at school and college in Chennai. Going to school or college was like swimming in the shark infested ocean with a bleeding wound on the body.

        First there was this middle aged man ( I almost wrote gentleman) who used to lift his “veshti” and flash all the school girls.

        Then there were the boys from the neighborhood who would wake up and sometimes would come to the bus stop just to “send off” girls who were going to school without even brushing their teeth. I once overheard this one guy telling his friend ” Macchaan naan pallu kuda valakkala, amma coffee pottu vachu irukkanga, idungala annupittu pogalamnu vanden.” This is roughly translated to “Bro, I havent even brushed my teeth, mom’s at home waiting with coffee, I came here to send these girls off”.

        After that we had the romeos from a nearby college who would accost all the buses to and fro. I can never forget the pushing, shoving, the vulgar filthy comments, the arrogance and sense of entitlement that those guys had.

        And for everyone who thinks that the way a woman dresses that makes the men do what they do. Our school was in the part of the city which had a very large conservative muslim population and 8 out of 10 girls would be wearing the burka. That never stopped the boys from harassing those poor girls. They actually got harassed more IMO.

        The absolute worst part was that no man ever stood up for these girls, all the men would simple turn around and pretend that nothing is happening. It was the old frail grandmas and the middle aged women who stood up to protect any girl who was harassed.

        I just wish that cell phones, cell phone cameras and facebook and twitter was availab


        • In the mid 90’s- I once reported that a man on a two-wheeler was following me and making lewd comments to a policeman- he said “madam chhua toh nahi na”. I lost it and screamed at this cop. I had also taken to carrying pepper spray and a couple of large stones in my bag if walking at night.
          Today- 2012- I think the policeman’s attitude is likely to be different, at least in the fancier parts of Delhi- however men still haven’t changed. Waiting to cross the road at 10am near the India Gate circle, dressed “conservatively”- every 3rd guy driving past- whether on a bike or in a car passed a comment or makes a sick sucking sound.
          Here, the moment one steps out of the house, one has to put on an aggressive unpleasant stance in order to avoid feeling violated. What PT has written makes a lot of sense- “the woman he perceives to be the least likely to report the assault. ”
          But taking on this persona changes one- I find over time, I have become cynical, distrusting, ready to bite off the head of the next guy who comes near me in public spaces…. and its sad that this happens to women for NO fault of theirs.
          A sibling recently moved to Bombay for a few months- and the one overwhelming positive for her is that she feels ‘liberated’. That she can wear a skirt if she wants and travel on a bus. That she doesn’t feel she has to protect her body at all times. And that this thought isn’t on her mind all the time when she steps out of her home- accords her a freedom that she has never known in Delhi. Of course, I am not suggesting that this is the only city where women are harassed- DG’s comments about Madras reveal that it’s the same everywhere. But somehow in Delhi- men are remarkbly brazen and unapologetic about harassing women.


        • One thing i have felt is when we wer kids, like in school, there was more harrassing. I was in my fifth wen some guy sitting behind me was pinching my hip. I was with my family!! But i dint know wat to do.. Everyone knows the kind of atmosphere girls r kept in. At that age we dont even know it is something for wich we need to fight bak. As i hav grown up, the incidents r very less. I know such guys r scared of grown up girls atleast in public places tat we may make an issue of it.. bt children cant.. It is necessary to make the girls aware of things lik tis. Girls never complain sometimes bcoz the parents may stop them frm going to school. It is very upsetting.


      • OMG! Sumana and Desi Woman… This was my ‘city-bus’ experience too! I actually decided to go to a PU College near my house just to avoid the bus and ride a bicycle.


        • Sumana and desi woman, yes this was my daily routine in the bus to avoid unwanted touch of men.. i think almost 9/10 women follow this unsaid rules in thier bus/train journey..


  3. Agree with everything you say, except this line:
    “This is a country where a woman gets gang-raped and the first thing people say is – you were probably behaving like a sl*t.”

    This is not an Indian trait. I got to know that the victims are blamed for rape through this scotland ad:

    And recently, there was this open letter:

    What is uniquely Indian about our rape issue is that the majority believes it’s the woman’s fault.


    • I agree, Archana. It’s not a uniquely Indian phenomenon by any stretch of imagination.

      But it’s definitely a lot more pronounced in India. The acceptability of those kind of statements is far more here than in any country I’ve ever been in, and that includes some very misogynistic places.


  4. Wow really neat n clear. Really wish this could go off to a wider audience. Am going to link it on my blog and hope everyone else would as well [of course with IHM’s permission]


  5. loved your article..but who will teach the illiterate goons..it is really saddening to know of all the problems plaguing our indian society..We know the solutions too but still feel helpless..Most of the issues will be solved if our law and order is in its place..
    P.S Reading about all such stuff makes me hate being called an ‘Indian’ literally…..


  6. Dear IHM,

    This is a great post from Mr. Talwar, that hits the nail right on its head about this particular issue. I would agree that dressing conservatively is merely a home remedy that’s not going to work the change that we need today to ensure safety for women. It’s appalling to see, hear and read how about female foeticide, killing of baby girls and rape cases that arise in India on a daily basis.

    Some of us tend to think, that education is the holy grail. That if we educate people, education will change their attitude about such social stigma and eventually there will be a societal level change, is the thought. By no means am I trying to say that education is not important but, I do not believe that education alone will bring any change in the mentality of the people who are blinded by this male dominated culture. We have seen cases, time in and again to prove this. Here, I would like to bring your attention to a post that I saw on facebook
    ( http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=293298704052337&set=a.142638509118358.31996.142633342452208&type=1&theater )

    Honestly, I was shaken while reading the comments on this post. Some guy who calls himself ‘Mens Rights’ was using every possible excuse to make rape sound like the woman’s fault because of her clothing. The guy argued vehemently about how the change in dressing has increased the number of rapes in recent years. As ridiculous as it sounded to me, I thought that maybe its because I am educated that I can see a more sensible picture than him, but, as I read through his replies, it dawned upon me that he is probably a well educated guy too (at least it seemed like that from his grammar). As scary as it was, it busted my myth about the direct relation of education alone with change in mentality and civic responsibility.

    I do also believe change needs to happen in both men’s and women’s mentality about these issues. Men should not be made to believe that they have the right to incur atrocities on women and women should learn to believe that they have equal rights and stop thinking of themselves as victims. Its only then will we be able to make a difference.


  7. bravo, an article that gets to the truth. i hope the day is not long coming when everyone sees rape for the crime it is, and stops victim blaming.

    today, i saw a girl wearing a t-shirt that said

    ‘ what causes rape’
    NO – flirting
    NO – drinking alcohol
    NO – dressing provocatively
    YES – rapist

    rape is a person’s decision to take sex when it is not offered. and that’s all anybody should see in it.

    ihm, may i repost this on my blog etc, giving the appropriate credit of course.


  8. Excellent article, very well written, now i hope the masses get to read this too.Maybe it needs to be publiched in some papers incl regional ones and posted right alogside filmi posters that the idiots gaze at.

    Harassing women is a national pastime in india. teasing girls is portrayed as a good thing, fun thing that all young men do as a part of growing up an dgirls are told not to make a big deal of it. EVERY single girl in india ( unless she’s secluded herself within the 4 walls of her home) has been whistled at, maybe groped and started at. and most of them are told ‘don’t cause trouble, it’s harmless’ some by their own mom’s … I think it’s timewe start teaching our girls in kidergarten itself, if someone touches you or whistles at you, stop,m glare and if possible give him a piece of your mind out loudly…if this someone is knows to you or resides in your colony do it in front of his parents .

    and we should teach boys that joking with girls who are your friends is entirely diff from sitting by the roadside and whistling at girls… touching them should mean severe punishment at home .

    if groped in public trransport i always tell my nieces turn around smack the tormentor or at the very least ask him LOUDLY if he would like to be pinched inthe butt in front of his parents and peers !!! and ask them if they are human beings?

    Unless we empower girls an deducate boys this will never change. at least not in my lifetime.


  9. Very well written.

    Is it ok if I share his on facebook? There has to be some way to spread this around, I know this might be preaching to the choir but out of the lot, if even one person starts thinking more about his actions – we can consider it a job done.


  10. What an insightful post!
    @Tarun, Those who say rapes are more rampant now than they were 50 or 100 years ago just make me laugh. Back then most of the rapes that occured were encouraged and even sanctioned by society- child marriage; also societies were generally smaller, more closely knit and so an exposed rapist would have suffered terrible consequences and finally even if women were or were not raped, who kept the records? Who reported the rapes? The ‘those days’ and ‘these days’ comparison just doesn’t make any sense at all.
    As for the clothing issue I see men come out of their houses in boxer shorts nearly everyday, who has raped them? Man is called a ‘higher animal’ for the simple reason that we can actively control our instincts, those who can’t have no business being in society period!


  11. That is a well written article PT. *Applauds* Most every thing you have said, is something I have known, but I couldnt ever explain it as coherently as you have.

    Generally I get angry to the point of silence, when something wrong happens and people justify it. Its a process- first get very angry, then the intellect steps in with “what can you do, what can you say”, then there is a realization that “nothing will change, no matter what I do” and then the feeling of helplessness seeps in making resignation/acceptance come next, cause thats the coping mechanism. Afterall we still have to get through our everyday life and cant let such events take over our whole life, Right? I never really understood why I am so mad when everyone else seems to be so OKAY with it. As I read this sentence – “This is victim-blaming, but it’s also much more than that. It’s resignation and normalization. It’s the acceptance of the idea that rape is a normal, inevitable outcome of certain situations.” I understood, why I was angry. I dont want people around me to normalize injustice. When we Normalize Injustice, we breed a Society where People will lack Intergrity, which means we as a civilization are a degraded lot.


  12. Great article.
    Kudos to PT.
    I loved reading Sumana’s comments too.
    I am busy these days and unable to comment in detail.
    I will be traveling for the next two weeks and will not be active at blog sites.
    I hope I will get the opportunity to read the blogs at least on my smart phone while roaming.
    I will be back by month end.


      • Feel free to share it.

        I did write a couple of op-eds for newspapers last year, but they didn’t get published, because they thought the material was too explicit to put in a newspaper. Still, I put in a word through channels which are less public but which I have more control over (like our corporate manuals and think-pieces)

        Openness. *sigh*


        • PT, I second the motion that you should try to get this published somewhere in India, or even in the US. The news tie-in can be the article that was posted earlier in TOI. I also suggest that you write in to Aamir Kahn’s show to suggest this as a topic matter.

          Light has to be shed on these things. You’ve done an excellent job of writing a clear and concise op-ed, here. Would love to see it go global!


        • hey PT..i would love to cover your articles in our Newsletter which is for tricity-chandigarh, panchkula and mohali with all due credits off course..this is a part of an NGO…
          let me know please 🙂


        • Hi Jaspreet!

          I apologize for the delay here. Didn’t spot your comment for a while.

          Anyway, I just wanted to say, feel free to publish it. I’m not claiming any rights over the article, it’s public domain as far as I’m concerned. So go ahead, with or without credits. I’d love it to be popularized; don’t care under what name. 🙂

          If you require a formal waiver of rights, I’ll be happy to provide that.


        • @PT
          Sorry i just checked your reply :)..Ok done then..we are going to start the newsletter in september FYI and i will ask for your email id from IHM for direct communication if required and you can ask for mine..
          Thanks n God Bless 🙂


  13. **Standing ovation**
    Now if only we could get the millions of people in our country to convert to this point of view.

    (Sorry for changing my handle IHM, I changed by mistake in your last post and stuck to it because it couldn’t be changed.)


  14. Thumbs up to Mr. Talwar for getting it all right. I wish everybody thought like you. Then, maybe, every woman, including myself, would truly enjoy freedom. Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps.


  15. Great Post PT!
    I would love if this is published in some paper(TOI?)

    I too grew up in fear. It was always don’t do this , don’t do that, don’t walk in a lonely road, don’t wear western clothes, etc.. Like it was in my hands to prevent something bad from happening. I think this fear is what represents Indian mindset.

    Couple of times I had to drive back home from work on my two-wheeler late at night. Frankly, there was nothing to be afraid of. But in my mind, it was always like what if my vehicle breaks down, what if a bunch of goonda’s stop me,…
    But even amidst that tension, it was so refreshing to drive on an empty road, cool breeze blowing gently on my face.. I would have given anything to experience that again minus the fear..


  16. Wonderful post ! This made me wonder how much this idea of “not dressing provocatively” is a part of our unsaid social conditioning even though we know it does not make any sense. Even I am guilty of sucummbing to it without realizing. Sometimes I wonder why a woman has to dress in a manner that may make it easier for her to be taken seriously at her workplace. I feel that “socio-cultural brainwashing and stereotyping” is grossly under-rated, it does take forms as monstrous as fascism for those whose lives it directly effects and for the rest of us, we spend our whole lives try to conform to some ideal; which is convenient and even more empowering for the abusers of power.


  17. Excellent post! The home remedy of “conservative clothing” or “being safe” is so ineffective.
    I think another problem that exists is treating rape and molestation as perpetrator-less crimes. You always hear of someone “getting raped” or molested or abused. As if the victim was minding their business and it happened without the perpetrator(s).
    The language is never about “x raped someone”- that reporting itself makes it seem like the victim was to blame. I know semantics is a very small part of it- but it does help in framing the issue. And before anyone gets all “innocent until proven guilty” on me, let me state, I believe in due process, but I think that reporting in context of the criminal helps pin the crime on the person who committed it, not on the victim.


  18. Brilliant post Praveen ji. I loved this line: “It’s a home remedy that doesn’t work”. Completely true.

    Although I know little to nothing about Indian law, this statement struck a chord – “This is a country where raping your wife every night for years and years isn’t even a crime.”
    India isn’t alone in this. In Canada, for example, marital sexual assault was not a crime until 1983.

    I agree that openness will definitely go a long way in improving things, especially when it comes to the reporting of sexual assault. Under-reporting, again, is sadly a global problem, so if we are more open about sex in general, and sexual assault in particular, we might just enable more women to come forward.



  19. last evening i was at the max store in commercial street, bangalore. An upwardly mobile malayali family was shopping noisily (they were looking their part as ‘gelf’ returnees), feeling all great about themselves, and commenting like ‘this is not classy’, ‘this looks cheap’ etc etc.. and then a teen-aged girl picks up a nice little skirt for her 5-ish yr old sister, and asks her how she likes it? the 5 yr old’s reply: “If I wear that, people will throw stones at me” she used exactly the same words.. a few people there including me couldn’t help looking their way. there was a little amused awkward laughter among the family members, and one of them me from the family was like, ‘well, says who?’ . “Mom only told..”.. and the next thing i see is they walk away mumbling things like.. ‘yeah in big cities its ok.. but otherwise its not..’ n step out through the ‘patli gali’ as they say..

    I was 5, 28 years back.. and I don’t remember worrying about whether others would want to throw stones at me for what I wear.. I was given a free hand in choosing my clothes. and now, after all these years of India shining n all that, if our 5 yr olds think of what clothes would not get them stoned, as their criteria for selection of clothes.. i just don’t know what to say! 😐


    • She deserves a mom of the year award .. ugh! How about teaching your daughter to be strong and independent instead of brainwashing her from the age of 5 ?


    • In a few years time, diaper companies will start advertising for diapers that are “modest” and “unprovocative”. Of course, these will only be worn by female babies.


  20. “Tackling the real issue was never ever on the agenda.” It hurts to know that this is the truth.

    Clearly this line of reasoning needs more attention. Aamir Khan maybe?


  21. Well sculpted article……. just as read this comes the horrific news of a father raping his four year old…..what can explain that?


  22. Another thing should be mentioned is Denial.
    I knew one girl (around 5 years ago) in my previous Company who told me she had been raped in Australia by one of her friends. She shared this story with a few of us at work. She was married and she said she had told her husband about it and he accepted her (as in he was not a Misogynist who didn’t want to marry her since she was no longer a virgin).

    The GIRLS wondered – Is it possible? Nah, she must have slept with him. She is just making it up.

    This attitude – denial of the crime – needs to change.


  23. A very insightful post. Thanks so much, Praveen (and to IHM for publishing it).

    I am very keen to know if openness works. Has it been proved in any country? I ask because you say its possibly a solution.


  24. All I can say is ‘Bulls Eye’!
    i have always wondered what if we ALL womenfolk get together and start teasing the men around, turn the tables and see how they react and maybe it could lead to some change. I maybe wrong, ( the men might just enjoy it!), and i recently came across this ad below. i thought it brilliant, taking on the men with adam teasing!


  25. Hi Praveen,
    You have always given insightful comments on this blog post and now your guest post is very nice. I was recently disgusted over this song and its lyrics and read your post.


  26. I know I may be the last, but just wanted to tell you, PT, that this is an awesome write up…I so wish, it could be made much more public (though IHM’s blog is definitely popular 🙂 ) may be submit it to a newspaper or something?


  27. Well written…. a rapist is nothing more than an animal, with no control over what he does. Rapists should be treated like savage wild animals are, i.e. put behind bars for the rest of their lives.


  28. This was wonderfully written and spot on. However, women applauding an article like this does not do much for rape statistics. 20 years from now when we have raised educated, literate, liberal sons and daughters who believe women and men are equal and should not be objectified, maybe then the impact will be felt in numbers. For now, something drastic has to happen – announce the death penalty for convicted rapists. Provide sensitivity training to cops, hospital workers and people in the judicial system . Most women do not report the crime because of the way they’re treated at the police station and hospitals. The latter may encourage more women to report the crime. Also, can someone tell the media to stop sensationalizing rape? They can almost make it sound titillating, at times.


  29. Pingback: Eve-teasing « HIDE AND SEEK

  30. Very well written post. An average Indian girl/woman will – sadly, totally identify with the instances mentioned in the post, and the comments. I agree with you that this is a pan-India problem, although perhaps more visible in the North. Open-ness to discussion of sexuality-related issues will surely demystify the issues around sex and lead to open discussions rather than hiding them behind a curtain when they are discussed as only ‘bad activities’. However, along with this, a number of systemic changes need to take place as well. One of the most important I feel is that cases of sexual assault/rape/gender-based violence, need to be dealt with as a priority. A number of perpetrators are emboldened by the knowledge that even for the women who report the cases, the law enforcement and legal complaints will take years to cover any ground, while putting the onus on the victim. This needs to change by quick implementation of laws which are already existing. This in turn needs ‘education’ and training of the people in law enforcement and judicial branches so that the victims are not victimised further. Once the offenders see that the punishment is quick and brutal, it is bound to have an impact on those considering it as a crime which allows one to get away free. Perhaps the trainings need to be institutionalised in the curriculum of the various branches. Also, education of women definitely has an impact for the positive – even in rural areas women would come to know that any form of gender-based violence (be it domestic violence on women, female foeticide, sexual assault, etc.) is not right and a crime. Each time a woman reports a crime or takes the perpetrator to task, a small step is taken in the right direction. This again needs sensitization of the education professionals, – the teachers and lecturers who are helping shape the thought processes of the young generation. In addition, one cannot lessen the role a family plays. In fact, more than keeping an eye on women, parents need to ensure that boys in their family are brought-up with the right values of gender equality and if any adverse incident of ‘teasing’ women etc. comes to their knowledge, the family needs to address it with the boys immediately. After all, there is no such thing as ‘eve teasing’ – this phrase does not mean anything, – the activity it signifies is correctly termed as ‘sexual assault’.

    Oh I can go on and on, on this issue! Having faced it on the roads in India while growing-up. However, I do strongly think that each time one of us takes the offender to task and each time one of us stops to help support other women being sexually harassed on the road, the perpetrators will be taught a lesson, and will think twice before they again indulge in such a crime.

    At least there is some open dialogue, at whatever level, among some of us. Beginnings of change one hopes.

    I wrote a post on a related issue many years ago (http://deepseamusings.blogspot.in/2006/02/hey-sexy.html)


  31. Ma’am you missed the most important point- Openness in the mind of police and Law Makers. With Mamta di and police commissioners making statements which imply that women are at fault for getting molested/raped/harassed, it gives rapists a shield. They think they can get away with this, or atleast have a chance of the same..


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  33. hi,

    I find a few arguments misdirected. To begin with, what a woman wears, says does, behaves is entirely her wish and that doesn’t not in any way justify any guy as much as touching or eveen staring at her. Having said a lot of things like pepper spray, physical training etc is said to prevent a woman from being ravaged by animals. Once something like it happens you can have a fast track court and hang the guy in the most painful way but it still doesn’t do enough justice. The woman will still have gone thru trauma which she shall take years to recover from. One thing is to say it shouldn’t happen like terrorist attacks, bomb blasts, etc and yes justice should be quick and immediate and the animal should be dismembered. yes every woman should have the safety of walking wherever, in whichever way she feels wearing whatever she wants without feeling afraid. But until that happens and until we can ensure that happens i would rather have a woman who knows self defence and kicks her attackers butt or one that carries a pepper spray and saves her self.


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  35. A difficult and very saddening post but one that I have many sympathies with but find myself thinking that ‘openness’ is not an answer – it is a step forward certainly, but not the answer.

    I say this because I see this openness in my own western culture in the UK and yet 100s of women are raped every year. Women are still perceived as objects and sexual ones at that to be possessed and controlled.

    My life in Bangladesh which is not too different to that in India (don’t shoot me for saying that – I’m generalising , I know) has shown me that the opportunity for rape is greater and the desire much stronger because the the male-dominated society we live in. Boys think they rule the world and the adverts on Indian and Bangla TV tell them they are right.

    I personally think that education is the key. It has to begin in the classroom, from an early age and be consistent. It also has to be acted out by teachers – that of giving women equal respect as that the men enjoy. Only then will boys begin to understand the other sex as people, not as toys.

    Clothes are immaterial.

    I saw a woman today in full burka with just her eyes revealed and, OH, what eyes! They were beautiful! I immediately began to ponder, as I carried on past her, how I immediately assumed that she was a beautiful woman and that if I was a young unmarried man I would probably have been quite obsessed with her! Yet I could see no part of her body or face except the eyes. That’s more than enough for a teenage jubok to start mentally undressing her.


  36. I feel there is one more thing we need to do. Teach our daughters that the victim of rape are not the perpetrators. There is no stigma to be attached to them. If anyone should be ashamed, it should be the perpetrator. He is a criminal. Just like any robber, thief, murderer, dacoit, terrorist ….. And rape should be viewed like one more crime like any of these. As long as women have to feel ashamed and guilty for having been raped (“she probably invited it”), the crime will remain under-reported. As long as they have to feel ashamed, perpetrators will use rape as a weapon, as an instrument to wield power. As soon as the stigma is removed from the woman, the perpetrator immediately loses the power he wishes to wield on the woman or her family against whom he is seeking revenge for whatever reason.


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