'I am a woman, hear me roar'

Bangalore, June 14: A search in google with the keywords 'rape cases in India' will give you explosive figures on the increase in such cases. A recent IANS report cites that Delhi has witnessed a 158 percent increase in rape cases and a report in TOI states 336% increase in child rape cases in the last decade. In fact, there were close to 48, 338 child rape cases between 2001-2011 itself. The numbers are growing by the day with incidents like the Delhi rape case, and a series of rape cases in Kolkata adding on to the numbers.

Rape cases go unreported in India

As an Indian citizen and a woman, my question is: Are these figures accurate? Are such cases just restricted to only Delhi and Kolkata or is this a pan-Indian epidemic? However, the question that lingers most in my mind is whether we can compensate a woman's modesty by just candle light marches? I specifically ask the latter, having read an elite and insightful opinion on the internet regarding the 'progressive hollowness of the Bengalis' as they did not have any reported 'candle-light marches' post the rape case in Barasat. But on second thoughts, I was sad and disheartened to know that a candle-light march for a rape victim is nothing but a means of branding or brandishing a community these days. It has lost their true fervour.

A candle-light march could have done a lot more, I believe. For example, dig into indices of unreported rape cases in villages and towns, probe into facts why they have not been reported, find out the conviction rates and many more.

A case in Haryana (in 2012), where a woman was gang-raped by 8 or more men (all belonging to higher caste) in the fields is a case in point. She was raped, video-taped and threatened that she would be killed if she didn't keep mum. And she did so, until her father came across the video tape (from the village men, who had by then enjoyed it thoroughly) and committed suicide on September 18th 2012. Just one or two of the rapists were convicted, but no one knows the story after that.

According to statistics, most of the rape cases go unreported due to a number of reasons-caste heirarchy (as was the case of this 16 year old from Haryana), shame (since a rape victim is not a virgin anymore and is not suitable for marriage), trauma, self denial, death, or even suicide. Ironically, few of the cases have been refused to be registered by the police itself, fearing the local goons or the MLA.

Try finidng out unreported rape cases on google or ask a government official, they would be reluctant to throw light on the exact figures. The internet fails to produce search results because there is no data (the last data to be found dates back to 2011). I would not be surprised if there are political interests in hiding these figures, especially when they can raise questions on the administrative capabilities of the ruling party. Visit the local police station and you would meet with indifferent officers or get answers like "this is a common affair, it is not possible to report everything and anything". People seem to have attained a casual approach to a rape or violence against women. All that they can do is create an uproar for a few days with candle light marches, lathi charges, a few feminist dialogues and be done with it.

Trust me, any of it or criticism of a particular community for its 'hollowed progressive thinking' would do no good to the social mind-set of India. The change has to come from within. Indians have been objectifying women and they will continue to do so. No amount of education or awareness can help them see Indian women as individuals with feelings and brains and not just with a body to drool at. In fact, I came across a website of South Eastern CASA (Centre Against Sexual Assault), which had interesting facts on common and the strangest of rape beliefs of men.

MYTH - Women and girls enjoy being raped.

FACT - Rape is a degrading, humiliating and painful experience
which no woman enjoys. Some rape victims go through years of trauma,
nightmares and suicidal feelings.
MYTH - Men have no control when they are sexually aroused.

FACT - This is an excuse that many men have used, in the same
way that they use alcohol as an excuse. 'I couldn't help it, I got
carried away...' Men can control themselves and must be responsible for
their sexual behaviour. The woman is never responsible for what the
rapist does.

MYTH - Women who hitchhike are asking to be raped.

FACT - Women, like men who hitchhike, are asking only for a lift.

MYTH - Only sexy women get raped.

FACT - The rapist is not looking for someone sexy, he is
looking for a victim. He wants someone who is frightened of him. What
you look like is not important.

MYTH - Nice women don't get raped.

FACT - 'Nice' women are often brought up to be the perfect
victims for rapists. Nice women don't yell, hit back, or hurt anyone.
They keep secrets.

MYTH - Your clothing (or lack of it) is often the reason
for rape.

FACT - What you are wearing has nothing to do with why you are
raped. Many women are raped in their school uniforms or pyjamas. If a
man wants to rape you, he will not be looking at what you're wearing. He
doesn't see you as a person, but an object that he can use or abuse.

MYTH - Women who are raped are scarred for life.

FACT - Women do survive rape physically and emotionally, and in
the process can become stronger, more self-respecting and aware.

MYTH - Most women say 'no' when they mean 'yes'. They just
want to know if a man is strong and can get what he wants.

FACT - When a girl or woman says no, she means no.

MYTH - Women usually get raped between the ages of 14 and

FACT - Women as young as 18 months and women as old as 96 have
been raped. Girls and women are potential rape victims at any age. The
rapist is not looking for someone young or sexy. He's looking for
someone who's afraid.

MYTH - Rape is a hideous crime and victims get justice
through the law.

FACT - It is estimated that only one in twenty rapes in
Australia is reported to the Police and there is an overall conviction
rate of about 5%.

MYTH - Women only say it is rape if they feel guilty about
having sex.

FACT - There are no more false reports of rape to the police
than any other crime. Most rapes go unreported because the rapist is
known or even related to the victim, and she's too embarrassed or
frightened to report him.

MYTH-Most of rapes happen in pubs and parties.

FACT - Most rapes take place in the woman's home, or the rapist's
home. Rapes are most often planned, and in 80% of cases, the rapist
knows the victim.

Many would contest that the facts are feminist opinions. But, having faced the mass, travelling by buses everyday, wading through the prying eyes, having heard men commenting on women for no reason at all, I believe they are absolutely true.

I am speaking from the point of view of a woman and I have no political interest in writing this article. Neither am I a feminist, who would go gaga over the rights of women and how they are being or not being implemented. I am a woman and an Indian and these are my honest views over the current situation of the state administration and the way women are being seen today.

With the turn of events everyday, I am scared and apprehensive to walk down the streets of any city and I do not like this. I do not like being commented on what I wear or what I do, and I do not like being raped because of my caste, class or community. India is my country and I wish to live freely like the citizens of a country do. I do not want 'great internationalists' to come to my rescue, neither do I wish to come across 'petty escapists' who can just opine on the present state of the country and its women over a cup of coffee. I hate the hankering on who did what and what should have been done because that restricts the freedom of a woman to what people think and how irresponsible they have been.

I am not here to contend figures and statistics, but my sole idea is to show that we Indians just know how to point fingers at each other and not make the faintest of attempts to reform our way of seeing people and things around us. We should be bothered more about finding the answers to the above questions and not with petty issues that would do no good to change the state of women today.  Hence, my earnest request to all the readers-stop the hoopla over candle-light marches and act!

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