Documentary: Why Do Haryana’s Old & Young Blame Women for Rape?
(This story was originally published on 7 April 2018. It is being reposted from The Quint’s archives after the debate over what a woman should wear surfaced again, following controversy over a group of girls being moral-policed by an elderly woman in Gurugram, allegedly remarking they "deserve to get raped" for the length of their dresses.)
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:
We set out to travel across the state in an attempt to find out.
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.
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.
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”.
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”.
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.