Rape. And how men see it

Dozens of conversations provide a fascinating window into the psyche of the Indian male. Some of it dark. Some of it hopeful

January 10, 2013 in Culture
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Drenched in pain Angry women at Rajpath, Photo: AP

THIS IS A MOMENT THAT COULD GO EITHER WAY. It can deepen a crucial engagement or it can leave one with the chaotic debris of a fierce, but passing storm. As the intense outrage over the gangrape in New Delhi on 16 December begins to live out its heat, it’s imperative to question, which of these will we be left with?

Over the past few weeks, many angry questions have been hurled at the police, the judiciary and the political establishment. The failures of the State are staggering and one cannot be grateful enough for the initial rage and outpouring on the street. Without that, there would have been no conversation.

But there is an urgent need now for calmer review, for genuine and calibrated suggestions that can lead to long- and short-term change. There is a need also to ask, are we framing this discourse wisely? Can its shrillness or the suggested remedies have adverse impacts one did not intend?

Before examining any of that though, there is a big missing piece that must find voice. The anger against the State — the demand for greater efficiencies and accountability — is hugely legitimate. But what about the giant shadow in the room? How endemic is the prejudice that stalks our society? What produces and perpetuates it? What creates the idea of women as ‘fair game’ for sexual violence? What, in effect, do Indian men think about women?

It would have been comforting if vile foolishness in India had been the domain of the few. But Asaram Bapu is not alone when he says one hand cannot clap by itself. Or that taking diksha, reciting a mantra and pleading with her rapists as brothers might have saved the young girl that fateful night.

The clergy of the Jamaat-e-Islami-Hind are not alone when they advocate co-educational institutes to be shut down, pre-marital sex to be outlawed and girls to dress in sober and dignified clothes as ways to prevent rape.

Mohan Bhagwat is not alone when he asserts more rapes happen in ‘India’ than ‘Bharat’ — the first a synecdoche for promiscuous modernity; the latter for a more pious and traditional order where women live within boundaries prescribed by men. Abhijit Mukherjee is not alone when he mocks women protesters as “dented, painted” girls. Nor are Abu Azmi, Kailash Vijayvargiya or the Chhattisgarh home minister who says minors in the state are being raped because their stars are not favourable.

If they had been alone — a marginal raft of clumsy old men — mere derision would have been enough. But the fear is, they are signposts of a much wider and deeper mindset. And if they are that, how is one to negotiate such a gaping cultural divide? How can a society articulate — and enforce — desired values for itself if there is such a foundational disagreement over what those values should be?

July 2004 Manipuri women protest against the army’s brutalities

Over the past few days, the national media has rebuffed these men with an acetylene rage. Apologise, they have shouted. Retract your thoughts. Or at least be shamed into withdrawing the impunity with which you say such things in public.

But this rage has triggered its own counter-currents. Madhu Kishwar, feminist and editor of Manushi, for instance, is scathing about the media’s tone. “What kind of imperialist vocabulary is this? If you treat everyone who does not agree with you as aliens and fools, if you refuse to accept them as your own people, what gives you the right to dictate to them? What makes you think they will even entertain your criticism?” she asks.

‘The biggest reason for rapes is alcohol. Intoxication changes everyone. Gangrapes can only happen when the men are intoxicated’

Fish Vendor, Malpe, Karnataka

‘When songs like Photo ko chipkale saiyan seene pe Fevicol se become a rage from nightclubs to marriage functions, it becomes a problem’

Post-graduate Student, Hisar, Haryana

Santosh Desai, media commentator and head of Future Brands, has perhaps an even more challenging concern. “Media in India is more loud than representative,” he says. “If the framing of this debate gets too vociferous and extreme, it can galvanise the opposition in disturbing ways. Our society has always had a way of evolving organically, using a combination of strategies to create space for new ideas. As long as that change is gradual, the anxiety it produces is also gradual. If one gets too absolutist, the whole thing can boomerang.”

Yet, can change ever be catalysed without someone adamantly staking out new boundaries? Can society be jolted — or even nudged and cajoled — into new positions without bold outriders stridently rejecting the old? What is the most effective approach? Confrontation or stealth? Scorn or the patient building of bridges?

In this week’s cover — apart from evaluating some of the remedies for police and judiciary that have emerged over the past few weeks — TEHELKA set itself to get a sense of that ephemeral phenomenon: a mindset. Its reporters spoke to dozens of men across strata and age and region and class, asking them how comfortable they felt with ideas of freedom for women, whether they held women and modernity responsible for rape and other forms of sexual crime; whether they believed rape was more prevalent in cities than villages; and how far they felt popular culture was responsible for a perceived sense of moral decline in society.

In India — continental as it is in size and plurality — even the most extensive sociological survey can, at best, be only an anecdotal one. This, by every yardstick, is extremely anecdotal and extremely miniscule. But as a dipstick — as an intuition — of what this vast country thinks, it throws up fascinating findings. We expected darkness; we found it. But, gratefully, we also found the unexpected.

FIRST, A window into the darkness. A few days ago, the virulent Raj Thackeray asserted that migrants were responsible for a huge percentage of rapes in India’s metros. If you heard Raju, 45, a migrant auto driver in Delhi, speak, you might believe Thackeray was justified.

“The root problem for all these crimes is women themselves,” Raju told TEHELKA. “The mirror in my auto tells me everything, what young boys and girls are doing behind me. They are willing to pay extra because they want to make love. In my village in UP, my wife keeps her ghungat even in front of my mother. Now imagine if a person from such a strict society comes to Delhi where women flaunt their bodies and provoke men with their dresses, what will he do? You may want to close your eyes at first, but if someone offers you fruit on a plate, will you deny the invitation?

Delhi girls are like mangoes. What do you do with the fruit? You eat it, suck it, and throw it away. These women are being used and overused. Sometimes, they have 10 boyfriends. In such a situation, how can you stop rapes? The current discourse is being created by elites and it ends there. You have all these rich people talking on TV, but if the rich want to have fun, they can afford to hire women and go to a hotel. Where will a poor man go?”

Unfortunately, in keeping with the stereotype in different ways, this view — this crude bewilderment laced with latent aggression against women — repeats itself across the cow belt. Ram Kishen, 53, a farmer from Bhiwani, told TEHELKA, “Of course, girls are solely responsible for the rapes that happen. We must marry them off when they are 15. Why should a girl remain unmarried even in her late 20s? Girls in big cities are given too much freedom. They are allowed to go out with men at night and roam about. What else do you expect in such a situation?”

Sept 2006 Dalits were paraded naked, raped and killed in Khairlanji

Kishen could be a twin for Narendra Rana, 33, a farmer from Rajasthan. “Most of the time it’s the girls who invite such problems. Look at the Delhi case. Why was the girl out at that time of night? I heard when she got onto the bus with the man, they started kissing. So it’s not the fault of the men who raped her. Why would she want to do such a thing in a public space?” he asked. “Girls are being given all the freedom in this world, which they are misusing. If you want to curb these incidents, just take away this freedom.”

‘Dressing skimpily is like showing a red rag to a bull. You can’t complain what happens to you thereafter’

School Teacher, Uri, J&K

‘Usually, the rapes are just consensual sex where the girl later changes her mind either for money or something else’

Sarpanch, Dhana village, Haryana

These men find endless echoes. Moolchand, a 42-year-old sarpanch in Manesar. Sham Lal, 36, a labour contractor from Bhiwani. Satbir Singh, a businessman from Jind. Prashant Singh, 28, a serviceman from the Haryana Electricity Board in Faridabad. Every one of them blamed women for the breakdown in society; not one held men responsible for their own actions.

Spiral this outwards to rates of female foeticide, dowry deaths, marital violence, early marriages, the percentage of working women and the number of honour killings and every fear about the Hindi heartland would seem to stand true.

But Raj Thackeray is wrong. The stereotype is not exclusive to the heartland. Since the debate around rape exploded into public consciousness over the past few weeks, there has been a temptation to frame the discourse through every kind of stereotype: a gender war; a class war; a religious war; a culture war; a regional war; a war between modernity and tradition, between city and village.

The hard truth is, there are enough dark voices to justify each of them. If you listen to men across India, you would know enough of them want to keep women in a box or thrust them back if they have escaped. This impulse expresses itself in a myriad ways: as brute misogyny or stifling protectionism. But running common through it all is a fear and abhorrence of women who display autonomy over their own bodies and sexuality. Women’s clothes, you would imagine, are the ‘greatest internal security threat in this country’.

No culture, profession or age group — no level of education or exposure — seems to make men immune to this. Here’s what Basheer Tawheedi, a 40-year-old lecturer in Kashmir, lists as reasons for rape: modern culture, girls wearing “inviting dresses”, less parental supervision, a decline in religious pieties, and a free mingling of the two sexes. “Of course, women’s freedom is responsible for the rise in sexual crimes,” he told TEHELKA. “How can we expect that dry grass with petrol near it under scorching heat won’t catch fire?”

Listen to Tabish Darzi, 26, a banker in Srinagar, and you get the same atavism, different metaphor. “To me, a woman is a pearl that is safe inside a shell,” he said. “Keep it open and everyone will try to snatch it.” The lofty idea of men as benign protectors flowed uncritically throughout his conversation; the narrowest interpretations of Islam formed his bedrock.

‘The government’s raising the legal age for marriage has created a lot of frustration among the boys’

Tailor, Kumhau village, Bihar

‘It’s unfortunate that for some women, education and money means showing off their body. As a result, the entire womankind is being shamed’

Shopowner, Bhiwani, Haryana

“Yes, women are somewhat responsible for the crimes against them, but ultimately it is actually the responsibility of their guardians, parents and husband. We know women are easily fooled and lack reason (sic),” he said. “Men must act as protectors of women because Allah has made one to excel over the other. There can be no equality between the sexes. In Saudi Arabia, there are no rapes because women dress well and don’t mingle freely with men.”

Like the men in the Hindi heartland, Tabish and Baseer are facsimiles. You could replace them with Muhammad Rafiq, 28, a teacher in Kashmir, or Mudassir Kakroo, 32, a civil engineer, or Ahsaas Lone, a marine biology scientist, or Muhammad Afzal Wani, 30, another banker, and their thoughts would just duplicate each other in different shades.

But there is cold comfort for those who would revel in the stereotype of the regressive, patriarchal Muslim man, because here’s what Vijay Prasad Shetty, 57, president of the Udupi Bar Association, told TEHELKA: “The clothes today’s girls wear provoke even the most upright men. Women have become too wayward. They have moved away from Hindu culture. Girls wear 3/4th pants and figure-hugging clothes that leave little to the imagination. Obviously, this turns men on. Boys will never approach a girl if they don’t get the right vibes from her. They always know when they see a girl who is ready to sleep around. Why can’t women wear churidars instead of skirts? If women roam around wearing revealing tops, obviously men get the idea that she’s available and loose. The best of men can fall for that. In the olden days, our elders had a rule. A grown-up daughter would not be allowed to be in the same room as her father or her brother. We have drifted away from there. That’s why these things are happening.”

Jan 2009 Goons of the Sri Ram Sene manhandle pubgoers in Mangalore

At one level, how can one hear such assertions with anything except outraged rejection? The efficacy of that rejection can be evaluated later; surely one must first record the rejection?

Hindu, Muslim, or Christian. Farmer, labourer, auto driver, scientist, lawyer or teacher. Educated or illiterate. Old or young. Haryanvi, UP-wallah, or Southie. Only one thing seemed to bind the men TEHELKA spoke to: they had no concept of male accountability; no concept of the hijab of eye and action. The burden of social order lay only with the woman.

The conversations had other disturbing yields. Apart from the expected distrust of popular culture and western lifestyles, the binary of a wonderful Indian “tradition” wherein no violence ever happens versus a disruptive “modernity” that had unleashed beasts and snakes, TEHELKA’s dipstick into the Indian male psyche brought home one particularly difficult truth: for a vast majority of men, rape does not even register as a violent or heinous crime. For many, even the Delhi gangrape case was deemed worthy of condemnation only because of the brutality of the iron rod and the ripped intestines. The rape itself was too commonplace to grieve about. “Rape hua, theek hai,” many said, “par iss tarah seh marna nahi chahiye tha.” (If they raped her, that’s okay. They shouldn’t have killed her in such a brutal manner.)

Gratefully, however, the story of India can never be told through one window.

OVER THE past four weeks, there have been many outraged demands. Pressured by the outrage, the Chief Justice of India has announced fast-track courts, the Central government has set up a committee for recommendations on how to combat rape, universities have ordered sensitisation courses, and there is talk of capital punishment, castration, tougher laws and more women in the police force.

Much of this threatens to be no more than the debris of a storm. Many thoughtful citizens are trying to put in cautionary notes. Supreme Court lawyer Colin Gonsalves, for instance, laughs at the illusion of the fast-track court. “There aren’t enough judges, what’s the point of setting up new courts?” he asks. “For every fasttrack court that is set up, another one somewhere must be put on hold or dismantled. There are only 12 judges per million people in India; the average elsewhere is 80. Yet, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh says he does not have enough funds to pay for more judges.”

Madhu Kishwar too warns against many of the over-zealous changes that have been demanded: denying the right of appeal to a higher court in the case of a rape conviction; shifting the burden of proof to the accused; instant FIRs; and selective fasttrack courts. “The demand for special courts for rape comes from an unrealistic faith in ‘special measures’. When it is manned by the same personnel and procedures, how can it work like a magic wand? Ask the Bhopal gas tragedy victims how they fared with their special courts! Besides, rape victims are not the only aggrieved group in our society. Demands for special courts have come from many other disadvantaged groups — environmentalists, anti-corruption crusaders, and those displaced by arbitrary land acquisition laws. The list will keep growing if the entire judicial system is not reworked thoroughly. The same holds true for sensitising the police force. It’s true our colonial-minded police are very gender insensitive, but it’s not as if they treat men any better. Women are no doubt more vulnerable, but only if they are not well-connected. Ask the slumdwellers and street vendors who survive at the mercy of the police and see if they fare any better. You cannot make the police ‘gender sensitive’ unless you make them ‘citizen sensitive’,” she says. “In short, the situation calls for far-reaching police and judicial reforms, not knee-jerk tokenisms.”

Nov 2011 Arrested for being a Naxal sympathiser, Soni Sori was given shocks and stones were inserted into her vagina

Others are raising different flags. Activist Aruna Roy talks about the self-defeating futility of castration and capital punishment. “Even after the Bhanwari Devi rape case, there was a lot of talk of castration, but through all our discussions on ground, as women we arrived at the position that we did not want to be party to the same idea of revengeful physical violence. What we need is more governance, more rule of law and more comprehensive redressal mechanisms. It sounds boring, but that’s where the answers lie.”

In this issue of TEHELKA, activist Flavia Agnes has detailed how the police interface with rape survivors can be made more accountable, irrespective of their personal prejudice or views. Over the next few weeks, TEHELKA is committed to engaging more with such sober assessments of where the answers lie. But, for the moment, even if one were to assume one had all the answers, how could any of them yield positive outcomes unless we at least agree as a society on the nature of the crime and what causes it?

To speak of collective outrage is to assume a shared value system. Clearly, we don’t have that. As lakhs of Indians listening to Mohan Bhagwat, the Jamaat leaders and Asaram Bapu would have wondered what the media fuss was about, it’s possible many Indians will read the excerpts of conversations with Indian men listed in this story and wonder why we are calling it a window into darkness.

It’s crucial, therefore, to outline unequivocally what the fuss is about. As a modern democracy, the right of the individual — irrespective of religion, caste, class or gender — is enshrined in our Constitution. For a woman, this ought to mean a complete autonomy over her body, her choices, her movement and her right to work. These choices may be curtailed on the ground by the cultural or personal context she inhabits, or where she herself wants to stand on the ladder of emancipation. But, in essence, there should be no curtailments.

The fuss is, many sections of Indian society don’t see this as a desired value. Where the State and its institutions are concerned, confronting this should be a fairly easy and precipitate process. If you hold any public office — as a minister, a judge, a policeman, a bureaucrat or any government functionary — voicing or acting on any misogynistic impulse should automatically invite censure or removal. This does not happen, but it is time it should. Nothing would send out a clearer message to society than a Constitutional principle made visible.

The greater muddle is in society’s own responses. India, proverbially, contains multitudes. Inevitably, there is a face-off between those who wish to live by this ideal and those who want to thwart it. How should one, as Santosh Desai puts it, keep society moving towards a positive destination without solidifying the resistance?

‘I hold women squarely responsible for the rapes. The prime reason is revealing dresses, and that hijab is now extinct from urban areas’

Imam of Jama Masjid, Faizabad, UP

‘The clothes today’s girls wear provoke even the most upright men. They have moved away from Hindu culture’ 

President, Udupi Bar Association, Karnataka

One of the temptations of the past four weeks has been to frame the debate on rape and women’s rights as a war between men and women. Obviously, there is no merit in that argument. Women can be as oppressive — if not more — than men. But the exhilarating find in TEHELKA’s conversations with Indian men is that the picture is more sunlit than one had imagined.

Speaking at a discussion last week about the media’s reporting on the Delhi rape, social scientist Nivedita Menon said, one of the most gratifying aspects of watching young girls and boys protest the rape was to see that the idea of feminism and equal rights had percolated through every layer of society onto the street. The slogans and placards spoke of an emancipated consciousness that was in the skin, beyond any studied political positions or self-conscious feminism.

TEHELKA’s findings echo that. For every regressive, reductive conversation, there were others, particularly young men — across religion, culture, class and profession — who defied the stereotype. Men who expressed a profound commitment to the idea of equality and women’s rights over their own bodies, ambitions and sexuality.

July 2012 A TV crew egged on a mob to molest a girl for TRPs in Guwahati

There was Tejas Jain, 23, an IT engineer and music student from Indore, who told TEHELKA that his concept of a successful, modern Indian woman was “someone who can stand up for herself in all walks of life and is neither scared nor controlled by men such as her father, brother or husband”. His concept of an ideal man was equally enlightened: “Someone who not only respects women, but all of life — be it human, animal or plant.”

Like many other young students TEHELKA spoke to, Tejas poured scorn on the idea of women as objects for sex, violence or household chores. “Our rigid and orthodox societal mindset has to go. Media, cinema and TV have to own up to the responsibility of how they project women. Turn on the TV and you will see women decked in saris, sitting at home, plotting and fighting all day. We need to fight these stereotypes.”

Like Tejas again, Sukalyan Roy, 27, a marketing executive in Delhi, spoke with self-confidence. A successful woman for him was someone who is truly independent, who can live with her family or on her own, take her own decisions, dress as she wants, go where she wants and have as many sexual partners as she chooses. “I think women in many ways are the stronger sex,” he told TEHELKA. “They have a deeper strength than men are capable of. It is men who have to steadily change.”

Similar assertions rang like positive chimes through dozens of other conversations. Abhishek Verma, 25, an MCA student in Ambedkar University, Lucknow, for instance, said, “The emancipation of women is in the larger interest of society. They need more freedom, not less.”

Like these students, Pramod Kumar, a professor of history at Lucknow University, took on the easy and reductive revilement of ‘modern’ and ‘western’ culture. “It’s not modern culture but a medieval mindset that is to be blamed for rape,” he said. “The protest against rape by common people in Delhi and other places was, in fact, a product of modern culture. Earlier, we hardly ever protested. Western culture is not just about wearing jeans and short skirts. It’s about liberal values, equality, liberty, fraternity, service to mankind and the Greek values of Humanism.”

Hearteningly, these enlightened positions did not only emanate from colleges and universities. Vipul Patel, 28, an electrical goods shop owner in Udupi — a perfect foil to the chauvinistic lawyer quoted earlier from the same town — said, “As far as clothes are concerned, if women cannot tell me what to wear, how can I dictate terms to them? In Manipal, we have girls from all over roaming about in short skirts late at night. That doesn’t mean you go around harassing them sexually. I saw a placard in a newspaper that read: ‘Ask your son not to rape, instead of telling me how to dress.’ I think that’s a fair comment.”

Wonderfully, Patel’s views found a mirror in Prakash, 35, a daily wager and coconut plucker from the same town. “How can anyone hold women responsible for crimes against them? If anyone is responsible, it is the men. What women do with their lives is none of my business. I have no say in my sister’s life — she should be allowed to do what she wants with it.”

These conversations run like a redemptive stream across the country. Men and boys who spoke up to take nuanced positions, critiquing themselves, women, their upbringing and the plurality of India that enables many worlds to both collide and co-exist. Not all of them were positioned at the extreme end of total freedom for either themselves or women. Instead, they spoke rationally of freedom with responsibilities, of cultural constraints and the pragmatics of safety. What distinguished them, though, was that even their intermediary positions were thoughtful and self-critical.

‘Porn is a Rs 45,000 cr empire. Kids are heavily into this; it teaches them to look at women in a certain light’

MZ KHAN, 52 
Urdu Novelist, Ranchi

‘I knew a guy who had a small penis, and his wife told me — he would overcompensate by assaulting her’

Screenplay Writer, Mumbai

As Rak Kumar Singh, a documentary filmmaker from Manipur, said, “I hold women equally responsible as men for the segregated outlook of our society that views them as a solitary object for childbearing and sexual gratification. Unless women stand up and fight for their rights, this mindset will always prevail. Giving freedom to our women would mean providing peace and brighter opportunities for our society. But even our government — both in the state and Centre — are maleoriented bodies where women have the least right of decision making.”

Many spoke of witnessing violence in their own homes and of their resolve not to subscribe anymore to the triad idea of shame, silence and honour.

Dark as India’s societal attitudes might sometimes feel, these men are testimony to the fact that the ground has been shifting radically and imperceptibly. Santosh Desai, who with a team of 25 others have visited more than 73 towns in the past two years to conduct similar, casual dipstick conversations, says he has felt a definite new assertiveness, confidence and ambition among the young girls and women he has met on these trips. Combine that with the voices of these young men and one could begin to believe that despite every misstep— despite the lack of contemporary social reformers or enlightened government or moderate platforms for real dialogue — India is embarked on a fascinating and organic journey.

The beauty is, as Nivedita Menon says, that none of this new assertion necessarily means a complete break with the past. Rather, it is evidence that social transformations in India over the past decades have seeped to the ground level. Most of these young men and women would, in fact, be spending their salaries on looking after parents and younger siblings, and taking their responsibilities seriously, in very “Indian” ways.

OFTEN, RAPE is used as a weapon to maintain status quo, a tool for feudal, upper-caste or State oppression as the rapes in Gujarat or by the army and paramilitary jawans in Kashmir, the Northeast and Chhattisgarh. The brutal Delhi gangrape — a more plainly maniacal and criminal act — had none of those complex underpinnings of power and politics. Perhaps, as writer Arundhati Roy says, this made it easier for people to respond with horror and outrage to it, while other rapes are met with greater silence.

Even then, undeniably, it has prised open — at great and horrific cost — a crucial new space for discussion. As the white heat of its horror recedes, the only real honour we can accord the woman who died is to keep the discussion meaningfully alive.

As Aruna Roy says, the deepest feminist position one can have is a commitment to participatory dialogue. The ideas that will emerge from that lengthy process will always have greater validity and acceptance by plural cross-sections of society. The idea of equality may be non-negotiable, but the paths to it are many. If we stay committed to that process, even after the clumsy water cannons are gone and the anguished candles have died, we might still have one billion rising.

With inputs from Brijesh Pandey, Baba Umar, Aradhna Wal, Jeemon Jacob, Riyaz Wani, Soumik Mukherjee, Ratnadip Choudhury, Virendra Nath Bhatt, G Vishnu, Imran Khan, Nishita Jha and Sai Manish

ALSO READ: Indian men on women: In their own words


  • pardeep January 11, 2013 - 7:21 pm Reply

    Are we finding solutions against Rape (forced sex) or a new meaning to women liberation. So far as women liberation is concerned it is seen in metro cities like Noida and Gurgaon around NCR. No body is denying their right to wear, move or to keep sexual relations as those are far away from their parents. Boys from other states are also enjoying their company being colleagues. One may find such couples in all the markets and malls. Those should not talk of those girls who are happy with their family and relatives though themselves not working. Rapes are committed even by colleagues of these free from homes girls but are not given any importance as there is always one boy who accept the girl. Otherwise also girls of modern times do not attach more importance to being virgin and nor modern boys. The call should be the person who rapes should be brought to book if reported by the victim.

    • elokeshi January 12, 2013 - 1:48 am Reply

      Dear Pardeep, I agree with you that we should only talk about “solutions to rape” i.e better security for women. However, everytime there is a crime against women, people like Asaram talk about loose women. So obviously the two ideas of solution to rape and discussions on the women’s place in society are intermingled.
      You are also mixing “being raped” with “not being a virgin”. Surely you understand that a girl who enjoys sex with her boyfriend does not wish to be raped by strangers? Or do you think if a non-virgin girl is raped, its not a big deal? Also, this girl in Delhi, was not far from home – her parents were in Delhi. She went to see a movie with a male friend. Most of us who are working or are students, have seen a evening show and gone home. And I went to college 25 years back. Do you believe she deserved to be raped for this? I am just curious to know what you think. Since I do not know any men like you, growing up very middle class in India. The father of my children also took me for evening shows – Jo jeeta wohi sikander , and subsequently “accepted” to marry a girl like me (who goes to movies with a man). Do you think that was a mistake?

      • Parijat February 15, 2013 - 2:53 am Reply

        Hi Elokeshi, I don’t see any direction in Pardeep’s comment. I read it multiple times but frankly can’t make any sense of it at all.. I wonder how you managed to frame a reply to it 🙂

  • suhail mohammad January 11, 2013 - 10:34 pm Reply

    liberal also needs to understand when they say what they think/and feel is truth and every other opinion is foolish, lame and obviously false,what difference they have from the politicians or the religious fanatics?

    Here loud mouth TV pundits sits in Delhi or Mumbai talks on behalf of the whole nation, you need to understand that they the Jammat the Ashram the VHP the RSS and other all have tremendous following (loud mouth TV pundits TRP figure will be laughable) before you start to ridicule them on national television people watching these channels know the double standards you guys have when it comes to your interest.

    Shiney Ahuja was a rape accused do the film industry (shabana Azmi) wants him killed or amputated? where was everybody(in black) when one from their industry raped women?

    when the zee tv reporters black mailed businessmen i haven’t seen these so called intellectuals debating it on 9 clock

    Radia Tapes? Salman Khan running over roadside dwellers?

    oh i get it they wont come on your tv if you say bad(truth) about them!!!!

    now stop being holier than thou and clean up your acts then talk

    • furiouslysleepy January 12, 2013 - 12:50 pm Reply

      Let us judge argument based on the evidence in their favor rather than the certainty by which they are said. I think people who claim the Earth is flat are stupid and wrong, but that doesn’t make my opinion as bad as their’s.

      Moving on to “double standards”, I don’t think anyone is lumping Tehelka and Salman Khan together as the same “liberal media”. I don’t know if you remember, but the same “liberal media” publicized the Salman Khan issue and demanded justice. Similar to the many rape cases in India, that too was a failure of justice.

      I mean, ultimately, if your argument is “an actor raped his maid, so no journalist can demand punishment for rape anywhere” — that’s a pretty bad argument.

  • furiouslysleepy January 12, 2013 - 12:51 pm Reply

    I would love one of these looking at attitudes of Indian women as well, since they do make up half the country after all.

    • whoever January 21, 2013 - 2:00 am Reply

      So true. Personally, I think it’s a mistake we often make to focus on these views of rape as lying with men. Women hold them as well, having learned them from their own mothers and grandmothers, and pass these views onto their daughters. And their sons.

    • PJ January 24, 2013 - 1:56 am Reply

      They make up much less than half the country. That’s the problem.

  • Ivan David January 12, 2013 - 2:02 pm Reply

    “How can a society articulate — and enforce — desired values for itself if there is a foundational disagreement over what those values should be?”

    Absolutely chilling. Thank you for articulating your research so well. Someday, we’ll learn to look within, and not find the closest, most-convenient way out – blame.

  • Vande Matram January 12, 2013 - 5:46 pm Reply

    it’s amazing that Shoma on one hand wants men to practice half of Islam that is purdah of the eye and leave out the other half that is women themselves preserving their dignity.

    With all due respect and not blaming women for any of that which has occurred; You can only get results if you practice something in it’s entirety.

    If humans and more importantly men could only control themselves despite the temptations then half of the world would not be suffering from diabetes 🙂

    • prateek February 5, 2013 - 2:22 am Reply

      yeah, but diabetes affects only the greedy man in question, unlike rape, by which he violates another human being. for the sake of argument lets accept your point that it is ‘up to a woman to preserve her ‘dignity, blah blah’, but how does a breach on this count justify violence of one human over another? But then, maybe in your view a woman is not quite a human being?

    • Ramkhilavan February 15, 2013 - 3:28 am Reply

      Giving in to temptation is not your problem Green Devil!
      If men weren’t attracted to women and vice-versa, the human race wouldn’t propagate. You only need to remember that the girl you’re looking at is a person just like you, and deserves as much respect as you think you do.
      Bottom line: Look at girls, get attracted and get tempted by all means; but as soon as you feel your temptation might disturb a fellow human being, consult your right hand.

  • vivek January 13, 2013 - 4:56 pm Reply

    i am an engineering student.one of my friends who has multiple girlfriends also feels that girls are stupid and can be fooled easily for getting into relationships.

  • Mallika January 13, 2013 - 6:42 pm Reply

    This article is well balanced and brings together the fractal voices of India today. The question is not just about ‘rape solution’ as mentioned by Pradeep but a general change away from the idea of women as a property.

    It is easy to see the thought process behind some of the comments such as the auto rickshaw drivers. It is the doctrine that he was brought up by and has see in his lifetime. It is is horizon. What we need is more exposure and a simple understanding of all human kind the difference in behaviours between human and animals

    We are all equal beings in this world. Nothing makes one caste/ religion/ sex better than the other. Till this understanding is a given. Nothing can change.

    • Ramkhilavan February 15, 2013 - 3:06 am Reply

      I don’t quite agree with the rickshaw driver doctrine. It is not temptation that leads to rape. It’s rather the confidence of getting away with it. Say that rickshaw driver makes a trip to the USA and sees girls in bikinis, would he not be tempted? He definitely would. Would he dare make them uncomfortable? No way! He knows he’ll go to jail if he does.

  • Mina Khan January 13, 2013 - 8:29 pm Reply

    Sad, yet so true. Self-responsibility, treating a woman as a human who feels pain, fear, joy, hope, being civilized in the true sense…is not too much to ask for.

  • vinod January 13, 2013 - 10:57 pm Reply

    I think you dont have gud editor who can edit or who can decide of pics should be censored of this pics (July 2004 Manipuri women protest against the army’s brutalities). please use black strip or any means cesnor it.

  • ali January 13, 2013 - 11:22 pm Reply

    Ever since this ghastly incident, there have been number of views and measures flowing in, the best i can do as a man is, to keep a check on my self. how could i take Dressing, language, style as provocation and destroys girls life soo in humanly, I never like to get sexually assaulted for such reasons. equally I find women responsible and the biggest mistake they do by remaining silent or accepting them self as weak.

  • Vedant Kulkarni January 14, 2013 - 1:25 am Reply

    In any class of our society i.e. Poor, Middle Class, Higher Middle Class & Rich from childhood onwards we had been taught that a girl’s main job is to look household work and a boy has to earn to look after every member as a superior person in the family such mentality comes from our Hippocratic society to fulfill insecurities.

    When a boy grow up and sees that girls are becoming more independent, getting higher or equivalent position in jobs, selecting partner and taking decision by own.

    We somehow does not digest it, some men finds difficult to take commands from women.

    If women back answer some men cannot tolerate and it comes to their HONOR and SELF ESTEEM.

    To fulfill his weakness, men like to attack women by RAPING her not just to get sexual pleasure but to show his strength and to prove that she is weak (Mentally it really affects on women as if she lost something which cannot be recovered) because our society teaches that she should take care of her body more than her life, family reputation will remain if she remain Virgin till she does not get married.

    This is one of the main reasons why we criticize western culture whether it comes to Live-in relationship or western outfit.

    INEQUALITY is the root cause of all problems in India and its not only comes from our mind but also reflects in all religions made by men

  • vij January 14, 2013 - 1:57 am Reply

    It all comes down to values and culture. I do not find Indian culture and parents teaching about kindness, compassion, respect, sympathy, empathy towards fellow human beings and society. India needs a massive education drive on basic things starting from words, sorry, please, thank you, good morning, good evening, have a nice day and most important smile.

  • Gunjan Arya January 14, 2013 - 7:43 am Reply

    Its good that this issue has triggered the much needed debate across the nation. But a I would like to make a gentle remark on the psychology that is driving the majority of the protesters to participation: The new urban middle class which is growing stronger and has started to reap the benefits of neo-liberal reforms wants to create a pseudo culture that imitates the west (read US) only in its consumerist form. This requires a clean and safe city in which they can carry out their rampant consumption on the scale and style of any developed country. And, they can not tolerate the wild beasts from the slums threatening their never-ending party. The anger, agitation and the strength to face the water cannons and lathis is coming from the unprecedented coverage by the corporate media whose agenda is symbiotic to the needs and demand of the urban middle class. The psychology of a section of the protesters who are politically motivated and are taking this situation to gain support and to organize the anger against patriarchy, is indeed opposite to this and is progressive at least to some extent but the limitations of their revisionist politics will do much less to attack the Brahminical patriarchy which is the characteristic of the Indian state.

    • ShreesthiMishra January 14, 2013 - 2:28 pm Reply

      Though, some can ignore to argue or agree with you, and give these statements some importance. It’s really not the time for all this. I m a small townee, History of my state has been done with much more gruesome rapes. My state is fighting Communists at its best, tribes and scheduled castes make much of my state. I can get the grip of your points. the liberties of middleclass, corporates…call what u want with your peers in some snobbish academic debate. Don’t side track the belated spark against Rape.

      • Gunjan Arya January 15, 2013 - 4:46 am Reply

        In my comment I have nowhere mentioned that this agitation is not significant and by no means I have intended to “side track” it. My only remark was on the psychology of the the majority of the protesters and I stand by that. No logical person can deny that. This is of utmost important to analyse the class character of any movement and all progressives should do whatever they can to ensure that any movement that deals with identity (be it feminist movements or dalit movements) should not gets limited to middle class issues. Numerous incidents of rape happen every year in Kashmir, North-East and Tribal areas committed by the state forces, but we do not see the middle class coming to streets in protest, and obviously the corporate media does not reports it in the “interest of the nation”. Similarly, the middle class maintains unequivocal silence over rape of dalit women, which is a norm across the length and breadth of the nation. The middle class is not even ready to question the patriarchy within the family which subjugates women to domestic violence, sexual suppression and everyday rape. THIS HAS TO CHANGE. If we are not raising these questions now or ignoring these questions, that simply means that we have no interest in overthrowing the existing social structure and at best we are just trying to make our cities safe for the consumerist urban middle class by suppressing and dehumanising the slum dwellers or the people living on the margins.

  • Shantharam Shenai January 14, 2013 - 7:56 am Reply

    Understanding the theory is crucial to comprehending the growing crisis in society of sexual harassment, rapes and worse. The human mood states are definitely affected by pollution bands ( Carbon/Nitrogen )
    ” The six main ‘vices’ of man – kaama (lust), krodha (anger), lobha (greed), mada (arrogance) moha (delusion), and matsara (jealousy) – which in turn lead to himsa (violence) are due to the consumption of food, water, and air polluted with nitrates.” ( Dr. Uday S. Bhawalkar PhD I.I.T. Bombay 1996 ) The use of CNG / LPG in urban cities to fuel autos, taxis and buses and now even private cars is suspected to be linked to deteriorating human sexual behavior. A social study of the use of these fuels and incidents of reported sexual crimes could show a correspondence, to give credence to this suggestion. All fuels in urban cities need to be ecologically cleansed before distribution for any public use. This is because they are otherwise not only polluting but hazardous to human health and behavior. Creative ‘Ecological Castration’ of male society could be a wiser approach, to avoid such heinous crimes in society, because the root cause of violent rape viz man made chemical toxicity is Eco technologically addressed. To put it simply, we need to start with correcting air & water pollution which impacts human behavior in the maximum way. Solutions beyond imagination are available.

  • Ashish Saxena January 14, 2013 - 12:25 pm Reply

    Excellent article Shoma. Congratulations for highlighting two underlying fundamental issues that our society needs to resolve. One – that our justice and police system is generally insensitive to citizen needs (and by extension women, who are even more vulnerable) and there is a deep rooted prejudice about gender role in our society. These cannot be fixed by making stricter laws and fast track courts and by shutting up the Asarams and Moulavi’s.

    Its time to refocus the agitation to a less sexy but fundamental issue that our government and administrative machinery delivers too little??

    And please replacing the congress with someone else in 2014 will not solve anything. Its time to put administrative and political reforms on the agenda. While we haven’t had enough economic reforms, but that can wait. Personally, I much rather live in a poor but well governed society than a rich and unjust one.

  • Neel January 14, 2013 - 1:25 pm Reply

    Male1 : I have slept around with 10 girls and tonight will be my 11th. Mind you I only indulge in consensual sex.
    Male2: You are a stud. (Deep down inside – Wish I could be him)

    Male1: That girl has slept around with more than 1 guy. She is a slut. She will sleep around with anyone. Who would marry her.
    Male2: Yeah!

    That tells a lot about how things are around. Bad and Sad.

  • bv January 14, 2013 - 5:04 pm Reply

    Also woman should stop harrasing man using dowry laws and putting false cases against man.. more than 90% cases are false and supreme court had said this in their verdict also..

    • Greg Allen January 14, 2013 - 7:56 pm Reply

      It’s just the opposite. Rape is _under-reported_ because of the shame on the woman.

  • Garuda January 14, 2013 - 6:40 pm Reply

    The article is excellent. But few quotes of people in-between the article are disturbing. Can people of this country first think of banning alcohol and then talk about women’s dress? or are they trying to insult men by telling that, men are not more than animals when on alcohol during night-time?

  • Greg Allan January 14, 2013 - 7:53 pm Reply

    This story could have been written about America just a few decades ago.

    It has taken two or more generations to change the laws so that men are held accountable for their sexual abuse and not blame the woman or girl.

    The legal change happened because of a widespread change in attitude. The change started with women but eventually men began to have a sense of personal honor, integrity and responsibility.

    Boys have to be taught, from a very young age, they the attractiveness of a girl is no exuse for harassmant, rape or other sexual abuse.

    “She made me do it” attitudes needs to be banned from the media by public pressure.

    It’s not perfect in Ameria. There are still many many who use women to excuse their lack of character and morals but things have gotten better over here. I believe in can in India, as well.

    • S January 25, 2013 - 4:19 pm Reply

      This gives me hope. Thank you.

  • michael sandoval January 15, 2013 - 8:34 am Reply

    ISKCON (hare krishnas) and its founder Bhaktivedanta Swami proclaims in his books that “women like rape” and are “less intelligent than men” and are “nine times more lusty than men”

  • kalpana January 15, 2013 - 10:51 pm Reply

    A simple question to all the men who supports the rape or hold women responsible: Even if women are Loose character as they are out in smaller dresses, what make them (men) loose character to do this heinous crime?

  • Meelya January 16, 2013 - 3:48 pm Reply

    What a shame that those killers of small children in the USA via mass shootings can’t take out their rage on some of these despicable animals in India!! Perhaps every Indian woman should be given a gun for personal protection. India you are an absolute disgrace!!! Superpower of the future??? I think not. Hell hole of the world is more like it.

  • Samanth January 17, 2013 - 1:32 am Reply

    Thanks for the article, it was very pleasing to at last read of some sane voices out there, however, the difficulty of the task ahead is very clear given the mindset of the people spoken with and the larger mass per se where men are equated to animals and in one instance a can of petrol, showing that they are devoid of any moral obligation or responsibility let alone empathy towards another individual, and putting the responsibility and blame of the horror on the victim.
    That said, cynicism and rhetoric as represented by some of the religious heads and the political class in general will hamper progress in the manner which this article wishes to happen. Change does happen in India gradually, but as in nature, sometimes it can be quite rapid in pace and magnitude, hopefully, this will prove a tipping point in a lot of ways

  • whoever January 21, 2013 - 2:24 am Reply

    Until men take responsibility for their own behavior, which if they are the superior, intelligent, and rational creatures they claim to be should not be such a challenge, the truth is women who are free to move about in public will be raped publicly (by boyfriends, acquaintances or strangers) while women who are cloistered in private will be raped privately (by uncles, husbands or other relatives). If men are the depraved, animalistic, impulse driven beasts these widespread victim-blaming views suggest they are, and they are unable to separate their behaviors from even the most primal, anti-social emotions, then surely they should advocating for governing by women. As it seems it is with women that the responsibility for civilized society lies, it would be logical that they should then have the power to implement and enforce civility.

    The bottom line is that boys need to be raised to take responsibility for themselves and their own behavior and to never take physical advantage of anyone (male or female, young or old, human or animal). Absent this, you will never have a civilized society but rather a simple gathering of thugs.

  • anonymous January 24, 2013 - 3:23 am Reply

    The bottomline is this- The psyche in a patriarchal society is always heavily tilted towards boys/men. This is not going to change in South Asia or anywhere else in the world. Journalists like Shoma live in a closeted world of their own with western ideas.

  • Surender Pruthi January 27, 2013 - 6:20 pm Reply

    The outrage against the Delhi rape highlights one particular aspect and that is the lamentable low regards for the women independence or choices of the life that she wants to live with.Societal prejudices,attitudes or mind-sets need to be changed/altered/amended as per the respect for that individual’s wish.They should be friendly or advisory in nature rather than being imposing and dictating the lives to be lived in accordance with.Enforce the law strictly and you would see the impact very soon.But,allow all the individuals to live with the rights of security,safety,dignity and decency.

  • Anurag Saikia January 27, 2013 - 8:58 pm Reply

    Rape and how men see it? Really?
    Was I questioned before you wrote this? How can you generalize based on comments made by a certain section of males?

    Dear Author, please keep your judgmental opinions to yourself instead of sharing them on this public forum.

  • How does it matter January 28, 2013 - 7:21 pm Reply

    Shoma, I am very impressed by your survey and the different perspectives you have managed to bring out. Of course how much ever you try you’ll be critised because of the you-have-to-choose-a-side syndrome or you’re-with-us-or-against-us syndrome that plagues most people in society. The result being that the fact that your effort to say that ‘there is no monolothic masculine perspective on rape in India’ goes unnoticed. The those who over-look this would fall into the category of ‘rape-is-a-woman’s-fault’ believers. Anyway, let me share a recent experience with you. Two days ago I was travelling in an auto with a friend in the evening at 8pm. A group of young boys in a Santro car DL 3C BS 2581 halted next to the auto we had taken at the traffic signal. They looked at us and laughed and looked at us and laughed. Then they rolled down their windows and played the Kareena Kapoor-Fevicol song at a volume meant for at least the entire traffic at the signal to hear. Needless to say that the behaviour was unprovoked (unless some want to say that being in an auto at 8pm in Delhi with another girl is by itself a provocation). I want to share the optimism that after so much has happened in the city such behavious will change; I am saddened and angered by instances where my optimism is trampled upon.

  • Sherieff January 29, 2013 - 10:38 am Reply

    Suyvey is fine.

    But to stop this crime against Humanity is not only writing and reading the good article.

    The Capital punishment is the only way to stop this ugly crime.
    1) Death peanlty for the Rapist.
    2) One part of his wealth shall be given to the victim.
    3) If he do not have wealth The Govenment shall compensate the Girl and for her marriage(if she is unmarried)

    If any ministers daughter was a victime; then this law would have immediately ammended in Parilment next day of such incident.

  • Rajesh Punwani February 5, 2013 - 12:07 pm Reply

    Rape is more a social issue then crimanal issue execption like Delhi Gang Rape deservers death most of Indian rapes are incest so its both men and women to guide younger generation to keep balance in oriential way of life and western influence major deamging factor is breakup of joint family system two women cannot live with each other in india women are women s biggest enemy they say right

  • sneha banerjee February 6, 2013 - 7:26 pm Reply

    Well written as usual Shoma. I am scared to discuss this issue with the concept of women’s rights and dressing sense with the men in my family. I am scared that they too might end up having the same attitude!

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  • samay February 20, 2013 - 4:21 pm Reply

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  • Mri March 11, 2013 - 5:40 pm Reply

    One thing is clear, Reading the data from different states, Women blaming is rampant in the northern part of the country. Serious mind set change is required in states like Haryana, UP, Punjab and so forth

  • bhikhari April 4, 2013 - 4:15 am Reply

    It is a part of social construct, in which you as a boy is not even taught to fetch a glass of water or obey any one of your female relatives in family. North India certainly is a much different place where it is forbidden for men to do any work.

    But region wise we all are same we do not respect women

  • Natasha August 23, 2013 - 9:27 pm Reply

    The earlier part consisted of what Indian men think about women, they are probably uneducated and have in raised in gender biased environment where women are seen as inferior to men. Clothes are blamed, but what when a 5yr old is raped? does she wear sultry clothes too? Saudi Arabia has no rapes not because of the factor stated but also because of the stringent punishment in that place. Only women have to control themselves? have to control their sexuality? what about men? remarks like where there is dry grass and petrol, grass ought to catch fire, makes no sense. You wear a saree, salwar or a skirt the person will rape you if he wants to. The person who wants to control will control. We need to get to the roots, how are we brought up? what lessons are we given about women when we are kids. How does society look upon a girl who is raped? is she encouraged to live freely or is she constantly reminded of the fact that she was raped. Its so scary. Its scary to be a girl and to live in 21st century.

  • Kiran Keefe Saldanha August 26, 2013 - 12:08 am Reply

    Psychologically speaking most rapists derive pleasure not from the act of intercourse itself but rather the act of force on their victims. I’m inclined to believe that if encountered in such a situation, faking promiscuity can throw these kind of rapists off. Some may even completely lose interest, and for others it’s a better idea to do this as once their pants are down to their knees well, be creative, it’s easier to get away. I have no way of saying if this will work practically but theoretically it should.

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