Rape is not a sex crime: it is a display of power. It is a group of socially powerful people saying, “You have transgressed the boundaries we set for you: see what we can do.” It is a “punishment” for daring to breach and an example for those who continue to do so.It is a branding of misplaced shame: where the non-empowered victim cringes and hides and the rapists walk about in brazenness, for, after all, it is their right to do so. It is the ultimate act of dominance and weapon of fear.
It is the subject of the documentary I mentioned in my last blogpost: “India’s Daughter”, by Leslee Udwin, a film based on the Nirbhaya case. The documentary is now available on Youtube despite the ban on its broadcast by the honourable Indian government. I urge you all to go and watch it immediately, before it is taken down: a link is available here.
The astounding feeling of watching the documentary is the fact that nobody, nobody, involved with the rapists: lawyers, family, the rapists themselves, is talking about the act being wrong- it is only about what will happen now that it’s been done.The uproar for them is bemusing: a young wife mourns, not her fellow woman who was violated and brutally killed by her husband, but her future: “A wife has no future without a husband. Who will I live for now? Will there be no other rapes in Delhi after this? Then why punish him?” The lawyers say a “decent” girl should not be out at 8 pm with a male friend: since she was, of course she was raped. The rapist mentions that now women will be raped, and instead of being set free, will be killed: the fact that the rape should not happen in the first place is simply not there. The idea is that she is only a woman, it is my right to invade her, stop her, use her in whatever way I fancy for my entertainment. The idea that a woman is an individual and that her bodily consent is her own right, does not exist.
The documentary, as claimed by our beloved bureaucrat, is not an “international conspiracy to tarnish India’s image”: it only exposes a social malaise that has been brushed under the rug for far too long and indeed, with the ban, is once again being forcibly crushed: the rotten system of a government that is not held accountable for not implementing laws, of a society that reinforces the idea of men being superior for whatever dangling reason, of a nation that has failed to educate its citizens on the basic ideas of a modern democracy: equal. rights. for. all. Yes, the filmmaker indeed suffers from the inconsequential misfortune of being a foreign national, but she also holds the monumental status, at least in my eyes, of being a woman: a woman who has herself survived sexual abuse. Whether Leslee Udwin has a British passport or not is, I think, much less important than the fact that she is the one who dared to do something that ought to have been done by the government a long time ago: an incitement to open discussion of the mindsets that illustrate the ruthless truth of the status of women in Indian society today. The ban is supposedly to “protect” women from the language used by the rapists- it is in fact doing the exact opposite, and is protecting the state, its spirit of apathy and its ostrich-policy far more.
We must breach these boundaries. We must protest. Because the moment we stop doing so, they take away our body and mind and silence us forever. And that cannot be.
Change is slow, laborious, difficult, terrifying, violent. But change must come: an evolution must take place, because I am a woman, and I demand my right to be a human being, reaffirm the fact that I am a human being. And I will continue to do so, with others who will continue to do so, until one day change is finally here and the ghosts of complacency and conciliation are buried and gone. This is the first of many such works of art, such protests, such write-ups to come, for the shaking-off of fear and apathy is our only hope and way forward.
See you on Wednesday.