Scared for Tomorrow

I feel a slow fear burning up my insides.

I am scared.

Of being sexually harassed on the dimly lit streets of my city and the brimming-with-anonymous-hands public spaces of my country?

Well, that too. That is a familiar fear – I have known that one ever since I was old enough to understand what it is to feel violated, and it is now an invisible fifth limb.

But this week, I am scared anew.

Of the voices I have heard this fortnight.

These voices, I am told, are of the common man of this country.

The common man of this country wants a ‘martyr’ to inspire him. Made forcibly of a young woman who wanted only to live.

The common woman of this country cries for death by hanging to rapists – in public view.

The common angry person of this country bays for chemical castration of rapists.

The common angry youngster of this country feels entitled to instant action, instant punishment, instant justice, instant change – a magic wand in each hand – and NOW!

The common voice shouts for ‘justice’ – in the form of ‘revenge’ to ‘satisfy’ the victim and ‘quench’ her family’s rage.

The common citizen of this country thinks it is okay to hold democracy at gun-point and extract laws that he fancies – with no debate, with no patient thought, with no disagreement. Whether it is the Lokpal bill or death/castration for rapists.

And the pointless government of this country thinks it fit to let the lowest common denominator of ‘impassioned’, ‘angry’, ‘popular opinion’ to dictate what laws it proposes to walk the country by – for years to come.

Today, it has come to this : The government mulls adding a provision for chemical castration as a punishment for rapists.

Hence legitimizing the myth that rape is a sexual crime – not a crime of oppression, a weapon of power, and a deliberate act of brutality just like every other act of brutality.

Thus encouraging more ‘intelligent’, ‘well-meaning’ people (who have mothers, sisters, and daughters) to come out and dole out ‘advice’ about how a woman should take care not to ‘provoke’ the sexually-overactive, hormonal-imbalanced, neurologically mis-wired men with unmanageable libidos and out-of-control hands and penises – for her own good!

And reinforcing the idea of gendered, sexualised ‘honor’ – virginity/chastity is to women what ‘manhood’ is to men. Looting a woman of her virginity/ ‘chastity’ and a man of his ‘manhood’ is the highest form of punishment!

So, once chemically castrated, would violations of women’s/children’s bodies by such perverts be ‘accidents’ ‘misinterpreted’ because they are biologically not capable of being ‘sexual’? Well, that is what many of our ‘educated’ policemen, lawyers and judges would argue.!

Where is the rational thought?

Where is the Ahmisa of our Gandhi-led society?

If this, really is the voice of the average Indian..

I am scared for my tomorrow.

Very scared.

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15 thoughts on “Scared for Tomorrow

  1. I didn’t get you at all.
    There are long term and short term goals to get rid of the problem.
    Short term – Making stringent laws. Long term – changing the mindset.
    If you have followed television, there was an initial anger. It is very understandable but now there are people who are coming up with solutions. Believe me it is not as bad as you think.
    There is nothing like a quick fix as far as laws go and we all know that. The problem is that the politicians are not even acknowledging that they are working towards the solutions. That is what is fueling the anger.

    • 1) What CGirl is trying to say is that as long as we see rape as just & “only” a sexual offence and not as a any other form of causing harm by physical and psychological means,we will always have a narrow minded view of it and the punishment(if that is what is technically correct) that we give to the aggressor will again be only on the sexual context of the crime.
      2) As long as people keep insisting that rape is caused only by women who dress/talk/behave what the average Indian(male or female) says is inviting rape,then our understating of the crime and the relevant punishment and the oppression of women will always be in the side-line
      3) There is not short-term and long term solution.
      4) Now and initially,nobody has a proper,actual,logical,legally correct solution because nobody understands the problem in the first place(many of us think that there’s no problem in the first place)
      5) So the rage is fueled because the politician are not doing anything?that just about sums up your understanding,

      No offence. Peace

      • “So the rage is fueled because the politician are not doing anything?”
        Exactly!

        Where is the introspection? If it did not come cos of emotions and shock for the first week, it should have come by now! I notice none.

        Who will give justice? The government? The judiciary? Is justice equal to imprisoning for life, or putting to death, the culprits? Stringent laws with nobody to implement them? There can be no justice in this case – only social change – and that can’t be ‘demanded’ or ‘given’ or ‘assured’.

    • Well, I have been following television – albeit a bit delayed – online. And that is precisely what gives me this fear. All the sane & sensible voices I hear are from people who have much experience in the field – activists, researchers, people of law. The ‘common man’s’ reaction – whether on the roads or on debate shows, seems to echo anger, angst, emotional demands, rhetoric, and ugly ideas regarding punishment & justice.

      Forget the short-term/long-term solutions, their efficacy, apathy of politicians – all that is known, and expected. What I did not expect, and can not digest is the fickleness of the ‘aam aadmi’ reaction.

      I may be wrong – I would love to be – but that is what I saw and heard during the past two weeks. People professing that it would give them peace to see rapists hang to death, ‘with his eyes popping out and all’ [that’s a quote]; people arguing that castration would prevent a rapist from raping again, and act as a deterrent; people somehow believing that the government can (short term or long term) stop rapes altogether and give them, on a platter, a safe Delhi for women.

      And that kind of short-sighted and violent mind-set being far more widespread than that of the ‘street harassment/rapist-mindset’ scares me.

      • I sent you an email on the reactions in Norway to the terrorist-attacks. Sure, if you think a rewrite of that email could become a worthwhile blog-post we can totally do that.

        It’s unrelated to rape, to women and to India — but it’s strongly related to how what alternatives there are to violence and anger as a response to outrageous crimes.

  2. Not even “the common man”. I’m scared too. I’ve been reading the fallout primarily on feminist Indian blogs. The people commenting there are on the average young, educated, often female, and have spent considerable *more* time than the average person thinking about these things.

    Yet what are the reactions ?

    Castration. Death-Penalty ! Name & Shame accused ! Remove the cornerstone of law that says “Innocent until proven otherwise”. Mob justice. Public hanging.

    It’s understandable that people are angry – but that’s no excuse for turning the brain off. Yes, by all means, have a fair trail, punish the guilty – by the laws that existed at the time they comitted the crime. That’s obvious, but it doesn’t really change anything.

    95%+ of all rapes in India are never reported to the police at all.

    The huge majority of minor sexual assaults (and many of the major) never have any consequences whatsoever. Even *judges* think that wheter a woman drank alcohol or wore a miniskirt is relevant in a rape case.

    How many of the people protesting these days – even unconditionally accepts a womans right to say YES or NO *precisely* when and where she wants to – regardless of if she’s wearing a burqa or is nude, and regardless of if she’s had zero or ten drinks and if she’s had zero or a hundred lovers before ?

    • Nod to *every* word you have written.

      There is no such thing as ‘righteous’ anger – and even if there is, it doesn’t justify switching brains off!

      If anything, I think the reactions have shown us who of these ‘intellectuals’ – whether celebrity, political or blogger – are really capable of open-minded, deep, objective thought.

      • I still think it’s a sign of progress that people are angry at all.

        It is depressing that the anger is so frequently unconstructive, and that people have such a complete lack of understanding for even basic aspects of law. But this lack of understanding ain’t new – it was always there, it just becomes visible trough the angered statements.

        Lots of Norwegians called for death-penalty for the guy who shot and killed 89 young people in Norway 2 years ago too – and displayed that they knew nothing about law: not even the basic fact that people are judged by the laws in effect at the time of the crime. (and not by laws created after-the-fact)

        What seems lacking, though, is a genuine feminist movement with credibility, and enough of a voice to be able to say: “We understand that you’re angry – here’s what we can do to get less of these horrible crimes..” and in this way help direct and shape the emotions to become something constructive.

        Luckily, we *had* such a movement after the mass-shootings 2 years ago, I’m not sure if I told you about it, if I didn’t and you’re interested, say *beep* and I will.

      • Forget anger, law, justice, social change, progress, the practical, the ideal.. If anger, righteous or not, is putting violent thoughts and cravings into my head which do not fade off even after the hormones, heart-rate and blood pressure settle down, there is something fundamentally wrong with me. And if there is something so fundamentally wrong with a large chunk of a society, that society is a fertile breeding ground for escalated levels of violence! That is regression hiding in plain sight right there.. where is the progress?

        About the norwegian movement.. of course.. I’m all ears.
        Would you like to do a guest post on that? 🙂

  3. I was tempted to question on many a blog about how do people expect the government to provide security in the darkest and smallest of lanes of any city. And how can the government prevent gender-related crimes that happen inside homes ? Can the government change the mindset of the society ?

    Okay, some of the things what the government actually can do is :
    1. Strengthen policing and law enforcement so that at least incidents such as the recent one cannot occur.
    2. Provide for the speedy trials and judgments of cases.

    But apart from steps such as these, there’s not much any government can do to stop an evil creature from being evil. Because it’s in his mindset.

    Molestations happened even in the crowds of protestors recently. And continue to happen inside crowded buses and metro-train-coaches. Can we have a policeman to police and protect each individual ?

    And believe me, there are people now who don’t even care about facing death. Would a death-sentence deter such people ? And what purpose would a death sentence solve after a crime has been done ? As you said, there cannot be any justice in such cases.

    What is necessary is all those people who are outraged and really care about this issue should start acting whenever and wherever they see an incident happening instead of watching quietly, thinking – that’s not my mother/sister/friend/wife; so why should I bother ?

    • Speedy trials & judgements – absolutely. And fill up the vacancies in the judiciary. And at least get started on police reforms. – All so that the systemic apathy in the ‘protectors’ is reduced.
      I too don’t see what more a government can do – in the short term. And whether the government campaigning alone can bring about the required social change.

      And I can’t understand one thing – I don’t hold it against the ‘public’ for emotional, rhetoric, knee-jerk reactions and not thinking objectively.. but why isn’t the ‘public’ listening to and learning from the many sane & sensible voices that are scattered across the media voice? If nobody is ready to even listen, how is change going to come about? Beats me!

      And I have major doubts whether most of the ‘public’ count ‘minor’ stuff like molestation, sexist comments etc worth standing up to. There seem to be hundreds of definitions of ‘women’s rights’, ‘gender equality’, and ‘feminism’ in practice.

  4. Pingback: Indian Women’s New Beginning… « A Message To India

  5. The path to hell is paved with good intentions. There is no truer saying than that.

    A couple of days ago, I was at a dinner party, and as has become rather common in recent days, the conversation veered towards the gang rape. People expressed their dismay and shock, and it wasn’t long before one of my husband’s friends, (who is an SVP for Human Resources, no less, at a European firm I won’t name) presented the view that the criminals in this case should be physically castrated and then shot in full public view, in order to send a message. This idea was met with general approval, although I noticed a few people squirming uncomfortably and shaking their heads in solidarity with the likes of me and the hubby.

    I said nothing, although I feel I should have. I’m personally very uncomfortable with this brand of justice. It goes against every instinct I have, not just as a lawyer, but as a human being. The only part of this I’ve been genuinely happy about was the father finding it in him to name the daughter who had done nothing wrong whatsoever, and a fair number of people applauding him for it.

    I live in Delhi, I’ve seen both the anger and the daily insecurities which provoke it at close hand. I get it, to some extent. But I don’t, really. Maybe I’m getting old, but I’m just a wee bit tired of the oh-so-intense OUTRAGE in CAPITAL LETTERS that these things generate. Outrage against what? Against the police? Against lawmakers for not making the death penalty applicable to rape? Against ‘society’? I know most people out there have only good intentions in their hearts. They mean well. But at what point do we stop saying “I understand”, and start calling out all the hooey that seems to be floating around?
    Must we sacrifice all trace of civilization to the altar of righteous rage? Must we all raise toasts to middle-ages style retributive justice?

    Putting a rapist in prison isn’t ‘justice’. At best, it’s merely saving people from further injustice. Justice is when innocent people don’t have to suffer at the hands of rapists and murderers.

    It’s not legal ignorance that bothers me. It’s the lack of common humanity. That penchant for violence produces far more rapists than any ‘stringent’ law can ever remove.

    • ‘Lack of humanity’ – precisely what bothers me!

      What saddens me most is that while the voice of the sort-of vigilante is booming so loud, that of people like us who squirm with discomfort at all these calls for ‘justice’ is rather feeble. It is perhaps because we lack the inherent aggression that they are so full of. Makes me wonder if we can ever make ourselves heard.

      Tired with the OUTRAGE cycles? Me too, me too.. and I refuse to think it may be because of ageing.. may be because of ‘growing up’? 😉

      And yeah.. welcome to this blog. 🙂

      • The ultimate dilemma of the moderate. 🙂

        To be heard over the extremist din, must we speak so loud as to lose our own moderate-ness?

        Perhaps we must.

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