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Rape Victim Blaming

For anybody whose once normal everyday life was suddenly shattered by an act of sexual violence� the trauma, the terror, can shatter you long after one horrible attack. It lingers. You don't know where to go or who to turn to�and people are more suspicious of what you were wearing or what you were drinking, as if it's your fault, not the fault of the person who assaulted you�We still don't condemn sexual assault as loudly as we should. We make excuses, we look the other way.Laws won't be enough unless we change the culture that allows assault to happen in the first place.

The global statistics on sexual assault against women are shocking. At least one in every five women experiences rape or attempted rape during her lifetime.

According to government data, nearly four women are raped every hour in this country. Realistically speaking, that means only about 90 women each day find the courage to report that they have been sexually violated. The real number � probably way higher � never gets captured as many rapes go unreported, buried under shame, confusion and fear.

Public data also shows that the majority of rapes are often perpetrated by persons known to the victim, including family and neighbours. Reporting this often risks inviting stigma on the victim rather than on the accused because, in our rancid rape culture, some of us also question victim's behaviour that brought on predators.

For the brave few who overcome this social assault, there are more tribulations to be had � from truculent cops, legal cases that go on for months, and even death. Most recently, a young 23-year-old woman from Unnao, Uttar Pradesh, succumbed to injuries after five men, including the rape accused, chased her down and burned her alive as she was on her way to meet her lawyers in the morning. This wasn't the first attempt to gag her.

In Telangana, a 27-year-old veterinarian was set on fire after being gang-raped. The suspects were caught and later were killed in an alleged police 'encounter'. Cheered by the public, this 'justice as revenge' has been condemned by the Supreme Court chief justice.

Despite all of this, the discourse has centred on women. Telangana chief minister K Chandrashekar Rao told transport workers to keep women workers away from night-shift roles �reinforcing that the onus on staying safe is on women. This is a misguided approach. It is men who should be held accountable for a problem that has everything to do with them, and nothing to do with women. That problem is a culture of misogyny, aggressiveness and normalised sexual abuse towards women.

To even begin an attempt to alter this, we need a robust conversation around men, which has to begin in schools, public fora and highest offices. Boys have to be taught that it's wrong to talk disparagingly about women, feel up girls surreptitiously, make lewd remarks and leer at them. This cannot be left to parents alone.

It should be a part of the school curriculum from primary school onwards, where attitudes are shaped. For older students, gender sensitisation classes and tests should be mandatory. Violence against women is so deeply rooted in India, that this sensitisation should be prioritised as much as basic reading and writing skills. Girls must be encouraged to be strong, vocal and intolerant of transgressions, however small.

Workplaces must crack down on men who make sexualised jokes, even of the 'water cooler' kind. We should stop taking sexually offensive banter lightly, because it leads to a desensitisation, which starts casually and eventually normalises sexual violence.

Most importantly, public office bearers and role models need to stop blaming women for their choice of dress or work hours, because that does nothing to make India safer for women.
Instead, it emboldens male vulturine behaviour and robs women of their potential, by forcing them to cut short their work or leisure activities.

In the meantime, the most immediate solution is to set up a special law enforcement arm that deals with sexual offences. India's police force, heavily overworked, mostly desensitised and routinely pulled in different directions, can no longer be counted on to devote the time and dedication needed to deal with this deep and wide social issue.

The government must set up a special unit that recruits and trains officers specifically to deal with sexual offences, and create easy access to doctors, forensic experts, rape survivors and psychologists. This will help victims feel confident in coming forward to seek justice. All registered offences must be dealt with by this unit within a month using fast-track courts. Predators must know that justice is swift and favourable to victims. India's approach to curbing sexual aggression must steer clear of diminishing women, and root out reckless patriarchal attitudes instead.

Who Is Responsible Of Rapes In India?A Country Of Over 7.8 Billions People?

When one of the four men sentenced to death in the 2012 Nirbhaya gangrape case was quoted in a documentary by BBC's Leslee Udwin as saying:
�A girl is far more responsible for rape than a boy,� he repeated something that is arguably deep-rooted in the minds of the people of India -- A woman is responsible for rape.

"A decent girl won't roam around at 9 o'clock at night.Housework and housekeeping is for girls, not roaming in discos and bars at night doing wrong things, wearing the wrong clothes," Mukesh Singh said in the documentary, India's Daughter, which was banned in India. The documentary was outlawed by the Indian authorities on the grounds of "objectionable content".
"If a girl is dressed decently, a boy will not look at her in the wrong way," Khattar once told reporters, "Freedom has to be limited. These short clothes are Western influences. Our country's tradition asks girls to dress decently."

Largely, men are following the precedent set by their country's leaders and beliefs of the society that they live in.

Following the gut-wrenching rape and murder of a 26-year-old veterinary doctor in Telangana --one that sent the country into collective turmoil reminding people of the horrific 2012 Nirbhaya case-- Hyderabad Police launched a 14-tip advisory for women or girls on how to be safe while travelling.

So Who Is Responsible For Rape?

It is men who rape and men who can collectively have the power to end rape.This will only begin to happen when men cease blaming women for rape.

Over the years in the history of violence against women, women are just as vulnerable as before. Their daily lives are ruled by fear. There is nothing wrong or politically incorrect in saying that a woman who has not been molested, groped, stared at or has to go through the horror of being raped, is just lucky, especially in a country where rape cases rule the news every day.

Still Men Aren't Told Not To Rape!

And if they raise their voice against rape culture and fear of men, most men are quick to resort to #NotAllMen and whataboutery, completely undermining the fact that it is the social conditioning of men because of which this problem exists, and women have a fair share of their contribution to this.

Men who feel women should not be free to live as they wish aren't abnormal or monsters, but a by-product of our own society. They are also well-educated, decent men trying to do their best for their families.

Most men, and also women, are of the view that a woman must be covered, look respectable, must not smoke or drink and under any circumstances, should not show flesh because it will only lead a man to have �bad thoughts� about her.

Going by these beliefs and logic, what was the fault of the eight-month-old infant who was raped by her teenage neighbour? Was she dressed inappropriately? Was she drinking or smoking? Or she wasn't looking respectable enough?

The day society realizes the truth behind the answers to these questions, there is hope. Otherwise, Indian women will continue to live in a world 'of the men, by the men, for the men.'

  1. Economic Times Of India
Written By Yashwi Verma - MIT School Of Law

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