Until our culture learns to respect women, rapes will continue

Last Updated: Wed, Dec 26, 2012 12:44 hrs

It’s a jungle out there.

And in a jungle, as we all know, might is right.

Under our thin veneer of civilization, man still remains a predator, preying upon the weak, the helpless, the vulnerable: usually women and children.  

Rape as we know it has been around before the first Neanderthal man walked the Earth. The ‘brutal’ ‘(can rape ever be gentle?) rape in Delhi is proof -- if proof was really needed -- that cavemen still stalk our planet, civil society and its laws be damned.

From 80 year old grandmothers to infants learning to walk, everyone's fair game for these savages in human attire.

Calling them animals would be unfair, because animals rarely brutalize their own offspring.

"Anger rises as raped girl sinks," screamed the front page of the Times of India on Thursday, four days after the rape aboard a bus as it moved through the capital’s streets.

"Shop owner arrested for raping 14-year-old in Bangalore," and "17 minors raped in 8 months"  were two other headlines on that page.

Headlines like "Woman raped in police station", "Robbers rape mother, daughter" or even "Inspector rapes gang-rape victim" are routinely tucked away in the city pages of the dailies, which usually prefer to put the antics of politicians and big business on their front pages.  

Does anyone even remember the rape of a young girl aboard a Mumbai local train as other passengers watched?

And what does one do when our lawmakers break the law? Who will police the UP sub-inspector who raped a rape victim he was supposedly protecting?  

I recall five men of the elite President's bodyguard being convicted some time ago of raping a schoolgirl.  

I also recall an article titled "Rape: New York even worse than Delhi" which argued that New Delhi fared better on the rape index than metros like Los Angeles and nations like Brussels and France.

"Never mind what Delhi's apocalyptic news media says. The real question is this: what's keeping a city of poor, jealous, sexually-frustrated young men from unleashing their aggressions and turning Delhi into Gotham City?" the article quotes a Delhi-based American author as asking.  

That’s small consolation for me.

As the father of a 11-year-old daughter, I have argued that rapists and child molesters should be brutally tortured in public before being literally thrown to the dogs.

I had even suggested that those convicted be put in a cage at the local zoo with gorillas in heat. Stapling their testicles to their ears before performing a lobotomy without anesthesia seem like perfectly valid responses.  

Yet would even all that and more bring closure to the victim and her family, who have to deal with the scars and the stigma for the rest of their lives?  

Demands for better policing, stricter laws, harsher punishment, while necessary, address the issue from the wrong end. Yes, punishment for those caught must be swift and exemplary, something our present system does not allow.

But those expecting even a sympathetic hearing from the government shouldn’t hold their breath. Our lawmakers are too busy raping the nation to pay attention to a mere rape on a bus.

Our new home minister, Sushil Kumar Shinde, said as much when he asked: “When 100 Adivasis are killed in Gadchiroli, should the government go there?”  

Respect, like charity, begins at home.

Sex determination tests are prohibited in our land because of the abominable and widespread practice of female foeticide, which has led to dangerously skewed gender ratios, particularly in the states bordering the capital.  

How much respect for women can one expect from a society which rejects girls before they are born?

How much respect for women can we expect from a culture where women have traditionally been seen as property, to be used and abused at will? Where molesting women aboard buses, trains, cars and on the streets is a daily occurrence, almost a birthright of our mighty males?

Well, apparently a lot.

The good news is that a lot of the young protesters demanding action and accountability in Delhi are men.

The good news is that people like Bishnu Shrestha -- a Gurkha who fought off 40 robbers armed with cleavers and knives to protect the dignity of a girl they tried to molest aboard a train in September 2010 -- also exist.

"I prevented her from being raped, thinking of her as my own sister," said the soldier, who killed three of the robbers before the others fled.

But until each and every one of us starts thinking that way, men, alas, will continue to be men.

And the meek shall inherit the dearth.  

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Ramananda Sengupta is a senior editor and strategic analyst

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