Perhaps I'm not being fair. I have male friends who say they wouldn't care if a girl had sex before marriage. Clearly I have dated some. No doubt many educated, urbane Indian men are more evolved. Perhaps even some of the boys and men who are disgusted by the mistreatment of women and who gallantly go to Ramlila Maidan demonstrations or stand outside the hospital after such attacks, because they are truly angry at the patriarchy and violence women face, would have no problem to love and cherish a victim of such hate.
That is a nice thought to have. Yes, Vikram would. So would Amir, GK, Rohit, maybe even Anil.
A nice thought, maybe, but not the real issue. Whether I am soiled goods or not is just a branch off the tree of disregard.
The tyranny of tradition
"In countries like India, female infanticide is perpetuated by a fierce social pressure that favours boys. But what drives otherwise-decent people to suffocate or drown newborn girls? Simply put, girls are often an unbearable burden."
(The Lancet 2/2011)
Women in India are routinely asked to give their husband or father's name on forms and applications - whether it be official tax forms, bank applications, a doctor's office registration, even resident association membership forms - underlining the inference that women are not individuals of equal status to men, but the possession or wards of men.
CRADLE TO GRAVE
Many Indian women are trapped in the
"It's a miracle a woman survives in India. Even before she is born, she is at risk of being aborted. As a child, she faces abuse, rape and early marriage and even when she marries, she is killed for dowry. If she survives all of this, as a widow she is discriminated against and given no rights over inheritance or property." Read more
The roots of misogyny go much deeper.
Overheard conversation between two middle aged women on the edge of the protest ground:
"Congratulations! I hear your daughter has had a baby. You must be so pleased - finally a boy in the family!"
Seeing the pretend puzzlement that was hiding her friend's disgust, the woman backtracked and added, "I mean with the way girls are treated now, it's just not safe for them anymore! At least with a boy you can breathe easy." Take the phrase so many journalists love to haul out, "India's violence against women starts in the womb," because we have record numbers of female foeticide and infanticide in this country. But even that is just another branch off the tree of disregard. The reasons for rating boys more than girls - and let's not pretend that even some of the well-meaning demonstrators don't do the same - goes deeper, doesn't it?
Of course there are hierarchies: a poor man is inferior to a rich woman and might think twice about using or abusing her. He might. But the same can not be said for the rich woman's husband/brother/father/lover/son. The most pitiful is the poor woman who might lash out at another poor woman: her daughter or daughter-in-law, who might lash out at a child, who might lash out at an animal. The problem with inequality is its justification in perpetuity for lashing out on those deemed inferior - the cycle of violence never ends. It is shockingly simple: in India, and beyond - for this is not only an Indian problem - most men, though not all, and even many women, see women as inferior to men: girls are disregarded as a problem or liability at best and at worst they are chattel to be used and abused like animals.
TO BE USED
Artist: Siddharth Sarathi
Of course not everyone who believes animals are inferior to humans goes around kicking dogs, strangling cats or buggering sheep. But for those whose response to frustration or unsated desire is physical violence on top of a deep disregard for women, presto, you have potential rapists. A lot of them. And that is the rotten core. I don't even want to excavate through the putrid decay, the stinking, scummy roots to get to the bottom of it. Your guess is probably better than mine. I'm in no state to be rational.
I mean, if you want me to go on, then I ask you, will death sentences for rapists really stop rapes? Are the boys and men of India who rape women and little girls even aware of their legal consequences? Hanging them might deter them if they ever thought they would get caught, but for many rapists in India it doesn't even occur to them what they are doing is wrong: because women are inferior to them, chattel to be used, abused and discarded. And because many women believe the same thing, rape rarely gets reported and when it does it's often not taken seriously and prosecution rates are extremely low. Campaigning for the death sentence, though it might offer the relief of revenge, is like trying to cut the branches of a poisonous tree: it will only die by killing the roots. But I ask you, will killing rapists or chemically castrating them, those who are caught, really clean out that putrid decay?
Sorry. I'm being operated on, so blood and guts are on my mind. I keep trying not to think about the operation. Because I will be fine, right? Just fine.