There is a fine line between prevention and normalisation of any entity. When an event manifests itself through the acceptance of society , passively as an everyday occurrence or something that is unavoidable, it already is nurturing a dysfunctional repressed violent idea. One of the celebrated deviant normalcy in the Indian society is that of a Rape. What imparts it as ‘being normal’ is the idea that sexual desires are male prerogative ,exacerbation of display of police apathy in handling rape cases, victim blaming, fears of stigmatization suffered by rape victims and their families.
But, what I am going to focus in the article is the how Rape gets trivialized in the form of most mundane rules and regulation , that Indians follow , thinking of these rules as a Prevention strategy rather than passive Normalisation. Before we critically drown into How And Why we are unconsciously promoting the idea that Rape is unavoidable , we need to put forth the basic questions.
Why the collective cultural psyche of the Indian, view a Rape as inherent unavoidable sexualized event? How each one of us (yes, you the Feminist as well) are indulging in the trivialisation of rape in India that has categorised it as Normal? How the mundane usual laws like that of a segregation and assinging a different coach in the public transport for females, is a form of normalisation of a Rape Culture?
Body of a Woman as a Political conquest
Rape of the women in India has been normalised since the Post colonial times. By the end of the article, you wouldn’t wonder ,why the body of the woman becomes the primary target in any onset of communal or national riots.
During thee 1947 Partition of India, as the Nation was mourning the segregation of the lands and the ‘ once assimilated religious diversity’, as many as 100,000 women were abducted and raped . Muslim women were abducted by Hindu and Sikh men into India, and Hindu and Sikh women were abducted by Muslim men into newly partitioned Pakistan (Das, Critical Events, 59). Women’s’ bodies became political site that communicated the language of Nationalism and Power. Each woman raped by the opponent, became an Object of Conquest. The nation state( India) synonymous as “Bharat Maata” was portrayed as the mother, a woman that needed protection against the outside enemy. The idea of gaining control over the land through conquering the Body of this ” Bharat Maata” seduced the Unconscious psyche of the male aggressive thanatos .The desire to possess it, see it, touch it, conquer it , claim it, wandered in the Unconscious fantacy of men .
Thus, women’s bodies thus became arenas of violent struggle. Women were humiliated, tortured, brutally raped, and murdered as part of the process that reflected the communal, national and religious conquest by the opponents. The rapes didn’t just led to the violation of the body but it symbolised the Political conquest. D.A Low argues that while the men of the opposite side were killed, woman were abducted. Literary evidence provides accounts of women’s skin being marked with tattoos of religious slogans, signing of the skin by the aggressor and imprinting of the patriotic slogans like “ Pakistan Zindabad” or “ Jai Hind”
You see, the skin of the woman was not just sexually violated but it became a story via which the aggressor commented its victory to the “ other’s “. The infiltrating the Othered land through the coerisive usage of Militarisation was the Objective but the raping of the woman of the Other community has a Subjective infiltration. In fact, laws was introduced for the woman who were impregnated by the rivals. Rapists frequently mutilated and disfigured the girls’ skins . Many women had their breasts chopped off, others suffered the abuse and torture of their genitals — in most cases leading to death. The Indian government now estimates that 83,000 women and girls were abducted and raped during Partition, but other believed this estimate is far too conservative
The worst case scenario was encountered when the victim was impregnated by her rapist. Though Military Evacuee Organisation (M.E.O.) and Liaison Agencies had been established in Punjab in September, 1947, nothing was done at Government level to alleviate the sufferings of the abducted women until 6th December, 1947, when the following agreement was made between Governments of India and Pakistan regarding recovery of abducted women: The following decisions reached at the Conference between the Governments of India and Pakistan held on the 6th of December, 1947, are brought to the notice of all concerned for early compliance: Every effort must be made to recover and restore abducted women and children within the shortest time possible. Conversion by persons abducted after 1st March, 1947, will not be recognised, and all such persons must be restored to their respective Dominions. The wishes of the persons concerned are irrelevant. Consequently, no statements of such persons should be recorded before magistrates. ( Dr. Kirpal Singh “Partition and Women” Abstracts of Sikh Studies – June 1999)
The Normalisation of the Rape has been practised in India since the Post -colonial era where the primary conquest of the Other community was not through the land but its women. The act of being a Nationalist or fighting for the Nation became a regressive act of in-acting of the fantacy of Eroticised dysfunctional Nationalism , on the bodies of the woman of the “other” community.
Now, never wonder, why you hear the incidents of woman being raped as soon as the communal riots initiates in India. Looking at the statistics of the communal riots since 1980’s, the body of the woman becomes the primary target of the display of the regressive Power via the Rape.
Naroda Patiya massacre ( Gujarat Riots )Reports presented by Citizen’s Initiative, and Human Rights Watch stated that out of the 36 women killed in the Naroda Patiya massacre, most were sexually assaulted before their deaths; surviving women also reported being assaulted. According to Human Rights Watch, women and girls were “brutally raped before being killed”. Most of the rapes took place in public, and the victims were then killed and their bodies burnt. Among the women surviving in the relief camp, many suffered the most bestial forms of sexual violence – including rape, gang rape, mass rape, stripping, insertion of objects into their bodies and molestation.
Another 1984 Sikh Massacre witnessed the same ideology. Although the official numbers of women who were raped were not disclosed, but most of the women, especially those who had some surviving male members in their family, were not willing to say they had been raped although most of them did talk about women in general having been abducted and raped. They were pressured into staying silent about their personal experience merely by the threat of social ostracism within their own community such as being abandoned by husbands or not finding husbands if unmarried.
The Desire of a Submissive Woman ( Power and Psychological Discourse of Rape )
It becomes important to analyse why the Indian psyche shares a cognitive prism that of a woman , who is submissive and the value of her character is weighted by her purity. The idea of woman, who ought be pure, pious and submissive is directly proportional to the trivialisation of the Rape Culture. Victim blaming, slut shaming are the result of this regressed collective stereotype that the Indian society shares.
We need to understand that the Political acquisition , in the form of Erotic Regressive Nationalism is just part side of the exploited coin. Gender representation within the Indian culture passively promotes Rape Culture. Scholarly presentation of the gendered sexual manipulation and roles assigned to each gender has been written on, since ages. Indian woman’s accumulation of “self abasement”( Spivak ) i.e. the degree to which they have assimilated the regressive devaluation of woman and their sexuality ,merging with the idea of submission to the male kingship , has had a direct role is shaping of the woman’s selfhood. The similar concept has been explained by Sudhir kakar, expressing how the idea of the ” ideal woman ” has seeped into the cultural unconsciousness of the Indian society via the Religious text , fables, traditional scriptures that define an ” ideal woman ” as a pious and submissive female.
“…the ideal of womanhood incorporated by Sita is that of chastity , purity, gentle tenderness and of singular faithfulness which cannot be destroyed or disturbed by her husband’s rejection, slight or thoughtlessness…. the moral is the familiar one: whether treated well or ill a wife should never indulge in ire..” ( Kakar, 1978:66 )
The gendered sexual role given to the woman precipitated from the shared Cultural texts is largely responsible of the prototype of a woman who should be submissive sexually and otherwise in miscellaneous activities. The encounter with a strong woman, in cases leads to the “ conceptual shock “ ,furthermore leading to the usage of aggressive Unconscious defence by the rapist.
For example, In the documentary of the Nirbhaya rape case, when Leslee Udwin interviewed the charged rapists, one of the rapist said two things of significance: Mukesh Singh said Nirbhaya invited her rape by being out on the streets at night when she should have been at home “cooking and cleaning” as he put it. He then said Nirbhaya should not have resisted the rape; if she had not fought back, if she had submitted meekly and quietly to being raped then he and his three other rapist friends would not have thrust a rod repeatedly into her vagina, pulling her entrails out and battering her to death.
Ladies, when you travel in the metro, rushing to the first compartment reserved for ladies, you are consciously making an attempt to travel securely. You might be just adhering to the rules of travelling in the compartment assigned for your safety, but unknowingly you are Normalising the trivialisation of the Rape culture. How , you ask ? You are unconsciously agreeing to the concept of sexual desires as the male prerogative that cannot be avoided, hence the precaution of travelling in an all ladies compartment. You are not resisting the idea of this trivialisation. I am not saying to boycott travelling in the ‘all ladies compartment ‘ , but question as to why a girl can’t travel in the midst of the male crowd without a fear of being molested or raped.? Why can’t you firmly believe that in the onset of a horrendous unwanted sexual act, the perpetrator will be charged with effective legal consequences immediately?
As women, we both know the answer. But, as we both are busy protecting ourselves from the unwanted gaze, we are passively contributing in the preservation of the trivialisation of the Rape culture by incorporating norms that avoids the rape but fails to eradicate it.
Parul verma : A student , writer and an activist. A Scholar and a Student Ambassador of NUIG, Ireland. Her work analyses the psychological- political-economical triad of the Middle East chaos zone . Her work has been published in counter punch, counter currents, Intifada Palestine, last word, Kashmir Monitor, Global Research etc , Last word, Daily O etc. For any feedback , reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org