(This story was originally published on 7 April 2018. It is being reposted from The Quint’s archives after concern over women’s safety across India after recent incidents of gruesome rapes in UP's Hathras, Balrampur, Azamgarh, and Bulandshahr and Rajasthan's Baran.)
Camera: Abhay Sharma and Anubhav Gupta
Multimedia Producer: Prashant Chauhan
Executive Producer: Ritu Kapur
In January 2018, ten rapes in ten days in Haryana seemed to shock everyone. And once again, everyone seemed to be asking the same question:
Itne rapes kyun hote hai, yaar?
We set out to travel across the state in an attempt to find out.
What greeted us was a mentality that deemed rape to be a consensual act and a society in which women are blamed for being victims of sexual assault. Wait, that means they’re not even considered ‘victims’. Society won’t even call a raped woman survivor if it is assumed that “she wanted it”.
Neither of these phenomena is unique to Haryana, but their widespread acceptance in the state served us a harsh reality check. The answer to the rapes lay all around us – in the state’s rape culture.
Say Hello to Rape Culture
Social attitudes that normalise rape? In our travels across the districts of Jind, Rohtak, Bhiwani and Charkhi Dadri, we found plenty.
It’s Your Fault, Always Your Fault
The first pillar of rape culture is ‘Blame the Victim’.
From the elders in the villages to the youngsters in the cities, and even the cops patrolling the streets, all seemed to be well-versed in victim-blaming.
Once a girl turns 14 or 15, you can’t call it rape after that. There is always consent.An elderly man in Mankawas village, Charkhi Dadri district
The girl has to have done something wrong, that’s why she’s been raped.A Class 8 boy from Bhiwani
Both the boy and the girl have done something wrong. Then why is it that only the boy is held responsible? The girl gets to stay at home, the boy is sent to jail. What sort of a law is this?Mother of a rape accused in the Charkhi Dadri district
And here’s what a police official told us: “Both (rapist and victim) are to blamed. Without knowing you, I can’t even talk to you. No one can do anything to you if they don’t know you. Without consent, no one can even talk to someone else. Will a girl speak to someone unless she consents to do so?”
At which point, we asked, “What if the rapist abducts the victim?”
The cop replied, “How can someone just abduct you?”
Our Honour Lies in Your Vagina
Next up on the rape culture checklist - ‘Our Honour Lies in Your Vagina’ aka ‘Control the Women’.
In Haryana, honour makes people do absurd things like killing their own family.
In a ‘safe home’ in Haryana, we discussed the idea of ‘honour’ with a young couple who fled from their families in order to get married.
The honour of the family lies in the girl. If a boy does some mischief, his family will scold him. If a girl does something, the entire family is brought into disrepute.The husband
We asked, “But the girl loves someone of her own free will?”
The woman responded, “But they don’t think that way. They think that if a boy loves someone of his choice, it’s okay. But if a girl does that, it’s wrong”.
Basically, ‘honour’ is like a cheat code to control women. In the name of protecting their honour, men can do anything whatsoever – diminish their agency, make their decisions, control their lives.
The Lessons We Teach
A khap panchayat, in 2013, directed girls older than 10 years to not wear jeans and not use mobile phones. Apparently, wearing “provocative clothes” like jeans invites attention and ultimately leads to rapes.
And, the Sarva Khap Jat Panchayat advised, “Girls should be married at the age of 16, so that they have their husbands for their sexual needs, and don’t need to go elsewhere. This way, rapes will not occur”.
When this is what we teach, this is what kids will learn. Remember, the next generation is learning from us today.
Yes, girls are to be blamed in cases of rape. These girls make friends and all, and then later they face the results of keeping bad company.A Class 8 girl from Bhiwani
Both boys and girls are at fault. You can never clap with just one hand.A Class 7 boy from Bhiwani
When Rape is Deemed Consensual
Where social attitudes are such
Where the victim is blamed
The woman controlled
Her consent ignored
Her choice rejected
Where traditions break the law
But we teach them to the young
Is it any surprise then that rape is deemed consensual?
Not Just Haryana
The list goes on. Sure, rape culture may seem more pervasive in some places, more evident on certain faces, but make no mistake, it is all around us.
So the next time you ask “Itne rapes kyun hote hai, yaar?”, remember that the answer’s right here, staring you in the face.