The last few weeks have been very depressing in a way that I am unable to explain. Newspapers and television channels have seen an outpouring of news about rape and protests against rape. There have been asinine comments made by politicos about how women “ invite rape” upon themselves- the need for a dress code, about “Indian culture” etc! On one hand I feel outraged and angry when I read some of these comments and on the other hand I feel a sense of emptiness . I want to believe that this is the beginning of a social change where citizens are actually speaking out against something that is the ultimate symbol of patriarchy and dominance. But on the other hand the cynical part of me wonders whether with time this spirit will also die a natural death?
But what has been most encouraging is that there is now a public discussion about rape and its reality as a threat that is being faced by every woman in our country. And, most importantly, I found that the issue has crossed gender boundaries uniting both men and women . The cause is no longer restricted to “women’s activists” – there are as many men as women that I have seen taking to the streets in protest against rape! The debates and discussions have gone beyond rape and explored the whole arena of patriarchy like imposition of dress codes, restriction of women’s mobility etc. Yes, there are still people who believe that women invite rape upon themselves by their dress and behavior. But there are also significant number of people who have questioned this… It is refreshing to see the way the discussion around rape is emerging out of its “virtue/ virginity” shroud.
I read today an article written by a rape survivor . A powerful piece of writing, it spoke about her determination to survive and the way her family stood by her as her physical and emotional scars healed.
This brings to my mind a Hindi film made in the 1970s/80s that was way ahead of its times. The movie named “Ghar” starring Rekha and Vinod Mehra dealt with the story of young and happily married couple. One night as they return from watching a movie, a group of men surround them, beat up the husband take the wife away in a car and rape her. The wife goes missing for a couple of days. The husband has to endure a lot of humiliating questions as he tries to file a missing persons report at the local police station. The wife finds her way home on the third day. The rest of the movie deals with how the couple try to deal with her trauma. Actually, it goes much beyond her trauma. It also brings out nuances of a husband-wife relationship. The husband, a very sensitive man tries to deal with his wife’s emotional scars by being caring and loving but for the wife, the rape is not just a nightmare that can be washed away with care and love. It makes her completely afraid of any form of physical contact including that with her husband. And there is the guilt that begins to play in her mind because of which she is unable to face the physical side of marriage. An absolutely brilliant movie with great acting and wonderful music, I am yet to see something as sensitive as this movie!
My only wish is that the momentum that has being built up around this crime does not get lost once the media turns its attention to something else. We are at the brink of a sort of social change. Even if we are not able to change the legal system or the safety situation radically, I would be happy if it did change the way we think of and relate to each other as men and women…