One after the other, the men raped her

There are first world problems and there are third world problems. Yes. I’ll tell you something though – they’re not discontinuous. There’s not a clean radical break between them. They’re rooted in the same human flaws.

But that’s an aside. Now for full attention to a third world problem. Dabra, India.

One after the other, the men raped her. They had dragged the girl into a darkened stone shelter at the edge of the fields, eight men, maybe more, reeking of pesticide and cheap whiskey. They assaulted her for nearly three hours. She was 16 years old.

When it was over, the men threatened to kill her if she told anyone, and for days the girl said nothing. Speaking out would have been difficult, anyway, given the hierarchy of caste. She was poor and a Dalit, the low-caste group once known as untouchables, while most of the attackers were from a higher caste that dominated land and power in the village.

Well, that’s nice. Not just a bunch of men attacking a girl. Not just a group of men attacking one girl. A group of higher caste men attacking one Dalit girl. That’s what I call intersecitionality. That’s what I call privilege along more than one axis. They’re older. They’re men. They’re a group instead of one. And they have status and power in the village. They have the upper hand in four distinct ways – and they take advantage of it to smash her and her family for the sake of a fuck.

It might have ended there, if not for the videos: her assailants had taken cellphone videos as trophies, and the images began circulating among village men until one was shown to the victim’s father, his family said. Distraught, the father committed suicide on Sept. 18 by drinking pesticide.

Rohinton Mistry could probably do that story justice. I don’t know if anyone else could.

As in many countries, silence often follows rape in India, especially in villages, where a rape victim is usually regarded as a shamed woman, unfit for marriage. But an outcry over a string of recent rapes, including this one, in the northern state of Haryana, has shattered that silence, focusing national attention on India’s rising number of sexual assaults while also exposing the conservative, male-dominated power structure in Haryana, where rape victims are often treated with callous disregard.

In a rapidly changing country, rape cases have increased at an alarming rate, roughly 25 percent in six years. To some degree, this reflects a rise in reporting by victims. But India’s changing gender dynamic is also a significant factor, as more females are attending school, entering the work force or choosing their own spouses — trends that some men regard as a threat.

And when men feel threatened by women, what’s the solution? Exemplary rape! That’ll show those bitches who’s boss.

Many Dalit girls drop out of school, but the victim was finishing high school. Even in the aftermath of the rape, she took her first-term exams in economics, history and Sanskrit. But she no longer wants to return to the village school and is uncertain about her future.

“Earlier, I had lots of dreams,” she said. “Now I’m not sure I’ll be able to fulfill them. My father wanted me to become a doctor. Now I don’t think I’ll be able to do it.”

She has much in common with Malala, but a vastly worse outcome.


  1. machintelligence says

    It might have ended there, if not for the videos: her assailants had taken cellphone videos as trophies, and the images began circulating among village men until one was shown to the victim’s father, his family said. Distraught, the father committed suicide on Sept. 18 by drinking pesticide.

    I think I would have been more inclined toward homicide. It would have been more productive.

  2. Beatrice, anti-imperialist anti-racist Islamophobiaphobic leftist says

    I can’t even imagine the helplessness of this girl’s situation. I hope she manages to fight the despair, stay in school and find some peace and happiness.

  3. katkinkate says

    I tend to agree with machintelligence re. a touch of homocide would seem to be more productive. Although I know in the long run it wouldn’t change much, it would still feel much more satisfying. Also the victims family would still continue to suffer and the father would be thrown in jail.

  4. says

    Thanks for posting about this Ophelia. Here is a post you might find worth reading, called Dalit Feminism. It’s written by Dalit feminist woman about her experiences with feminism, and it shows a lot of the intersectionality you talked about. For example, not only does she have to deal with Dalit men:

    “It did not take much time before I realized they refused to see an equal intellectual comrade in me. Like the majority of men, they acknowledge a dalit woman’s presence as only fit for handing over bouquets to the guest speakers they invite for their meetings. At the most, she can give the vote of thanks. They do not consider her in important decisions or in writing papers. Later I learned that excluding women from their committees was a deliberate policy they followed as they believed women’s presence would cause “problems” and come in the way of serious politics. Women inevitably mean “problems”, their sexuality being an uncontrolled wild beast waiting to pounce upon the unassuming dalit men in the movement. It is assumed that they divert the attention from the larger concerns of the movement.”

    She also has to deal with her caste w.r. to “upper” caste feminist women:

    “I also saw the urban, fluent-in-English, extremely confident women, who called themselves feminist, who I could hardly talk to. When I did talk to them I was struck by their confidence, their go-get attitude. There were no shared fears, pleasures or problems with them. They do not seem to have a caste to be bothered about.”

    That last sentence has always struck me, because it’s a good way of describing how oppressive social systems are “identified with” privileged groups: as a man, I don’t have a gender to be bothered about. A white person in the US doesn’t have a race to be bothered about. A person without disabilities doesn’t have a disability to be bothered about. And so on.

  5. johnthedrunkard says

    And of course, some creep will say: ‘at least they didn’t ask her for coffee.’ And the point will be missed.

    Kyriarchy (a word I have just lately learned) is THE problem, without which these horrors would not happen. Fossilized social structures, so ingrained that they are invisible to those who sustain them, inflict unimaginable harm through acts like these, and even greater harm by the refusal to recognize the evil at hand.

    A creepy invitation may be ‘relatively’ minor compared to what was done to Malala, or the Dalit woman above. But the simple statement ‘guys, don’t do that,’ is no more than any reasonable person has the right to say. The horror is the avalanche of hatred and lunatic claims of ‘rights’ to insult and degrade that come afterword.

    Rape is an absolute evil which is not mitigated by circumstances or numbers of assailants. Creepy advances are a lesser evil. The greatest evil in the blogosphere is the assumption that treating others as less than people is somehow ‘brave’ or ‘trangressively cool.’

    Guys,(and the occasional girl) don’t do that.

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