Is rape the worst thing that can happen to an Indian woman?

Or is death worse than rape?

Until recently, many Indians thought a rape victim’s life was ruined (barbad ho gayee) and the only way out was to pressurize her to kill herself, or for her family members to murder her.

If the victim and her family dared to hope  to move on (without any hopes of the rapists being punished, because traditionally we punished rape victims not rapists) they had to make sure nobody learnt about the crime. (Obviously, this was extremely convenient  for sexual criminals)

The idea of punishing a rapist is a modern idea. Many Indians (specially rapists and misogynists) are still not able to understand/digest this.

But now that rape is being seen as a crime against a woman and not as a crime against Patriarchy (i.e. not as stealing of her honor or virginity) – would you still say that a rape is the worst thing that could happen to a woman?

Is it possible for an Indian rape victim (and the society) to see rape as a horrible, traumatic, brutal crime but not as something for the victim to be ashamed of, as an end of happiness, honor, life, opportunities and dignity for the victim?

As of now, it seems, we see it as worse than death for the victim, but still make excuses for the rapists.

Edited to ask: Would you say loss of sight or limb is worse than a rape?

Related Posts:

Here’s why I think the society should not obsess over a woman’s virginity.


74 thoughts on “Is rape the worst thing that can happen to an Indian woman?

  1. Ofcourse it’s not. It is a horrible thing, and in some cases it can be bad enough to ruin a large part of a persons life. But it doesn’t always do that. Particularly not if the rape-victim has supportive and accepting surroundings.

    For this reason, telling women that a rape always means your life is ruined, creates a lot of un-needed suffering. Reality is that having been raped is most often a major trauma, but nevertheless one that most can overcome. Not in the sense that it’s forgotten, but in the sense that the life that follows can be nice and very much worthwhile.

    In some situations, the reaction of family, friends and society can even hurt more than the rape itself. The rape, afterall, ends, while the rudeness, incivility and lack of basic human compassion from surroundings, can go on for decades, perhaps even for life.


  2. I have asked myself the same question so many times. Advani said ‘that a woman is a living corpse after rape’ . A glimpse of what most people think. I met an amazing woman at a feminist counselling workshop- she was a social researcher working on a street children project. She told me if i fear rape i can do no job. She used to spend nights on railway stations interviewing kids. She would say they can only get to my body i wont let them mess with my head!!
    P.s its been awhile since i have been off the blogosphere. Its good to read you 🙂


  3. We should learn from countries like the US – from what little I’ve seen, they have incredible support systems and rehabilitate rape victims. Search the internet and you would find so many websites where rape victims (and others) offer each other solace and comfort. In many cases, they go back to their normal lives… I don’t mean to demean the horror that is rape, but I think we should still make it possible for them to go back to a normal life – counselling, medical care, supportive police and judicial systems and loving and caring surrondings.
    Is loss of sight/a limb worse than rape? – I don’t know…


  4. I think the basic attitude towards honour and rape needs to be changed. Take an example of a woman who has her jewellery stolen or acid thrown at her face. We do not say she has lost her honour because she has lost her looks. If a dil is burnt by the in-laws, we don’t hold her responsible or say it is a shame for her. Why do we associate honour with one part of the female anatomy? Why does the woman get blamed for having been robbed of her right to refuse to be party to a sexual act with the perpetrator? If we change our attitude to rape, it will not be such a horrific thing to happen to a woman. Rape is atrocious, it is traumatising, but we do not need to add to the victim’s trauma. Counsel her, support her, punish the criminal, help her get on with her life.


  5. right , I would not want to reply to that , because I feel offended at the QUESTION itself, Who are we to decide what is worst.. The only people who can reply are the ones who have gone through the turmoil.. sadly the ones who are dead will not be able to answer..

    I think it is this … of trying to find a answer .. WHY,

    I am not entitled to decide on that and in my stupid mind I dont think anyone is entitled to answer this till they have gone through it ..


  6. Simply turning your questions into statements… maybe we should have them entered into school textbooks…
    Rape SHOULD be seen as a crime against an individual and not as a crime against any form of social organization.
    ANY rape victim (and the society) to see rape as a horrible, traumatic, brutal crime but not as something for the victim to be ashamed of, as an end of happiness, honor, life, opportunities and dignity for the victim.
    Loss of sight or limb *is definitely* worse than being raped. Those effects may be crippling and may cause hindrance and total dependence on others for a lifetime. Given the proper physical aid, psychiatric treatment, and emotional support, a rape victim can survive and thrive again.


    • “ANY rape victim (and the society) *should* see…” I meant.
      The reason I say loss of limb or vision is worse that being raped is because a major part of the trauma experienced by the rape victim is a result of how society treats them. It is largely about feeling impure and unwanted and blamed for what was not their mistake in the first place. If society treats the act of rape as a crime, the perpetrator as a criminal, and the victim as human being who is traumatized and needs support, it wouldn’t be so bad for the victim like it has been for so long and like it is even today.


  7. “But now that rape is being seen as a crime against a woman and not as a crime against Patriarchy (i.e. not as stealing of her
    honor or virginity) – would you still say
    that a rape is the worst thing that could
    happen to a woman?”
    Being seen by whom? A minority. The majority still sees it as a crime against the woman’s and by extension the family’s [read : father and brothers] honour.
    “Is it possible for an Indian rape victim
    (and the society) to see rape as a
    horrible, traumatic, brutal crime but not
    as something for the victim to be ashamed
    of, as an end of happiness, honor, life,
    opportunities and dignity for the victim?”
    That depends on the victim’s socialisation and how much she has been able to unlearn it if she was brought up in a “traditional” manner (how majority of women are brought up).
    “As of now, it seems, we see it as worse
    than death for the victim, but still make
    excuses for the rapists.”
    “Would you say loss of sight or limb is worse than a rape?”
    I would say it depends on the mindset (most important) of the victim and the mindset of the people close to her (also important).
    We definitely need more support systems – for males who are raped as well btw.


  8. Who decided that rape should be worse than death? The women in question? No! It’s the neighbors, the papers, the parents and the relatives. If everyone just viewed rape as a crime…nothing more – no bullshit about honor, then why would any woman choose death over rape?

    I doubt if anyone would choose the loss of eyesight or a limb over rape. I’ve asked this question of my wife many times and we’ve both agreed that it’s better to be raped that say lose a hand.


  9. As a guy, I’ve not really lived my life under the shadow of rape culture that women in our country live under day after day. So I cannot claim to speak for how women actually feel about rape vis-a-vis death or other acts of violence. But, without trivializing the horror of rape, I feel that the following crimes might be worse

    Female foeticide/infanticide for the crime of being born as a woman
    Honor killing for trying to lead her own life
    Bride burning for dowry
    Acid attacks or knife stabbings to show her her place
    Sexual trafficking of women : these women get gangraped daily and have pretty much no chance of getting rehabilitated or leading a normal life
    death as a result of so-called ‘dishonor’ after rape
    loss of life or limb due to other acts of violence – these losses are pretty much permanent.

    Ultimately it does not matter whether rape is more or less worse than the above crimes…What this shows is that in our country, we seem to have a lot of creative ways to make women’s lives miserable :(.


      • I am guessing you are objecting because my categorization seems to create a false equivalence between the status of a foetus and that of an infant. If that’s the case, I agree with you.

        The reason I categorized them together is because the intent behind both these crimes is the same : to prevent having to take care of a girl child in the family


  10. If rape is the worst thing that can happen to a woman or not, depends totally on the mindset of the woman and also of the people around her. If she is raised to believe that “protecting” her dignity means she has to keep herself chaste at all costs and that her body needs to be untouched by all except the husband, then of course she will see rape to be a huge thing.
    The people and their mindset matter a lot. If there is a good support system, a rape victim can easily move beyond this one incident and live her life freely without having to feel vulnerable.
    The worst thing will vary from person to person. And most of the times it will be something they fear of. I think women and the people around them need to come out of the fear of rape. We need to stop putting restrictions on women just so as to prevent “something bad” happening to them.


  11. The only time rape can be considered as bad as losing a limb/eyesight is if the rapist has a disease like AIDS.

    Rape is traumatic, yes. Physically, emotionally, and mentally. But it’s not the end of the world. And the hymen is not the effing godhead, contrary to what people like Advani may think. It’s bad enough to deal with the actual rape without people treating you as a social victim or as a “living corpse”.

    I know someone who went through this traumatic experience. Like most rapes, it was by someone she knew, and though her family were supportive, they could not get justice as he was some political bigwig’s son. If I’d been in her place, I’d have hired someone to go castrate the Ahole, but they moved on without justice. What disgusted me even more than the rapist was her then boyfriend. He broke up with her after the incident. And he was supposed to be a “liberal, open minded” fellow. She was better rid of him, yes, but she didn’t need the added trauma of the heartbreak. She didn’t let either incident faze her too much. She moved abroad, had therapy for a while, finished her PhD and now leads a good life.

    Her family had the resources to facilitate her moving abroad, and that’s a major reason why she COULD move on. What about folks who don’t have that option? Who don’t have supportive parents?I can imagine life will be made hell for them.

    The average Indian medieval attitude to rape needs to change. 😦


    • Inhuman, insensitives parodies of humans like this ‘boyfriend’ should be forced to disclose their actions to any future partners. Let them explain why they chose to leave someone they claimed to love, in the time of greatest need. Let them explain why they think their treachery was justified. Let them explain why they chose to be pathetic lackeys of rape culture even as their partner suffered through the full extent of its horrors.

      These people, supposedly educated and ‘liberal’, sicken me more than any two-bit rapist, because they are the ones who foster the culture of rape and assault. They are the reason some victims end up as ‘living corpses’.
      Shameless in their self-centered morality, shameless in their actions and shameless indeed as they bullshit their way through relationships and life. May they all go to hell.


  12. It really depends on how the VICTIM thinks of it.

    I personally do not believe that rape is anywhere near as bad as actual loss of life (or even limb). It is certainly a grievous assault on a person, but it really does not compare to murder in terms of seriousness, at least in my view of things

    However, my view is not material in deciding the answer to this question; the victim’s view is. “What is the worst thing that can happen to you?” is a very subjective thing, and in fact a person’s answer to that question says more about the person than the event itself.

    Having said that, I must also state categorically that rape victims DO NOT have to end up as ‘living corpses’, or anything of the sort. They can get therapy, lead perfectly normal lives and if they so wish, enter into relationships and marriages as well.

    There is a pervasive myth in India (and around the world, really) that rape victims are somehow automatically ‘damaged goods’ and that they cannot be ‘normal’.

    I’m sure a lot of victims of sexual assault face long-term psychological trauma, but it’s not impossible to recover and come to terms with it.


  13. It’s high time men start acting sensitive and stop stamping their own personal views or a few of the views collected from acquaintances on the rest of the women folk.! (Since I’ve counselled rape victims I know what it is and how they always wished that death should have come to them before rape.!) They kept telling me and my colleagues how viciously the society kept following them like dogs to shred them to pieces.! Comparing a rape to something or comparing the rape victim to something just sends wrong signals to the otherwise degraded society we are.! We have many more bad things in life to analyze, if only the men become more sensitive towards a rape and rape victim and understand that not every woman wants her modesty being ripped off like their wives or sisters, and yes many rape victims say they have wanted to be paralyzed rather than being raped.! (People trying to think otherwise are a handful and do not represent the major chunk, they are the shameless guiltless souls criticizing and analyzing a rape victim without proper understanding of the facts and of the reality.! Utopia is where they belong or alien land.! Such people should meet a (A REAL RAPE VICTIM ), atleast once in their life.!) And at that moment it would itch them , their own tongue in cheek comments like Mr. Akin’s.!

    I’ve sometimes wished that only if the tables were to turn how would it be.? Maybe women like us would be doing insensitive inhuman analysis of the rape on men rather than rarer than riling reality we women face in today’s times.! Please leave sensitive issues like rape alone, and try displaying your intelligence else where.!


    • I downvoted your comment. It’s something I do very rarely, but I really disliked your comment.


      For one, you have gone Indian Penal Code style in implying that all rape victims are female. Sheerest baloney. Just because it is not considered rape in India does not mean men do not get raped or that it is somehow less of a crime, less of a traumatizing event.

      Second, you just made a very bad version of an argument from authority, an argument that seems to have been repeated all over the internet, an argument that I certainly take issue with.

      Being female does not qualify you to better understand rape. Period. It just doesn’t.

      Your own personal experience and your own personal situation and your own personal gender may help you gain the insight to form a good argument, but they cannot replace your argument. Nor do they give your opinion special validity or make it exempt from criticism.

      How bad a rape is depends on a lot of factors, most of them having to do with the victim’s mental space. The claim that you, because of your sex, know exactly how bad it is for everyone is incorrect and inadmissible. Everyone is different; you are not and cannot be every woman. You can only be you, you can only speak for yourself and you can only rely on empathy and logic to understand what is really going on with other people.


      • Oh God when did I say all rape victims are female, but 90 percent are.! right.? You deny it.? And that is what I meant.! Why have people suddenly started doing the talking for us women, and by making wasted comparisons.! Is it needed.? Will this in any way justify anyone’s pain.! Sad to say our nation still has men that refuses to accept the fact that 95 percent of the rape victims are women and to thrust on them personal views of the female members of their family, as if they know the whole women folk of the world.! As you rightly said, how bad a rape is depends on many factors, maybe as a person who once counselled victims do not need to be told.! Thanks for the wisdom, I pretty much just wanted to tell people to stop making erratic justifications and idiotic comparisons.! Unlike what you and many men think, more than ninety percent women still prefer to die or get their arm cut off rather than being raped.! Please stop making useless insane comparisons, ranking the act of rape above the act of amputation and making weird justifications for them.! Whether my comment is liked or disliked, again as I said earlier I don’t express to please others and I don’t go with the most favorited opinion anywhere, You will surely find me hitting back in all force.!


        • That’s almost certainly wrong, actually. I don’t know any numbers for India, but in USA, there’s some indication that men might even be in majority among rape-victims. Most of the men who are raped are raped in prison, or are very young. The main reason for this (in USA) is that there’s so many more men in prison than women, and the main reason for -that- is that, to over-simplify, young men in difficult situations often become involved in drugs, and that often leads to prison-sentences.


        • “Oh God when did I say all rape victims are female, but 90 percent are.! right.? You deny it.? And that is what I meant.! ”
          Would you be able to give the sources to back up your statement? I am not denying that the majority of rape victims are women (who might or might not be the case), but if you want to have your arguments be taken with any credibility, you’d have to give legitimate figures and rational arguments. I have to agree with Praveen, you cannot talk for all women just because you are a woman, the same way I cannot talk for (or represent) all atheists just because I am one.
          The trauma suffered by a rape victim is not the mere act of rape but a conflation of the trauma of violence involved (if any), the psychological impact of rape, the culturally programmed feeling of being ‘violated’ and the socio-cultural acceptance of the victim. There is no all-size-fits-all emotional rhetoric that can tell just how severe rape is on a victim.
          Counselleing experience enables you to emphatise, but not make an argument based on empathy alone. The majority of rape counsellors in India are not trained psychologists and are not necessarily trained to weigh the severity of rapes vis-a-vis other crimes. Saying ‘rape is the end of the world’ is gross injustice to women who might not be affected the same way(and made to feel like a freak for not feeling they have to end their lives over it). Personally, I’d the worst thing that can happen to a woman is witnessing her children getting killed in an ethnic conflict or dying of starvation, based on eye witness statements who have either of these (and/or rape). That unfortunately, wouldn’t enable me to speak for ALL woman or bash people for voicing their own opinions on the issue.


      • And oh yes counselors are in some way more qualified than random bloggers and people, to give a rarer than real story of a rape.! They meet real rape victims everyday unlike people like the random bloggers! I have known my job well, and again I say RAPE IS NOT THE END OF LIFE, but erratic comparisons and justifications surely rip apart the rape victims again after a rape, which the bloggers and men like Mr. Akin should understand.!


        • And oh yes counselors are in some way more qualified than random bloggers and people, to give a rarer than real story of a rape.

          Then pray make a better argument. As I said earlier, your experience is an enabler, not a replacement for a coherent argument.

          The fact that I am a lawyer does not mean your opinion on law means less than mine; it means that I may have the knowledge and experience to make my point better and more accurately.

          but erratic comparisons and justifications surely rip apart the rape victims again after a rape, which the bloggers and men like Mr. Akin should understand.!

          I thank you for the tip, but I do believe we are not discussing this with a rape victim that we have been tasked to counsel; this is an intellectual discussion, which means we should ideally feel free to express our views, whatever they may be.

          Also, I would remind you that you have made precisely the same comparison in claiming that rape victims would rather die/lose a limb.


      • You did not say it, but you implied it and you know that too. It does not help your credibility to be disingenuous.

        I am not ‘speaking for women’. I am merely expressing my views on the seriousness of rape, which you may agree that I am very much entitled to do, whether or not I have a Y chromosome.

        Rhetoric is not a replacement for data. All the vitriol you direct at me (or men like me, whatever that means) does not change this fact. If you want me to believe that ninety percent of women would rather lose a limb than get raped, please quote your sources.

        It is not an ‘insane’ comparison, even if it is not a useful one. I’d rather be burgled than lose a limb, rather lose a limb than be murdered, rather be murdered than see my family die and so on and so forth. These are my personal opinions. They may be morbid, they may not serve a practical purpose, but they are not insane or hazy; they are quite clear cut in my mind. What’s more, I never claimed that this comparison serves a practical purpose, apart from telling you something about my own value system.

        You may disagree with my thoughts, but cannot claim these opinions are ‘wrong’.

        The downvote was not to try and shut you up in some way; it was merely to express my dislike of anyone deigning to speak for a whole group, even while having no real qualification of doing so. I’m sure you don’t write to please anyone; I did not claim you do. It was only an expression of displeasure, and I wanted you to know where it came from. That’s all.


    • I have counselled a few rape victims (including boys). I dont know if I have been successful or not because everytime I ended up crying (in rage) more than the victims- (not a trait of a good counseller). They all were mere wrecks. It was all we could do to get them to smile… Like any ‘good counseller’ I did sessions, talks, and everything I have learned to help them get back to life… But will they ever get over the trauma? I doubt it.
      All the while telling them that Rape is NOT the end of life in many ways, somewhere in the back of the mind i knw that I kinda disagree. I would prefer die before it happens to me. Im terrified of the mere idea. I dont think I will be able to get on with life. Sometmies I wonder, If it happens to me, will I have it in me to fight the case? I see myself going away to a place where noone knows me to earn a living…
      I dont know how one can compare rape to loss of limps… Where is the similarity? And Whats d difference? Both are sheer violation! Whatever it s it changes life forever…


      • I think your words are telling: You say you’d want to go away to a place where noone knows you. I am guessing, more specifically, you mean to a place where nobody knows that you where once raped.

        This makes sense, if people condemn the victims, make them feel shame, and as if they are to blame, or are now less valuable as human beings.

        But this is special to rape, and *not* something that is universal. If your car is stolen, or you are attacked by a criminal and need to amputate a leg as a result, I would think neighbours friends and family would be furious at the guilty part, and they might pity you, but they would not make you feel *ashamed* or tell you that you’re no longer a valuable human being.

        By shaming the victims, we protect the guilty. Every day, victims decide not to come forward with their story, because they don’t want to live with the shame. In contrast, if your car is stolen, you don’t hesitate to report it to the police — because there is no shame in that.

        It is an evil thing to do, to consider shame people for something that isn’t their fault. People who have experienced rape, are just people, like the rest of us. They’ve experienced a bad thing, but that doesn’t change their value, or the respect, kindness and politeness that we should show towards all human beings.


  14. I’ve had many arguments with peers regarding this issue – is rape the worst thing possible? As a law student, many of my classmates thought rapists deserved the death penalty, or castration.

    I think the death penalty puts rapists as equivalent to murders, and even more chilling – gives an incentive to a rapist to murder his victim. His punishment will remain the same if caught, and given that he is killing his prime witness, the chances of him being caught and convicted are lowered. Castration is a primitive form of punishment, inhumane and irreversible. Besides, it casts the rapist as someone who could not help his crime – he was driven by testosterone. Perhaps the term of punishment for rapists could be increased, but most importantly, the number of convictions needs to rise.

    The Indian judiciary also has similar views about rape –

    “A murderer destroys the physical body of the victim, a rapist degrades the very soul of
    the helpless female” – Supreme Court, State of Punjab v. Gurmit Singh (1996) 2 SCC 384


    • That is some wisdom here.! I fail to understand why do people always have all the time in the world to analyze a rape and that too in the most inhuman and unjust of tones, unlikely for people coming from good families.! Thanks for this example, sc vs gurmit singh.! Havent read about it.!


    • Just in case it was not clear, I thoroughly dislike that line from the Supreme Court. They are implying that rape is somehow worse than murder. I think it’s high time we start treating rape as a horrible crime worthy of harsh punishment, but not the end of someone’s world.

      In fact, many times women are raped as a ‘punishment’ for some personal dispute, or as a way to get back at some man (or any person) in her family. If we stop treating rape as the ultimate humiliation, I expect that these rapists at least will start losing power over their victims. And isn’t that what rape is about? A crime of power? We need to start taking back that power we give to the perpetrators of rape – Yes, I might have been powerless during the crime, but that does not mean you have power over me forever.


  15. And oh yes I have never been raped but having met rape victims in real life has changed much of my perceptiveness about the issue.! And it is not what the facebook culture or wordpress culture thinks.! its a harsh reality that careless “supposed” intellectuals fail to have ever known.!


    • Sunitha Krishnan says, “I don’t remember the rape part of it so much, as much as the anger part of it, yes there were eight men who defiled me, raped me, but that didn’t go into my conscience, becaue I never felt like a victim then or now, but what lingered from then to now – I am forty today, is this huge outrageous anger. Two years I was ostracized, I was stigmatized. I was isolated. Because I was a victim. And that’s what we do to all traffic survivors.”


  16. IHM, I know her and have met her in real life.! Yes of course I was doing all this with my friend for two years before finally settling into research.! maybe women like her can give a more befitting reply to men like Mr. Akin.!


  17. And yes IHM, I just didnt mean to say that rape is the end of life.! But it surely isnt as easy as living without an arm.! She is just one example, just one of the many, most women just loose their souls after the mishap.!


    • I think your biggest mistake is in lumping everyone into one pot. The first thing to realize about rape, and rape-victims, are that they are different. It’s going to be traumatic to everyone, but precisely how much, and in what ways they are affected, will vary wildly.

      Thus universal comparisons, like you make, will not be correct for everybody. I’ve got a handful of friends who are rape-survivors, and I can tell you for sure, that none of them has “lost their souls”, whatever that is even supposed to mean.


  18. In most ethnic South East Asian cultures, rape was considered an inhuman and punishable crime even before the advent of ‘modern ideas’. Even a lot of so called ‘patriarchal’ cultures strongly persecuted rapes. So I don’t think I’d colour prosecution of rape as a ‘modern idea’ but rather, a humanist one.
    Rape apologists (who might OR might not be misogynists per se AND are not necessarily Indian) believe that some women ‘invite’ rape by the way they behave, dress or otherwise conduct themselves in so called ‘inappropriate situations’. Which is what should be argued against on ethical and humanist lines, not appeals to modernity or appeals against a mythic ‘patriarchy’.


    • I use the word ‘mythic patriarchy’ because as a sociologist, I find that societies and cultures are ad-continuum and fluid. Hence cannot be conflated into the dualities of patriarchy and matriarchy. Most societies and cultures are somewhere between extreme misogyny and gynocracy. But that is my perspective, feel free to bash it if you will (as I will be free to argue against it, of course).
      @ Indian Homemaker
      I cannot speak for the world or for all Indian societies. But in my (extended) tribe, rape was extremely rare and when the first known act of rape happened some forty years ago and the rapist identified, the clan executed the rapist using an execution device made of bamboo poles.
      Thanks to the Indian Penal Code, a gift of ‘modernity’ such vigilante justices are no longer in force and rapists are given a summary trial which might or might not end in a conviction. Also thanks to the permeation of the ‘moral values’ of Hindu cultures, rape is seen as less of an offence as it was fifty years ago. So as far as ‘my culture’ is concerned AND in the context of rape, I’ll be the last person to use the appeal to modernity as the basis for an argument.


      • Atheist Indian, how did the idea of rape being seen as dishonour or shame evolve?
        In the case you mention, what happened to the rape victim?
        Did this rape victim report the rape?
        Did the rapist have the opportunity to claim that the victim seduced/provoked him? Was the punishment seen as a way to salvage the tribe’s honour?
        Was there a suggestion that the victim could marry the rapist?
        Why were such marriages even considered?


        • @ Indian Homemaker
          Shaming a rape victim isn’t common in my mother’s culture, the victim simply went back to her life. She did report the rape as well as identify the rapist, which helped with the conviction.
          Your last four questions are irrelevant to the context, since the concept of ‘honour’, ‘provoking the accused’ or ‘marrying the rapist’, which might be mainline in your world, is pretty much alien to the Khasi people (as well as most NE people). I don’t want to imply any racist connotations, but the whole concept of sexual ‘honour’ and tolerance of rape is a brown people thing, whether its a Haryanvi or a Saudi Arabian.


        • It’s interesting. From what I understand, the Khasi tribe is matrilineal…women have the upper hand in this society…Atheist Indian, please correct me if I’m wrong…

          So, there’s a possibility that the above questions are not relevant in this case…

          Also, Atheist Indian, while I agree that the concept of patriarchy may not apply to your tribe (or other similar tribes), I don’t understand why you seem to deny the existence of patriarchy itself in our country. Or did I understand you incorrectly?

          To me, your tribe seems to be the exception that proves the rule.


        • “I don’t understand why you seem to deny the existence of patriarchy itself in our country.”
          Because I am observer, not someone who falls for popular wisdom and fallacious dogmas. The social and cultural dynamics of the real world are far too complex and fluid to be condensed into dualities of patriarchy and matriarchy. I am more inclined to believe that the influence of patriarchy is as real as those of the Elders of Zion on US corporations and media.


        • AI, I’m having trouble moderating comments,

          1. I was using the Kamasutra in the same way some people use it to tell everyone that everything was hunky-dory in ancient India.
          2. (upper-caste) Female sexuality can be totally repressed without totally repressing male sexuality. I’m sure you’ve heard of heinous traditions which allow upper-caste men to sexually assault lower-caste men.

          3. If someone despite seeing the misogyny, female infanticide, female foeticide, slut shaming, institutionalised neglect, dowry deaths, etc still denies the existence of patriarchy, then I have nothing more to say.

          PS I would like to say I write from the POV of a woman born at the upper rungs of a society because I believe lived experiences are imp. I won’t presume to write for someone whose experiences may differ from my own.


        • “…allow upper-caste men to sexually assault lower-caste men.
          Are you trying to imply that a men who is lower in the caste hierarchy is essentially a ‘female’? Thats shape shifting philosophy in poor form, right there.
          “…still denies the existence of patriarchy, then I have nothing more to say.”
          This existence of social evils such as female infanticide, dowry deaths, misogyny etc. DO NOT prove patriarchy. Such an idea centers around the False Cause and Effect fallacy, where you EXCLUDE the general classism in feudal societies like that of Hindu (or Muslim) mainland India.
          Are you aware that in the societies where all these misogynist evils are carried out with wanton, caste violence and oppression ALSO forms an integral part? How is casteism and caste oppression in such societies different from the kind of oppression that the so called ‘patriarchy’ imposes on women? Do you feel that the practice of making a certain class of people carry ‘night soil’ and be treated as vermins is intrinsically different from expecting wives to be cooks and maids?
          The basis of gender oppression is feudalism and inherited classes, not ‘male dominance’ (aka patriarchy). The majority of males in any classist society are dominated and oppressed by the powerful of both genders (eg. India and Bangladesh). You cannot have it both ways – identifying with the Hindu social structure of feudal classism while also complaining that it is ‘patriarchy’ that oppresses women.


        • Atheist Indian, I’m somewhat unclear on your response. I agree that the social and cultural dynamics of the world are too complex to categorise them into any kind of dualities.
          However here, we are not talking about some monolithic patriarchal entity whose goal is to oppress women (on the road to world domination, of course).
          We are talking about the existence of a patriarchal mindset in the country as a result of which women are considered inferior to men by default.
          I agree that feudalism, class distinctions, caste differences all play a major part in gender oppression (as well as other kinds of oppression). But, if these are the only reasons, then shouldn’t there be gender equality between men and women belonging to same class or same caste? The implication of your statement is that, hypothetically, if tomorrow, all class distinctions, caste differences were eliminated and true economic equality was achieved, then people would automatically conside men as equal to women and gender oppression would automatically vanish.
          That hardly sounds right…probably I’m missing something.


        • We are talking about the existence of a patriarchal mindset in the country as a result of which women are considered inferior to men by default.

          And how big is this ‘country’ you speak of, where women are supposedly considered inferior to men by default? 30 million? 500 million? 1 billion? It is not just the Khasi culture where women are held as equal to men, pretty much every tribal culture in India, whether in the North East or the mainland, women are considered as equal members of the tribe. And within the tribe, everyone is equal.

          “…then shouldn’t there be gender equality between men and women belonging to same class or same caste?”

          A culture that teaches social stratification and ownership on the basis of birth is rarely ever gender egalitarian. Social stratification is a basic part of feudal cultures. It exists, even between people of different ages where younger people are expected to defer to and obey the ‘elders’. Within the same caste, women being ‘inferior’ to men is just the practice of this psyche, where people are not ‘equal’ but categorised as ‘superior’ and ‘inferior’.

          “That hardly sounds right…”

          Does it? Perhaps you should study societies where feminism took hold, with more more depth of observation and objectiveness. The woman’s liberation movement in the United States happened around the same time the Civil Liberties movement took hold. Even in France, the basis of Women’s Lib was Rosseau’s declaration that “all humans are created equal”. Unless the Indian society comes to term that all people are born equal and unless the caste system and its associated prejudices disappears from the South Asian desi psyche, it is highly unlikely that you could sucessfully have a society where women and men would be treated as equal beings.
          Unfortunately, the allusion of patriarchy to all of social ills ignores the ground realities of the Indian Hindu social structure and propagates a kind of universalist reductionism in the approach to gender equality. Even a lot ‘feminist’ Indian who tom-tom about gender equality practice inequality when it comes to class or economic ‘caste system’. Unless they are willing to let go of that, they would only be good for their hipocrisy (even if the mainstream media wouldn’t admit it).


        • Atheist Indian, I agree with a lot of what you said. However I’m afraid I still do not see why you are denying the existence of a patriarchal mindset.

          I understand you when you say that a culture that lays emphasis on social stratification or caste differences is also the same culture that lays emphasis on gender inequality. I’m not a sociologist or cultural anthropologist…but what you say seems to make sense…kind of.

          However what I do not understand is why you are (rightly) fine with stating casteism or classism or feudalism as social evils but for some reason you have an objection to stating patriarchy as a social evil (or even to acknowledge it’s existence at all)…

          After all, if the root cause of all the above social inequalities are the same, then shouldn’t they all be assigned the same status as social evils?


        • I do not deny that in some cultures, women are oppressed but I am unwilling to isolate patriarchy as a social evil is because it isn’t a isolated social evil that aims to oppress women. The concept of patriarchy as mainland Indian feminists explain it, is from what I have actually observed, a part of the greater feudal (casteist) mainland Indian (desi) culture – one where the society operates in terms of social ‘layers’ – be it of ‘birth’, age, class or gender.
          Even though a lot of people here assert that Indian women are intrinsically ‘oppressed’ regardless of their socio-economic status, the reality is far from it. An upper caste woman or a socio-economically well off woman is far higher on the socio-economic scale than a dalit or a man on the lower end of the socio-economic scale. A female socialite who sports a prada in P3 parties is far less ‘oppressed’ than a male security guard who works night shifts to feed his family. Claiming that all Indian women are oppressed under a ‘shroud’ of patriachy and ‘male priviledge’ is a blantant denial of this sociological reality.
          In a society where people are culturally programmed to view all other human beings as equals of birth, stratification of the male and female genders wouldn’t exist because that would run against a person’s moral programming. Any attempt to fight against gender inequality, without an equal push for social egalitarianism would end in a failure. Hence, I am unwilling to treat ‘patriarchy’ as a seperate social evil.


        • It is also ironic and sad that a commenter above coloured a casteist evil in term of sexual gender politics. If a Brahman or Kshatriya male sexually predates on a lower caste woman, then it is an example of casteist repression, not sexual repression. He wouldn’t have predated on the lower caste woman if she enjoyed the same social ‘status’ as an upper caste woman. Also, the same ‘privilege’ isn’t offered to lower caste males, which again goes against the assertion that male sexuality in this case is unrepressed.


        • I know this is a bit late. Anyway, I just saw my comment right now: I meant on lower-caste WOmen. And it is not necessary that one has to look at society either through the lens of patriarchy/classism/casteism etc. To get a whole picture, we should never disregard any one and it is not a case of either/or.

          And NO, I never said that the rape of lower caste women by upper caste men is the expression of “male SEXUALITY”. I was talking of the repression of sexuality and how it works in India. Male sexuality is not totally repressed (even though it is still repressed) whereas female sexuality is and it is possible to repress female sexuality without totally repressing male sexuality in a society. Therefore, please remove your misinterpretation in this post – “The blogger archismita devolves to the classic feminist rhetoric, arguing that the assault of lower caste women by upper caste men is an expression of male sexuality and a repression of women; rather than admitting it for what it is – an attack lower caste people by upper caste people.(In feminist speak, rape is the de-facto expression of male sexuality. Well…some feminists).”

          Just FYI, I never said and NOR DO I BELIEVE that “rape is the de-facto expression of male sexuality” and neither have I said “the assault of lower caste women by upper caste men is an expression of male sexuality and a repression of women”. I AGREE that it is “an attack lower caste people by upper caste people” which is gendered. Either/or approaches are dangerous and what gives you the authority to judge what is “intellectual laziness” anyway, simply because it does not agree with your perspective?


        • “Weird. My sociology prof says there is no doubt we live in a patriarchy.”
          I am sure he would, just like a sociologist in Al Azhar University would like to convince you that Islam is the only ‘true religion’. Even the best of academics and subject experts are not above quoting the popularly accepted dogmas, whether it is to avoid ‘rippling the waves’ or out of plain intellectual laziness.


  19. I feel I would fear an arm chopped or sawed off, or eyes gouged out, or acid poured on me or being set on fire as much as being raped. I feel, fear and trauma of rape is aggravated by social stigma, judgment, shaming, blaming and insensitivity of the society and also by the society’s eagerness to tolerate sexual assaults.


  20. Ha. This reminds me of an incident, a few years ago. A friend of mine and I (both girls) had decided to come to this slightly hilly, lonely, dark area around 8:30 pm. We mainly went there because it was quiet and had a brilliant view of my city.

    We climbed up, and as we were wandering around that area, we were commenting on how we were doing a pretty dangerous thing and that our parents would be furious if they knew this. There was not a soul in that area, no lights, only some slight slum area in about a kilometer’s radius.

    As we walked around, suddenly a car which was parked some feet away started, and the headlights were switched on, high beam. The car started moving straight towards us, at a moderately fast speed, with both of us bang in its path, caught like a deer in the headlights. I remember panic setting in, my heart hammering, cursing under my breath, wondering which way to go to prevent the car from coming right at us.

    In a few seconds, the car just changed direction and went out of the area. I have no clue what that driver was thinking. My friend and I both looked at each other, and we were like, “Okay, we both thought we were going to die right there!”

    And I was thinking, “I don’t mind being raped so much, just don’t smash me with your car!” Funnily enough she thought exactly the same thing.


  21. Rape is a lousy thing to happen to anyone – man, woman or child, but in my view, it is not the worst. Anything that restricts freedoms permanently or long term is definitely worse. That maybe because I left shame back long ago, and while violation would hurt, it is not my guilt.

    I read about some torture camp writing, that a woman used to become more visible so that the soldiers raped her more often, to be able to have access to seek chances to escape – though there was a risk of being shot dead trying to escape. And the rapes also sounded way worse than the hit and run rapes that normally happen. Yet, in my imagination, in her place, I would make the same choice.

    Maybe this kind of shocks people, but in my view, rape is a violation. The outrage over it needs to be that the violation is not taken seriously. However, I have never thought that a rape is a permanent loss, unless there is physical damage – in which case, it is the maiming that is the loss.


  22. Only in India have I heard of the ‘rapist offering to/being made to marry’ his victim. They seem to think the victim’s virginity is something that the rapist has already ‘taken’, so he might as well, um, ‘keep it’??? Such a ridiculous notion. I remember reading about the lady named Asha who was raped and thrown off a moving train and survived, but she said “I don’t want to return to my family, I have brought shame upon them”. For what, being brutally attacked by a bunch of hooligans???

    On the bright side though, more and more cases of rape are actually being reported in general, which means that more women are finding their voices.


  23. Pingback: Would you call a Rape Survivor a Zinda Laash? | The Life and Times of an Indian Homemaker

  24. Pingback: 40% of rape charges were filed by parents of girls who had eloped consensually with a boy | The Life and Times of an Indian Homemaker

  25. Pingback: ‘Rape is theft of the victim’s potential to fulfil her destiny from birth, the pivot of her existence, her marriage.’ | The Life and Times of an Indian Homemaker

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