Policing will not address the issue of rape culture

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By Suresh Pattali

I have barely recovered from the agony and shock over the savage rape and murder of an eight-year-old girl in a temple in Kathua, India’s Jammu and Kashmir. While a section of society, including lawyers and lawmakers, came out in defence of the accused, a vast majority of civilised Indians took to the streets in an unprecedented outpouring of emotions.

Yet I have lost faith in mankind. Just when the nation was in mourning, and the Kathua rape case was being fast-tracked, we fell into another black hole of shame: the victim, Asifa Bano, became the top trending name on a popular porn site in India.

Searches for trending topics in countries such as the US, Russia, China and Germany did not show the search term Asifa as a trend. It was solely confined to the Indian adult site.

What were the Indian perverts searching for on an adult site with the search term Asifa? It cannot be a black bulbul feeding its baby in the Himalayan forest. It cannot be a Kashmiri Hangul grazing in the meadows. They were apparently interested in watching how the innocent girl was being raped.

They were interested in watching the replay of the salacious act by eight lecherous beasts. We have crossed all limits in our adventure to scale the heights of sexual gratification. We have hit the nadir of barbarism.

The mask of fake morality has fallen off, exposing the monstrous side of Indianism. In our desperate race for voyeuristic pleasures, we have stooped to abominable lows. We have forfeited the right to remain human beings.

Can India hope to ever come out of this abysmal mess? Before we look for an answer, let’s find out why a country, which had given birth to a practical guide book on human sexual behaviour in the ancient times, slid into such a backward society.

One school of thought is that while patriarchy is ingrained in our society from time immemorial, the colonial rule too had played its part. During the Victorian-era sexual repression, women’s rights were never heard of and sex education was a taboo in order not to ruffle religious feathers.

The challenges that we now face are largely social and cultural, not legislative. Faced with the nationwide uproar, the Indian government on Saturday prescribed the death penalty for people convicted of raping children under 12. An ordinance has been approved by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Cabinet and the president of the country. While better policing and a proactive legal system could discourage sexual crimes, the death penalty has not proved itself as an effective remedy to ward off any crimes.

The failure of policymakers to address the root cause is the reason why the issue has snowballed into such a gigantic proportion. The education system India inherited from the British failed to acknowledge sex or sexuality. Post-independence, we went to convent or other religious schools where discussing sex was a taboo.

Lessons of human reproductive systems were glossed over by the teachers in co-education schools. Read them at home was the diktat.

We still live in a society where a brother would come to know about his sister’s pregnancy by word of mouth in the village because she doesn’t it find it morally right to discuss it with the brother.

Today the Indian youth get their sex education online. In our days, we depended on racy storybooks available.

Things seem to have changed, especially in schools in major towns and cities, where sex education is part of broader initiatives in elite schools. But for majority of India’s poor, boys and girls are still alien to each other. In upper caste families, women are still a male privilege.

The only way to solve India’s rape menace is social reform. We need to start a campaign to root out the patriarchal system. And the fight should begin at home. What a person becomes is a reflection of his upbringing. No mother would want to give birth to a rapist.

So the onus primarily rests with the parents to bring up their sons as caring and socially conscious people. Don’t tell your daughter not to go out, tell your son to behave properly.

Don’t just teach your daughter how to behave well, teach your son better. Don’t just suggest your daughter to dress modestly, teach your son to respect and drop the sense of entitlement.

Increased interactions among boys and girls at a young age are key to developing a bond of friendship. In the present day scenario, except in a few metropolitan cities, boys and girls are kept apart as if they were gasoline and fire. A healthy relationship between males and females from childhood will help sensitise them and instill a sense of companionship. Rape has no room in a world of camaraderie.

Antagonism towards gender equality is rampant in every facet of life, including corporate boardrooms, despite efforts to empower women. We need to teach our boys from a very young age that being male is not a privilege and that no one owns the world on the basis of gender.

The plague is also deeply rooted in social inequity. Poor men who cannot afford to own a piece of land or a house are typically rejected by prospective brides or their families. Such unfortunate men, for whom a married life remains a forbidden fruit, are potential social time bombs as they could stoop to any low to satisfy their sexual appetite. Legalising prostitution will give such males a safe vent.

India has one of the lowest female-to-male population ratios  – 945 females per 1,000 males – because of sex-selective abortion and female infanticide. This deficit also puts men at a disadvantage, shutting out many of them from the world of nuptial bliss.

To acknowledge sexual denialism is where India needs to start. While occasional collective outrage could keep the cries for reforms alive, the way to address the rape culture is through policies, not policing. —Khaleej Times

Yet I have lost faith in mankind. Just when the nation was in mourning, and the Kathua rape case was being fast-tracked, we fell into another black hole of shame: the victim, Asifa Bano, became the top trending name on a popular porn site in India.

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