Opinion | In India's gang rape culture, all women are victims (2023)

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Opinion | In India's gang rape culture, all women are victims (1)

run throughVidya Krishnan

Mrs. Krishnan is an Indian journalist specializing in health issues and author of The Phantom Plague: How TB Shaped History.

GOA, India - My niece was 4 years old when she first asked my sister-in-law about the gang rape in a packed movie theater in Mumbai.

We watch the latest Bollywood blockbuster about the lynching of justice, nationalistic fervor and, of course, gang rape. Four male characters grab onto the protagonist's sister and drag her away. “Where are they taking Didi?” my niece asked, using the Hindi word for sister. It was dark, but I could still make out her small forehead, frowning in concern.

Didi's gang rape happens off screen, but doesn't have to be shown. Just as a newborn fawn instinctively senses a fox's mortal danger, a young girl in India senses a man's abilities.

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You may be thinking, "Why are you taking a 4-year-old to a movie like this?" But rape culture in India is inescapable; sexual terrorism is seen as the norm. Social and government institutions often excuse men and protect them from the consequences of sexual violence. Women are blamed for being assaulted and are expected to sacrifice freedom and opportunity for physical safety. This culture pollutes public life - in film and television; in the bedroom, where women's sexual consent is unknown; in locker room conversations, from which young boys learn the language of rape. India's favorite dirty word is having sex with women without their consent.

As far as I know, gang rape affects Indian women the most. You've probably heard of many gruesome stories of women who were gang raped, disemboweled, etc. who died. When an event gains national attention, anger boils over and women sometimes stage protests that are quickly over. All Indian women are victims, everyone is traumatized, angry, betrayed and exhausted. Many of us think about gang rape more than we care to admit.

In 2011, a woman was rapedevery 20 minutesIn India, according to government data. speed up toapproximately every 16 minutesMore than 31,000 rapes will be reported by 2021, a 20 percent increase from the previous year. 2021,2.200The gang rape was reported to the authorities.

But these bizarre numbers only tell part of the story:77% of Indian womenPeople who have experienced physical or sexual violence never tell anyone, according to a study.prosecutions are rare.

Indian man canfacing persecutionbecause they are Muslims, dalits (untouchables) or ethnic minorities or forwilling to challengecorrupt power. Indian women suffer because they are women. Soldiers must believe that war does not kill them, only bad luck; Indian women need to feel the same way about rape and trust that we will be safely back in the barracks every night in order to function properly.

Report on violence against women in Indiahas increased (has increased steadilyFor decades withsome researchersVictims are coming forward more and more. Each rape desensitizes society and prepares it for the next rape, evil becomes banal.

Gang rape is used as a weapon, especially against lower castes and Muslims. The first example that women my age can remember is 1980, when Phoolan Devi, a low-caste teenager who fell into a gang,Said she was kidnapped and raped multiple timesLaunched by a group of high caste attackers. She later returned with members of her gang, who killed 22 men, mostly upper caste men. This is a rare example of brutal female revenge. Without bloody revenge, her rape might never have made headlines.

Ms. Devi focused on caste apartheid. The suffering of Bilkees Bano – the quintessential gang rape survivor of our generation – highlights the intense hatred of Muslim women in the Indian establishment under Hindu nationalist Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

In 2002, brutal violence between Hindus and Muslims engulfed the state of Gujarat.multiple sclerose. Barnes & Nobel, was then 19 years old and pregnantgang rapeAngry Indian mobs killed 14 of her relatives, including her 3-year-old daughter. Critics accused Modi, then the highest official in Gujarat state, of turning a blind eye to the unrest. He has not lost an election since then.

Mrs. Barnes and Noble's lives took a different turn. shemove repeatedlyhome after the attack to ensure the safety of her family. Last August, 11 men serving life sentences for raping her were released on the recommendation of a review committee made up of members of Modi's ruling party. They were welcomed after their releaselaurel wreathStarted by Hindu rightists.

The timing is suspect: Gujarat is holding important elections in a few months and Mr Modi's party needs itto vote.are party membersto explainAs a high-caste Brahmin, the accused had "good" values ​​and did not belong in prison. Men know the rules. They wrote the rulebook. Worst of all, releasing the rapist is likely a recruitment drive.

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After Mrs. Bano, there is a young physiotherapy student who graduated in 2012beating and rapingA metal rod pierced her colon on a moving bus before her naked body was thrown onto a busy New Delhi road. She died of her injuries. Women protested for days, even men protesteddifferent, despite the water cannon and tear gas. newlaws against rapeframed. This time it's different, we naively believe.

But in fact it is not. In 2018, that was an 8-year-old Muslim girldrugged and rapedSpent a few days in a Hindu temple and then was killed. In 2020, that was a 19-year-old Dalit girlgang rapeHe later died of his injuries and suffered a severed spinal cord.

Fear, especially the fear of gang rape, has never completely left us. We go out in groups, protect ourselves, carry pepper spray and GPS tracking devices, avoid public places after sunset and remind ourselvesIf you are attacked, shout "fire" instead of "help"But we know that no precaution can protect us.

I don't understand gang rape. Is it a medieval desire to dominate and humiliate? These people, who have little power over others, feel they are unqualified and ordinary and need a few minutes of power rush?

I only know that other men are also responsible, that countless brothers, fathers, sons, friends, neighbors and colleagues have created and maintained a system that exploits women. If women are afraid, it's because of these men. This is an epic protection racket.

I'm not just asking for equality. I want revenge. compensate. I want young girls to know about Ms. Bano and Ms. Devi. I want to build monuments to them. But men just want us to forget. Mrs. Barnes and Noble's rapist was released because men refused to honor our trauma.

So we build monuments with words and our memories. We talked about gang rape and put it at the center of our lives. We tried to explain it to our youngest, to start protecting them.

Thus the history of the vanquished is written. This is what it all boils down to: a battle between forgetting and remembering.

Vidya Krishnan (@Vidya Krishnan) is an Indian journalist specializing in health issues and author of The Phantom Plague: How TB Shaped History.

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