‘Because I am a girl’ »« She was brutally gangraped, tortured, mutilated and murdered. Don’t say that she ‘died peacefully’.

We are raped to death.

Whatever little rights the women of the Indian subcontinent have gained till now, most of it has been because of men. Men have fought with the misogyny-laden society in favor of abolishing the abhorrent practice of Sati, and facilitating the acquisition of suffrage, the ability to walk beyond the household boundaries, the rights to education and jobs by the women. That said, the number of good men are still very limited. Although some men have time and again assisted the women in their quest for progress by parting the wall of hindrances, most men have shoved women backwards. In fact, the number of men trying to force women into retreat has always been rather large.

I have been living in India for a while, because my right to reside anywhere in this subcontinent, other than in India, has been severely violated by a so-called democratic government, which doesn’t believe in democracy. By virtue of living in India for a few years, I have watched closely this country – the oldest democracy in the subcontinent, far ahead of its neighbors in education, and equality. It comes as a great shock and surprise to me when, every morning, the newspapers bring reports of rape; rape of minors, cold-blooded murders following sexual abuse – men are slaughtering women by strangling, shooting, hacking, burning and stoning them to death. What surprises me the most is the resounding lack of protests against such horrors. Thousands take to the streets in protest if the price of onions or petrol vary a little bit, but the rape and abuse of hundreds of women doesn’t motivate a single man or woman to protest. People have become desensitized to rape after hearing about and encountering such heinous incidents on a regular basis; no longer is someone shocked by the news of rape. Even the news media are no longer interested in reporting about rape. It is not considered newsworthy unless a gang-rape occurs.

A young woman in Delhi was gang-raped in a moving bus by some men just this other day. Not just a gang-rape, something even more horrific. Hurting her with their penises didn’t adequately satisfy their blood-lust; inserting an iron rod into her genital organ, they ruptured her uterus and ripped out her intestines. But they didn’t stop there. Their rapacious merriment over, they threw the almost dead woman out of the moving bus. One could not expect her to survive; indeed, the young woman, after valiantly battling death for a few days in hospitals, finally succumbed to her irreparable injuries today.

For the very first time, folks were angry. Or did it wake them up? Does wakefulness appear so easily? It is true that for the first time, thousands of men and women of all ages took to the streets demanding from their government the safety and security for the womenfolk. It has also been demanded that the perpetrators should be hanged by the neck till death. Capital punishment by hanging is not a major issue to this government – it is a rather easy, hassle-free solution. But it is a lot more difficult to take measures so that men cease to see women as sex objects, so that from a tender age, human beings learn to recognize and treat other human beings as human beings. The responsibility for this tough task should devolve upon the government, surely.

Of course, parroting lofty lines such as “men and women have equal rights; don’t treat women as subhuman beings; don’t hurt them, don’t rape them;” from an early childhood is no guarantee that the message would reach the brains. Even if it does, when children, adolescents and young adults continuously witness at home or elsewhere that men are vocal, men take charge, while women play the second fiddle and lurk in the background, that experience fills their brains to the exclusion of everything else. Experience at brothels in the youth also teaches them that anything can be done with women’s bodies, no matter if the woman is a child; that it is not largely considered an offence in the contemporary society. The same goes for one’s wife. Sexual abuse of the wife, also known as marital rape, may now well be a criminal act by law, but it’s not a culpable infraction in the eyes of the patriarchal society. This is similar to the way in which the dowry system – illegal and prohibited by law – still flourishes in the society, proving every day that women are rather inferior, powerless, voiceless, lower-order beings – that the entire lives of women are to be dedicated to bribing the menfolk into accepting them as slaves.

Married women bear various marks on their bodies to advertise their marital status. Just as lifeless photo-frames are sometimes marked with a red mark as ‘sold’, the application of the red vermilion mark on the forehead and the parting of hair suffices as a veritable purchase notice for married women; for them, from the hair on the scalp to toenails are considered property of their husbands. Married men, however, are never properties of their wives. If protests against the rape of women carry on while leaving such patriarchal traditions intact, would rapes ever stop? On one hand, ninety-nine percent of Bollywood movies portray women as sex-objects, television carries the same message, newspapers splash images of barely-clad women; everywhere the women are merely bodies – smooth, soft skin; only breasts, only genitalia; their brains are not brains – women philosophers are not philosophers, scientists are not scientists, intellectuals are not intellectuals, professionals are not professionals. Once they are within reach, are men going to discuss science and philosophy, or are they going to be more inclined towards rape? I don’t think men don’t know that whatever a woman might wear, be it a short skirt or nothing, no one has the right to rape her. I think men know it well. At the same time, they also know that they are the decision makers! Men have more muscles, more brains, more courage; they can take greater risks, and they are beyond shame and fear; men are brave, fearless, powerful, stronger both physically and mentally – there is nothing they cannot do. This is what they have learnt, this is what they have been taught every moment of every day since their birth. The act of rape, to these men, is an evidence of their virility. The truth is, however patriarchy has raped women’s bodies, it has raped women’s minds even more; it has raped their vitality, their lives and liveliness, their limitless possibilities, dreams and freedoms. A physical injury often heals, an emotional injury doesn’t.

This has been transpiring for centuries. All living organisms evolve. The human species has sustained for so long because it has adapted to evolving conditions and situations, from good to better, from better to still better. Within the same species, if one group continues to persecute another simply on the basis of different genitalia, that time may not be far when the entire species would become extinct. If men cannot control their proclivity to rape, if enjoyment continue to come from forcing oneself upon another, then the evolution of human beings would progress only towards destruction. Very few species consciously oppress or torment the female of the species. Gang-rape? No other species, barring humans, show such loathsome inclinations.

Humans are intelligent, as evidenced from their various endeavors. They have sent machines to Mars, but cannot create an equitable environment on their own planet for men and women to live together in equality, equal rights, empathy, understanding, peace and harmony – is it because they lack intelligence, wherewithal or a desire to do the right thing? I suspect the latter. Even if I accept that men rape because they are stronger, but society, state or the nation doesn’t run on merely strength. They run on intellect. Have the menfolk raped their own intelligence, conscience, and hearts to a comatose state? Ripping apart their consciousness, they are raping their own future!

Who will change the society, then? The powers-that-be. Those who made up the patriarchal society. Those who are powerless, oppressed, raped, and tortured, what can they do? The presence of the tormentor, oppressor groups at the anti-rape protests on the streets of Delhi are far more important than the presence of the tormented and oppressed. The torments shall cease when the tormentors cease operations and withdraw. If they stop for fear of retribution, the cessation may not last as much as it would if they stop because they understand, because their eyes have opened. That would certainly be a longer-term solution.

That India is the largest democracy in the world is true from the perspective of its population count. However, democracy is not restricted to mere arrangement of elections. Democracy encompasses equal rights and equal freedom of expression for men and women, rich and poor, everyone. Contemporary India has neither, let alone the entire subcontinent. In a true democracy, people live in safety and security. Would the expressed outrage of a subsection of the Middle Class be at all effective in bringing true democracy? Only solution, perhaps, is a mass uprising. Political maneuvers keep such mass uprisings in abeyance in the subcontinent. Watching and living with inequities and injustices day in and day out, human beings get used to these social evils. A majority of folks don’t know or understand what equality or equal rights means. Unfortunately, most of the deprived don’t realize they are deprived; most of the distressed can’t recognize their harassment.

Let them know, let them realize, and then wake up.

(My sincere thanks to Kausik Datta @kausikdatta22 for translating my Bengali write up)

Comments

  1. bobo says

    Years ago, on IRC, I knew a guy from Pakistan. He was horribly misogynistic and extremely hateful towards me and other women. He treated me like meat, and accused me of never being ‘feminine’ enough, and of being stupid, an ‘empty shell’

    He thought he was hot shit b/c he managed to get into Oxford. Spent *all* his time reminding everyone of how amazing he was.

    I blamed myself and hated myself for all of the flaws that he continually pointed out. One day I finally had it with him, and told him that he was ugly and had poor social skills, and as a result of this he was so hurt that he left the irc channel and ignored me for a week and I had to be really nice to him and apologize b/c hes ‘sensitive’ and his little feelings were all hurt!

    For years I have felt pretty shitty about the abuse, but now it makes sense – he is from Pakistan. He probably grew up learning to hate and objectify women. BTW, he was always incredibly desperate for any kind of date. He presented himeslf as the pickiest most discerning chooser of women, yet he was desperately lonely and just wanted anyone to pay attention to him in real life.

    Funny eh?

  2. says

    They have sent machines to Mars, but cannot create an equitable environment on their own planet for men and women to live together in equality, equal rights, empathy, understanding, peace and harmony…

    I have that thought often. It’s so depressing.

  3. crowepps says

    he was desperately lonely and just wanted anyone to pay attention to him in real life.

    Funny eh?

    No, not funny at all. One of a million similar pieces of anecdotal evidence supporting the theory that “patriarchy hurts men too”.

  4. Dalip Nim says

    Corrupted Indian male mindset has deeply penetrated our Indian society which has resulted in repeated heinous crime against women.

  5. Equality says

    This disgusted me so much, but it is a very well-written and informative article, so kudos to you and Kausik for that.

    I just want to point out that if we are going to form beliefs about abolishing misogyny and respecting women (which is a beautiful way to think, by the way), then we should re-consider our beliefs on people form different parts of the world. It is not fair to generalise that every man from Pakistan, or anywhere else in the world, is always going to be a certain type of man. People’s characters develop mostly from their family’s treatment of them, and Bobo, the guy that you’re speaking of seems to be pretty spoiled by his loved ones.

    Not that I’m supporting any misogynist out there, I would never.

    • bobo says

      Equality:

      I met, online, other men from Pakistan, mainly Lahore, who were pretty cool. I even met a young man from India who was super nice. The young man from India had his own set of problems – he was worried sick about getting into a good school:( He was feeling a lot of pressure to do well and get a good job!

      However, it probably does not change the fact that the guy from Pakistan was probably 1) a misogynist 2) spoiled :P

      • bobo says

        Almost forgot, he also constantly bemoaned the fact that Indian girls were not interested in him. They all wanted to date white boys.

  6. Sarmistha says

    “Married women bear various marks on their bodies to advertise their marital status. Just as lifeless photo-frames are sometimes marked with a red mark as ‘sold’, the application of the vermilion mark on the forehead and the parting of hair suffices as a veritable purchase notice for married women; for them, from the hair on the scalp to toenails are considered property of their husbands. Married men, however, are never properties of their wives. If protests against the rape of women carry on while leaving such patriarchal traditions intact, would rapes ever stop? ”

    Our government, police, netas are worthless because they are the product of this so called “Bharatiya Sabhayata”. Hanging some rapists would not solve the problem. The root must be removed first which starts with asking questions to ourselves about the prevalence of the social and religious tradition of belittling women.

    • Peter Elliot says

      Sarmistha, if you are familair with Vedic culture (I found it interesting enough to read a little), you will know that the wife is the property (your words) of the husband and the husband is the property of the wife. If your society or people does not follow this tenet, then perhaps Indian society has to introspect and ask itself why it has taken to such low morals. You have lousy politicians (can puke when I hear some of them speak utter rubbish). Your politicians, police, bureaucracy etc. are a good reflection of your society.

    • Bharatiya says

      I lived in England for four years. Went to the chapel in my college and the cathedral in city I lived in. usually went to these places to listen to my principal’s sermons and speeches. I returned a more informed Hindu than I ever was. My stay in England made me realise the vastness of Vedic culture and belief that Vedas and Vedic philosophy is meant for mankind. If enough people adopted it, there will be no wars, fewer rapes and fewer people on subsistence living. I am still able to sincerely respect of my Christian and Muslim friends.
      Now I feel more Bharitiya than ever and can understand the Bharatiya Sabhyata that you have missed out. You could get there with a little effort.

  7. Milon Ahmed. says

    Meyetike dhorshon kore hotta kora hoyeche. jara peaceful bolar chesta korche tara ashole protarok, dhorshoker pokkher lok.

  8. Jennie says

    I just read that the girl who was gang-raped by those scumf**ks who also inserted a rod inside her, then threw her off the bus, has died. I also read about Indian women protesting against the overall treatment of women and girls in India. Many things made my blood boil that I read about in that paper. Young girls and women are apt to be groped, sexually abused, etc. on BUSES and TRAINS, and just WALKING DOWN THE STREET! I live in NYC and take public transportation often. Sometimes, the trains are packed with people so badly that you cannot move. I basically have a fear of being touched the wrong way, so what I do is move toward the back of the crowded train where my back is against the wall. If I can’t see that happening, I take another train, and try to board on the back, where not many people are. Now, we do have our instances here where women are touched, but not like I read that it happens in India! Women and girls are afraid to leave their homes to do their daily errands, to go to college, or their jobs, or to just be with friends. That is deploreable. All because of Indian MEN not being able to control their disgusting “sexual urges..” Think about it-being too afraid to leave your own house for fear of being SEXUALLY ASSAULTED. How would men and boys feel if they could not go about their daily functions without fear of being possibly raped, murdered, taunted, and harrassed? I want to see the day where Indian women and girls (and females all over the world) can walk proudly down the street, wear whatever they wish, and have other things on their minds besides being brutalized by a bunch of disgusting, piggish, and out of control men. This has to stop. I used to live in a neighbourhood called “Little India” in Manhattan. I lived there happily and naively for several years without knowing what was happening in this culture. Sex trafficking is another hot topic with me, and that needs to end too. I am a rape survivor. These issues affect me. The aftermath of my rape still haunts me to this day, and it sadly always will. I want to help as much as I can. I am a member of the National Organization for Women here in NYC. We demand equality in our lives, and try and help women and girls to have the same. Taslima, I respect and applaud your lifetime work with these important issues. Being raped nearly destroyed me, and I never thought I would recover. With the help and love of other females, I have begun to heal. But I will not be silenced. This issue isn’t just about some sleazy Pakistani guy’s feelings getting hurt-it’s larger than that. I have tried to educate men individually on these issues and sadly it does not work. The entire Patriarchy must be brought down, and it’s us women and girls who have to do it..everything helps..posting a heartfelt comment on a website, linking videos to sites, emailing people, holding meetings, activism..educating our daughters about this grim reality-it all helps. The truth is that men are quite happy the way things have been going in this Patriarchial world. If they cared-truly cared-men would protect women and girls all over the world, and there would be harsh penalties for violating us. This is not so. They treat us like we are lower than dirt. Women and girls give life, and men will gladly destroy it. This has been happening from the beginning of time. Let’s see what we can do in the year 2013 to help change the reality of life for females all over the world. It would benefit everyone if we were allowed to learn, grow, and develop fully as human beings, instead of fearing for our lives (the problem is here in NYC as well), every single day due to men’s evil behaviour.

  9. mildlymagnificent says

    The saddest thing I’ve read (apart from the details of the attack and the consequences) is that this young woman was from a family which was going against the misogynistic trend. The poor, uneducated parents had sold their land and had often gone without meals to save money – not to provide her with a dowry as others in their situation do, but to pay for her education. And the misogyny and its violent expression which they didn’t support takes her away from them.

  10. dab says

    Gang-rape? No other species, barring humans, show such loathsome inclinations.

    Obviously not defending (gang-)rape, but this is a bit disingenuous considering the well-known incidence of gang rape within various species of duck, etc.

  11. says

    Having heard of this one case, I have to wonder:

    What is the actual rate of sexual assault in India? How many victims are there?

    The reported crime rates don’t provide a good guide – one because so many cases go unreported, but also because India is far too restrictive in what counts as assault (e.g. Wikipedia informs me that under Indian law spousal rape is not treated as a criminal offense). If I seem to be too analytical, it is only as a defense mechanism against the magnitude of the problem.

    @dab @13:

    Some species of birds have assault as such a common part of their sexual behavior that the female birds have been selected for specially shaped cloacas to be less vulnerable.

    Among mammals, male bottlenose dolphins form small groups (2-3 individuals) that stalk and harass a female bottlenose for weeks until she becomes sexually receptive. Then they rape her. For the apes: about half of all observed orangutan matings are coercive. Gorillas and chimpanzees also have high rates of coercive sex, although bonobos are relatively peaceful.

    The lesson from all of this: we should not use animals as guides for human behavior. Different species, different evolutionary selection (e.g. some male spiders tie down their mates so that they won’t be eaten during sex – but this is neither an argument for or against bondage play by humans). More importantly, we are not bound to whatever instincts we may have. We can do better.

  12. mildlymagnificent says

    What is the actual rate of sexual assault in India? How many victims are there?

    Don’t know all the figures. The one that stuck in my mind was from Delhi. 600+ rapes reported in 2012. ONE rapist prosecuted and convicted so far. Whoops. The year is now over.

    Until police and courts take the reports they do get seriously and prosecute those offenders appropriately, the rate of reporting will never get within cooee of the real rate of incidence. (Not turning a blind eye to harassment and intimidation of victims would be a big help as well.)

  13. says

    @mildlymagnificent:

    I’d seen the 600+/year reported in Delhi number. But that can’t possibly be the actual rate of rape – at least using the criteria currently used in the United States. For a population of 10 million, the true number should be measured in the tens of thousands and possibly higher. But how much higher is it? Has anyone attempted to estimate the number, using the criteria in Indian law or any other definition?

  14. mildlymagnificent says

    I did see some speculation. But it’s more like population level stuff. Rather than the “normal” rate we’d expect in a Western society like say 1 woman in 6, the lifetime risk in India would be over half. For dalit women in rural villages the rate is at Congo war regions levels – as near to 100% as makes no difference. I hadn’t thought about the issue of lack of sanitation. Apparently, with no household toilets or village latrines, women have to go into fields or woods to defecate – so groups of men just wait for the next woman to come along and assault her – especially if they’re a higher caste than the women in question.

    When I mentioned this to my husband it occurred to us that this, in itself, is a sign of rape culture. If it was regarded as something you could take action against then women wouldn’t go alone into these places, they’d be accompanied by half a dozen people armed with lanterns and big sticks. Or village heads would make installation of latrines a priority, you’d only need one person to guard the entrance if you had proper or even rudimentary latrine facilities

  15. says

    @17:

    Now I see the true magnitude of the problem – sexual assault is endemic.

    There are efforts to get clean and safe latrines installed, primarily to control disease (some friends of mine are trying to sell new toilet designs in Kenya and a few other places – I don’t know what the equivalent projects in India are). But of course that does not solve the much larger cultural problem.

    Once again, I retreat to demographics as a defense mechanism.

  16. Urmila Mathonkar says

    Killing of a woman, a Shudra or an atheist is not sinful. Woman is an embodiment of the worst desires, hatred, deceit, jealousy and bad character. Women should never be given freedom. (Manu IX. 17 and V. 47, 147)

    • harveyk says

      @Urmila Mathonkar

      ‘Killing of a woman, a Shudra or an atheist is not sinful. Woman is an embodiment of the worst desires, hatred, deceit, jealousy and bad character. Women should never be given freedom’… how on Earth have you been capable of leaving such a comment? Is this the way you see your Mother, the woman who carried you for 9 months before giving birth to you and nurturing you into the ‘man’ you have become? God bless her for all she tried to do to save you from such heinous ways of thinking.

    • Tabu says

      this dikhead even not a fremale..i know from where this pig son taken the lines.. from that ash0le pig worshipper dr zakir nayak..hes the man who spread all wrong fake meaning of other religious text and no have balls to come live debate with hindu’s relgious leader…..that dumbass and this pig should peep in quran first who treat womens like crap-sh*t.. even their own so called pr0phet involved in buying and selling of womens..and mass rape.

  17. Priyadarshini Mallik says

    Great read!To express your ideas so boldly after being exiled from one’s own country requires lot of guts.I am glad it has been traslated from Bengali so that everybody can read this literary piece &the translation is also equally good.Now I understand why she is recognized,revered and valued so highly in the literary world!

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