4 Yrs Post Nirbhaya: 5 Ways You Can Change the Dialogue on Rape
It has been four years since 16 December 2012, when a 23-year-old physiotherapist –dubbed Nirbhaya by the media – was brutally raped in a moving bus by five men and a juvenile. The incident sparked protests all over the country, eventually shaping laws and encouraging more people to talk about sexual assault in India.
But we still have a long way to go. Just a week before 16 December 2016, two cases of gruesome rape were reported in Delhi — not to mention the numerous rapes which go unreported in rural areas, small towns and cities across India.
So, how can you join the fight against sexual assault in India and change the way rape is perceived in India? Here are five simple ways.
1. Talk to Your Sons About Rape
Whenever we talk about preventing rape, we invariably direct our attention to the women. We tell them to enrol in self-defence classes, carry pepper spray and to be careful of the stranger in the dark.
Now, flip the conversation. Talk to your sons instead about rape. Ask them about the pressure they face to ‘be a man’ and teach them that it’s nothing but good ol’ patriarchy at work. Ensure that they know that they have an identity that is independent of the cult of ‘masculinity’.
2. Recognise That Rape Is Not About Sex
Thinking of rape as a sexual act (in some cases, even using it interchangeably with ‘sex’) is one of the biggest misconceptions about rape. But rape is not about sex, it is about power. In August 2016, a 20-year-old Dalit girl was gang-raped by two men belonging to a higher caste. She was found dead but her rape and murder didn’t get the kind of media attention that Nirbhaya did in December 2012.
Histories of oppression and power, across social structures like gender, caste and religion, are important to understand rape. Recognise that – while simultaneously calling out idiotic Bollywood superstars when they use ‘rape’ as a casual verb.
3. Support Rape Survivors, Don’t Pity Them
‘Zinda laash.’ Two words that we have come to associate with a rape survivor, and ones that do them a great disservice. There is life after rape; even if it is marked with a long legal and social fight. But as Sohaila Abdulali reminded us, it is a fight which can be won. Stop pitying a rape survivor and instead educate yourself about organisations and individuals who are working to strengthen laws and infrastructural support for rape survivors. Volunteer your time, donate you money, if needed — and condemn the mindset which dehumanises a rape survivor to the extent of calling her a corpse.
4. Educate Yourself About Consent; And Demand It
“No means no.” Maybe we needed the thunderous voice of Amitabh Bachchan in Pink to drill that into our heads. But ‘consent’ is a concept whose time has come.
Next time you see your favourite hero stalking a heroine after she says ‘no’ to his advances, walk out of the film. Understand that a lack of understanding consent lies at the heart of all “she-was-asking-for-it” arguments and the resistance towards a discussion on marital rape.
Think she’s ‘asking for it’ because she’s smoking, drinking, wearing a short skirt or standing naked in front of you? You need to get yourself examined.
5. Listen to Sexual Assault Survivors, And Forget Izzat
In 2015, 33% of rapes reported in India were against minors (NCRB data). For child survivors of rape, counseling is often more important than punitive justice in courts. So, the next time you meet a rape or a sexual abuse survivor, take a seat and listen. Furthermore, the legal fight to get justice in courts for a rape survivor is long and arduous — just ask Nirbhaya’s parents who are still waiting for the Supreme Court to rule on the convicts’ appeal against their sentence.
But, fighting against rape becomes so much easier with the support of family, friends and the society at large. Honour does not reside in a woman’s vagina; and is definitely not more important than a woman’s life.