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There is an extremely popular and supposedly “funny” scene in the blockbuster movie “3 Idiots”. In this scene, a Bollywood-ized stereotypical Madrasi character gives a public speech in Hindi (a language that this Madrasi fellow does not understand). As an “innocent”
prank, the hero of this movie replaces a key word in the speech with “balaatkaar” which means “Rape”. The unassuming Madrasi fellow goes on the stage, delivers the speech verbatim and of course “hilarity” ensues. When I saw the movie in the cinemas – mothers, fathers, their kids – girls & boys were in splits. I was cringing in the darkness (I am sure there were others with me). I am not entitled to make any judgment on the script-writer/dialog-writer and the makers of this film. What’s shocking, is how universally this scene was accepted as “funny”. In my opinion (which I am entirely entitled), this scene was in extremely poor taste. How this scene was received by the majority of the Indian populace, displays what is wrong on how we think and process “Rape”. I do not intend to say that those who were laughing out loud at the scene stepped out of the cinema halls and went about raping wildly. No, what I am suggesting is the acceptance of this extremely brutal phenomenon as “funny” by the regular “educated” and “reasonable” individuals. It shows a deeply disturbing societal perception of an act which is both a physically and an emotionally devastating event for the victim. I bet no Rape victim thought this was funny, I bet no person closely associated with a Rape victim thought this was funny.

Aside from the portrayal of Rape in movies and their reception, there are some convoluted viewpoints toward Rape in the Indian society. A few exhibits:

  • Rape is considered as taking away the “honor” of the victim/s : in Hindi, the literal phrase is “izzat lootna” (popularized by the cinema of the 70s/80s): This condensing of this extremely brutal act to a mere “snatching of honor/dignity” is deeply disturbing. It directly indicates that a woman is left with no honor/dignity once she has been raped. It leaves no chance for the victim post the event.
  • Women who wear revealing clothes invite Rape upon themselves: I have no energy to counter this argument.
  • Rape of women who are promiscuous or are of “poor” character is a non-issue and the perpetrators can go unpunished: Another absolutely retarded viewpoint.
  • The increased display of promiscuity, flesh in movies makes men horny and hence the spike in the number of rapes: A viewpoint which suggests that men can basically think only with one organ at one time (wherever the blood has flown).

Of course none of the above have any scientific or statistical basis whatsoever: if there is anyone out there (who I know) who gives even a little bit of consideration to any of the above, I have the following words for you : “You may FUCK OFF and sever all ties with me pronto. If you don’t, I will be elated to do it myself and that too with incredible alacrity.”

All of the above “excuses” for Rape are about externalizing an issue which is deeply rooted in how we Indians (men and women) treat our women. I am sure to invite some wrath (some will be open about it, some will be passive-aggressive) when I make the following statement:

“For all it’s proclamation of gender equality & the divinity in the female (devi), India remains a heavily “male” dominated society and a majority of Indian men & women still to this date consider women as the sub-ordinate, the better-half, the server, the receiver, the baby-maker! ”

(Don’t even get me started on – “we have had a female Prime Minister way before any of the developed nations did”…yeah well, so did Bangladesh). (Another disclaimer is that this is not a comparison with another country, this is about India, what other countries/societies do or not do, does not discount our shortcomings and failures.)

The politicians are corrupt, the cops are indifferent, there will always be rapists, the system is too slow in exercising justice – yes, yes, yes & yes! What is in our immediate control and capacity is to : truly look within ourselves, accept the rampant indoctrination of the notion attitudes toward women and cultivate the younger generation to know what “equality” truly means (and practice it while preaching it). A very idealistic approach you may say, but it’s not so hard to raise our voice within our family and friends whenever we see the slightest bias in how a woman should be treated, or how a woman should behave or what she can or cannot do. Baby steps. If we raise another generation which just emulates us, we have failed ourselves. If you don’t believe me, observe a woman (who is by herself and not in another person’s company) in a public space in almost any Indian city. This is the usual visual: she is always on a guard, she is always going somewhere purposefully (or pretending to), she cannot just be loitering around (like her male counterparts can), she cannot be checking out or admiring the surroundings but has her gaze downward or ahead of her . All this is to assert her presence and that there is a purpose for her being by herself at that place in the outside. She just cannot be there for no reason, she has to prove her presence constantly. Do you see it? It is at this primitive a level that we have to start. We have a long way to go, truly a mindbogglingly long way to go; but accepting that we (YOU and I) are the problem is the first crucial step.