TW: contains potentially disturbing material dealing with sexual violence
This week, the words of Mukesh Singh, one of the men convicted of the Delhi 2012 gang rape have been ringing in my ears. Speaking from prison, for an interview that will form part of BBC documentary “India’s Daughter” which aired last night, he said:
“A girl is far more responsible for rape than a boy. You can’t clap with one hand – it takes two hands.”
“ Boy and girl are not equal. About 20 per cent of girls are good. Housework and housekeeping is for girls, not roaming in discos and bars at night doing wrong things, wearing wrong clothes. A decent girl won’t roam around at 9 o’clock at night.”
“When being raped, she shouldn’t fight back. She should just be silent and allow the rape. Then they’d have dropped her off after ‘doing her’, and only hit the boy.”
Wow. I’ll give you a moment while those comments sink in.
Isn’t it incredulous that as women and girls we live side by side men who think we shouldn’t fight back when being raped?
And before you say or think that these comments are reserved to Indian men in India, let’s not be naive: rape is not a Third World problem. Sad to say, rape is everyone’s problem. Violence against women is everyone’s problem. A child will learn early on that violence is ok and carry that attitude with them into adulthood. Where does a child learn that it’s ok to hit? Well parents, have you ever told your child to punch back when the playground bully strikes them? We mustn’t legitimise violence, whatever form it takes, even if it’s seen as ‘sticking up for yourself’.
But sadly, we cannot deny that these sexist and misogynistic attitudes are common in India, proven particularly when you look at the rape crime statistics. According to India’s National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), the number of rapes actually went up between 2012 and 2013- despite all the protests and awareness raising that came after the December 2012 gang rape. This makes me hang my head in shame.
Mukesh Singh touched upon gender roles in his comment. That women belong in certain spaces and should occupy certain roles in society. It’s easy to write off the comments of a convicted rapist, but really, there are many men- and women in Asian culture that think a ‘good woman’, a ‘decent woman’ is a certain type of person. Until those attitudes are dealt with, people will go on justifying rape by blaming the victim and her ‘wrong actions and wrong clothes’. What about holding the attacker to account? Where does that fit in the discussion of India’s rape culture?
It’s not sex, it’s violence
And I’ve said it before but I will say it again. Rape is not about sex. It’s certainly not about love and it’s not even about lust. It’s about power. And it’s about a deep-seated disregard of women: misogyny, and a sense of male entitlement- both of which are rife in the Asian culture, I’m so sad to say. If International Women’s Day is about honouring women, let’s do that every day- not just on a specific day that the UN have marked out for us. Every woman or girl attacked is someone’s sister, mother, daughter or cousin. And let’s face it: family is a language that we Asians speak very fluently so let’s use it every day.
Interestingly the lawyers that represented the gang convicted for the Delhi 2012 rape shared the same views as the rapists: that women shouldn’t venture out at night, that it’s not decent for them to do so.
How can we change attitudes to rape and indeed women if this kind of thinking is widespread even amongst the institutions that are meant to keep us safe?