Perpetuating myths…

There has been considerable outrage on the expose by NDTV and Tehelka on the attitude of policemen in and around the National Capital Region towards rape victims. While it is shocking that such comments come from those who are supposed to be protectors of the innocent, none of this is really surprising. The attitude is simply representative of the attitude of a large majority of Indian men who seem to think that a woman who is in a relationship with one person automatically grants privileges to 10 others because she is of “loose” character.

Nor is it surprising that the very act of forcing a woman is considered “normal” because she was drinking, or exchanged phone numbers, or dressed in “skimpy and provocative” clothing. I do not remember how many times women’s rights activists, women in general and several others have reiterated that provocation or “losing control” does not exonerate the rapist. Along with rapists, the police and other law-enforcement authorities, sometimes including our law courts are just perpetuating several myths regarding rape:

Myth: If a woman dresses provocatively, drinks or is in a relationship with someone, she “tempts” a man into raping her.

Fact: Rape is NOT a sex crime. Rapists rarely do so because they are unable to “resist temptation” or because they lose control. They do it because they are trying to establish their power over a woman by doing so. Rape is about power, not attraction. It happens because the perpetrator of the crime does not even consider what he is doing as a crime. It also happens because the rapist believes (and with good reason) that he will get away with it. As with most cases, shoddy investigation, unsympathetic police personnel and lack of DNA evidence results in an acquittal.

Myth: A woman who dresses modestly will not be raped.

Fact: Rape is the result of the twisted logic of a sick mind. What else could explain rape of 2-year old children and 85-year old grandmothers? A woman is at risk of being raped even if she were dressed in a burqa. Asking women to dress modestly and not “provoke” only puts the onus of security on the victim. It practically exonerates the actual criminal and victimizes the victim.

Myth: She is doing it for money. When someone uses force, she cries rape!

Fact: Even if a woman were a prostitute, she does not deserve to be raped. Her character has nothing to do with the whole affair. And in case our cops don’t realize, forcing a woman is indeed called rape.

Apart from all this, it is quite distressing that the Delhi government seems more inclined to impose restrictions on women rather than address the core issue of rape as a law and order problem. To top it all, the Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit has expressed concern at the state of women in NCR. We do not want to know if she is “worried”. In fact, she should be angry, not worried. She should be angry enough to do something about the current state of affairs in order to make a difference. She should, as the Chief Minister of a state, take action to ensure that Delhi’s  streets are safe for women, and not pay lip service to the plight of women in the country’s capital!