No Prime Minister Modi, Let Us Politicise Rape   

By all means, let’s politicise rapes. Enough of Nirbhayas, young and old, we need a Lucretia.

4 min read
According to the NCRB statistics, between 2015 to 2016, incidents of child rape across India have increased by 82 percent.

Dear Prime Minister,

You were wrong in London when you said, “Rape is rape, let’s not politicise it.” By all means, let’s politicise rapes. Enough of Nirbhayas, young and old, we need a Lucretia.

The Roman Republic was founded in the 6th Century BC when Lucretia’s desire to be avenged after being raped by Tarquin set in motion a revolution. Rape was politicised and how! The incident fanned the flames of frustration over the tyrannical methods of the last king of Rome, Lucius Tarquinius Superbus. The noblewoman is credited for the foundation of the Roman Republic after the overthrow of the Tarquins. Thus, Seneca, the classical Greek playwright, wrote “To Lucretia, we owe Brutus”.

<a href="">Titian</a>‘s <i><a href="">Tarquin and Lucretia</a></i> (1571)
Titian‘s Tarquin and Lucretia (1571)
(Photo Courtesy: Wikipedia)

When an 8-year-old girl from a doubly marginalised – both in terms of religion and economic status – community is brutally raped and murdered, it is okay to be angry. When the probe into the crime is obstructed in the name of nationalism the same anger is inadequate. Each time a gut-wrenching crime like this happens, social media sets a vicious cycle of whataboutery in motion, reacting to well-meaning voices that say, “Let’s not politicise rapes/murders/lynchings/whatever-else-hits-you-hard”. I say, by all means let’s politicise rapes.

Rape Never Shied From Politics

Rape is political anyway. Oscar Wilde had famously observed, “Everything in the world is about sex except sex. Sex is about power.” And when it comes to forced sex, it’s nothing but power politics. Depravity has nothing to do with pleasure. The countless rape jokes that get circulated around the Good Morning messages on WhatsApp also have political valence – they create a consensus around the act. The decision to tell a joke or not tell it also builds a political stance and creates affiliations. After all, it’s about ‘political’ correctness too.

Most importantly, rape comes in handy as a political tool. Want to destroy a community’s faith and pride? Rape their women. Thanks to the patriarchal sense of ownership over women’s bodies, rape is a potent tool.

The Romans are said to have happily raped the Sabine women when this tribal community, from the areas adjoining Rome, refused to have matrimonial alliances with them.

<i>Rape of the Sabine Women</i> by <a href="">Pietro da Cortona</a>, 1627–29.
Rape of the Sabine Women by Pietro da Cortona, 1627–29.
(Photo Courtesy: Wikipedia)

The history of colonialism spanning across different continents is replete with incidents of rape-facilitated dominance. Armies were trained to treat the women of the vanquished as the spoils of war, legitimising the use of rape as a political tool. Some armies have continued the practice and collective rape continues to be a haunting presence in conflict areas. Sometimes, the peacekeepers in these difficult areas rape to keep their morale up.

Nationalism, Body Politics and Rape

One has lost count of the times the honour of a geo-political mass is treated as a woman whose bodily integrity against ‘the outsider’ needs to be protected. Saviours of the motherland, that’s how many nationalistic men organise themselves. To safeguard the integrity of this notional entity, any enemy – internal or external, real or perceived – is fair game for rape. Simple logic – ‘She’ needs to be protected even though she, an 8-year-old, bleeds to death after being raped and bludgeoned. The horror and shame of disrobing a child can be easily covered by the proudly raised national flag.

Politicisation of Rape Has Its Benefits

No, nobody is enthralled by a national party’s President’s midnight vigil. Especially when he went missing during the entire span of historic demonstrations on the Raisina Road in December 2012. Obviously, he could not protest against his own party in power. And this memory of silences and absences is what we need to keep alive.

When we politicise rape, we also commit an act of elimination. We separate genuine concern from the farcical gestures. What Rahul Gandhi achieved, eventually, by helping Nirbhaya’s brother is far greater than the political capital gain through the midnight vigil. What Yogi Adityanath may achieve by bringing his MLA to the book will be far greater than any act of solidarity. But to be able to differentiate substance in political will from flatulence, we need to politicise first.

And politicisation needs to rise above politicking, leave the latter to the seasoned practitioners.

The Consequence of a Rape

In the Roman legend, the aftermath of the rape of Lucretia is to alter a social system that is excessively limiting. It became the fulcrum of the anger of suppressed people. In India, rapes come and go almost as apologetically as the victim who is told to be ashamed of inviting it unto herself. There’s rarely a consequence, a price for that rape. A change in legislation effected by the December ‘12 protests is an inadequate consequence and so is the ‘promise’ of safety. In a country obsessed with cows, rape is yet another milch cow that is often pampered to milk electoral benefits.

Isn’t it time to change all of that?

How about a consequence when the ‘system’ is forced to alter its paradigm of functioning because people will not have any of the diseased hollowness of politicking? Let us politicise rape till political agents of all stripes realise they can’t use it as a tool anymore. Unless the raped girls, and boys, of our country affect our political allegiances, we will be complicit in this hideousness.

(The Quint is available on Telegram. For handpicked stories every day, subscribe to us on Telegram)

Stay Updated

Subscribe To Our Daily Newsletter And Get News Delivered Straight To Your Inbox.

Join over 120,000 subscribers!