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The Blame Game: India's Rape Culture

"My name is Suzette Jordan and not the 'Park Street rape victim'. I was raped. But, I am alive and I want to fight."

On the night of 5th Feb, 2012, 37-year-old Suzette went to meet few of her friends for a drink, in one of Kolkata's most popular nightclubs in Park Street. When she returned home, she accepted the offer of a lift from a man she had got talking to inside the club. In the car, she was surprised to find 4 other men from his group, suddenly enter. By the time she realized something was wrong, the doors were auto-locked and the car was moving.

She was beaten, gang-raped and thrown out of the car onto the street, her clothes torn and tattered.

For Suzette, Kolkata had always been the "safe city" where she grew up. But, after that night, things changed dramatically for her. Mustering all the courage she had, she reported the crime both to the police and the local media.

The rape sparked uproar.

Rape in Bengal has always been an event of political significance. Politicization of crimes or any attempt to ignore them has only managed to bolster the perpetrators. But this is not the only way the State responds to incidents of rape. When the Park Street rape was highlighted, the first reaction from the Government was to deny the event took place, calling it a "concocted incident" whose aim was to malign the government. One minister went even further and called the entire incident as a "deal gone wrong between a prostitute and her client". This remark, in addition to demeaning the victim, also implied that a prostitute cannot be raped.

The State's responses to sex crimes have ranged from denial to misinformed outbursts. From accusing the media of "glorifying rape", through to putting the blame on an overly "open and permissive culture", the State, in an attempt to escape the dubious distinction of being the 'most unsafe place for women', has done its utmost to overlook a deeper malaise in the society. And this goes beyond the convenient ritual of demonizing modernity and targeting the victim for criticism.

The National Crime Records Bureau put West Bengal as the state with the highest number of crimes against women in 2012, with 2046 registered rapes. It is a society steeped in misogynist culture, where women who dare to speak out are subjected to a process of silence, threat and blame.In order to create awareness of our own set of complicities with regards to this 'culture of rape', we therefore need as a society to internalize and utilize the legal reforms that have already been introduced.

The new Criminal Law Amendment Act, 2013, brought in the aftermath of the nationwide outrage over the Delhi gang-rape, aimed to provide a strong deterrent against rape. And yet sex crimes against women continue unabated. Why? The answer lies in the fact that law alone cannot safeguard the security of India’s women. At some point, society has to take greater responsibility for reforming itself. Misogynist social attitudes towards sex crimes play a big part in the reluctance of women to come forward. Our legal system, police and the general public, all of whom engage in the pervasive practice of victim-blaming, need to change their understanding of rape from -"don't get raped" to "don't rape".

Until that happens, it is pointless to question why the law fails or why police reforms are not adequately addressing this issue.

Being a Bengali myself and having lived in Kolkata for many years, I understand Suzette's predicament when she tells me that she no longer feels safe in the city.

The day she realized she wanted to reveal her identity, she says, was when she saw a 74-year-old lady, out on the street, protesting against the increasing number of crimes in the city. Her strength emboldened Suzette to come forward and fight her battle - not behind a veil but as herself.

She tells me that she waits for the day for all her rapists to be convicted. But, until then, she wants the State to stop demonizing victims. "Until then, no woman is safe either in Bengal or in our country.” I agree.

This article is part of a writing assignment for Voices of Our Future a program of World Pulse that provides rigorous digital empowerment and citizen journalism training for grassroots women leaders. World Pulse lifts and unites the voices of women from some of the most unheard regions of the world.

Comments

olutosin's picture

Thanks my sister and friend

Hey, thanks again and again my darling....we are debating and will continue to debate this evil culture in Indian society. Although I am afraid of the dent it will cause on the nation's image but it is better addressed now and forever.

The value accosted to Indian woman by their men counterparts baffle me, we need change in India and a lasting change for that matter. I believe that the solution is a total mindset change towards women and accepting gender equality of all human creatures in India.

Pls keep on writing, keep on believing. How beautiful it will be if women can feel safe to be free.

Olutosin Oladosu Adebowale
Founder/Project Coordinator
Star of Hope Transformation Centre
512 Road
F Close
Festac Town
Lagos-Nigeria

https:

Mukut's picture

Thank you sister !

Olu, you know everything. How much the women and marginalized suffer in my country. I pray that even after listening to all this, you take on our citizenship. We could do SO much better with more women like you.

The topic of rape culture is very close to me and I will continue to speak about it, to end impunity.

Let us wait till friday,the 13th, for the final verdict of the Delhi gang rape case. Let us see if the maximum punishment is accorded to those 4 cowards.

I hope the image of 'Indian men' change because you and I know that not all Indian men are bad.

Lots of love,

Mukut Ray

Greengirl's picture

A Burning Issue: Rape.

Dearest Mukut, you have once again addressed an issue that is a burning issue in India and beyond. The number of rape incidents in India is alarming and baffling.

I cannot help but wonder why perpetrators contnue the dastardly act even in the face of local, national and global outcry. I find it expedient to suggest that beyond convicting culprits, there is still a need to throw a searchlight into why they indulge in such grave act against women. They should be questioned and made to know that there is entirely no justification for a rape. None at all! This fact must sink in every society.

Keep speaking!

Thoughtfully,
Greengirl

Mukut's picture

Yes, Greengirl !

It seriously baffles me as well. Has the number of rapes really gone up so high or is the reporting of the crime that is causing such a furore

One thing is for sure, we now have more brave women like Suzette and others who are breaking the status quo to come out and talk openly about it.

Why should the victims feel blamed? Why should they be shamed?. That is why, along with the law and police reforms, the change in society's perception regarding rape and rape culture should change.

Thank you for always writing in and supporting me.

Love,

Mukut Ray

Ayunnie's picture

keep on speaking

Hi Mukut
I was totally captured in your article on rape. I am reaching out to Suzette- the survivor of gang rape and empathizing with her. I believe one day justice will came to pass and perpetrators will be brought to books. Well done and keep on speaking!

@ Nairobi KENYA
Women have impeccable character, if tapped society realizes quantum leap in development

Mukut's picture

Thank you Ayunnie

I have realized that the more we speak and condemn the rapists and not the one who got raped, the better the society becomes in accepting this. We need to stop victim blaming, which is especially high in Bengal and which is led by a woman leader. It saddens me to think that a woman in power perpetuates the stigmatization of rape victims.

Thank you for your thoughtful comments.

Love,

Mukut Ray

Iryna's picture

stereotypes

Dear Mukut,
What a compelling story! It reminds me the awful situation in Ukraine. Couple years ago from mass media we've heard about some rich guys raped and tried to burn a girl. They were going to escape from punishment, and they had a chance, if not the public reaction. Finally the girl died, and these guys are in prison, but this story is only the example of the position of a woman, she is percieved as an object, and that's awful!
You are right, we need to fight against of this stereotype, doesn't matter the country!
Greetings,
Iryna

Mukut's picture

Thank you Iryna

Thank you for stopping by. I have always wanted to highlight the rape culture of Bengal. This state has a woman leader but the position of women in this society is awful, to say the least.

Any kind of protest against the rapes or sex crimes, even the silent ones, are curbed by the state. Recently, 13 women protestors were manhandled and taken into custody for 8 hours for silently protesting outside the Chief Ministers' house. We do not even enjoy our democratic right to protest now.And this is just the beginning of a series of failure of the State's administration towards its women.

But thank you for reading my post and understanding my point.

Lots of love,

Mukut Ray

Y's picture

What a compelling case you

What a compelling case you make in a very succinct way. You are correct in stating that we must stop blaming the vulnerable for the crimes of animals calling themselves human.
Blessings to you, Mukut.
Yvette

Y

Mukut's picture

Thank you Dear Y

Thank you for your support and understanding. I appreciate your comments. It is cowardly to blame the vulnerable and the State of Bengal has been doing that for years.

I am glad that the voices of dissent are growing, because the impunity and the pervasive rape culture has to stop.

Thank you for stopping by.

Love,

Mukut Ray

Tash's picture

Great Job Mukut! Good work

Great Job Mukut! Good work bringing courage back to rape victims! I have a friend living in India and we worry so much about her safety. i have waited to read your op-ed and it was a good good wait! keep making noise about this, its a great cause to want to bring back dignity to women!

Kind Regards,
Patsy.

Mukut's picture

You are adorable Patsy !

That is so sweet to know that you waited to read my Op-Ed. BTW, I thought your work is pretty awesome too, just like you :)

Let us all keep fighting to shift the blame from the victims to the accused.

Thank you so much.
Love,

Mukut Ray

bitani's picture

Just by speaking out Suzette

Just by speaking out Suzette is a strong woman because it is very hard to report such things in conservative societies. Thank you for the nice piece Mukut.

Much of love,

Bayan

Mukut's picture

Yes, very hard to speak out

You are right Bayan. It is extremely difficult to come out and speak. Only the courageous tread that path. But until all of them show similar courage, let us show sympathy and love to others.

Thank you so much for reading and commenting. Let us keep shining.

Love,

Mukut Ray

shahd's picture

We need law enforcement

It is sad how such crimes are widely spread. I agree with you, even though laws are there, law enforcement is missing. I really hope that someday, somehow, every rapist will get what he deserves.

JaniceW's picture

Compelling piece

Mukut, I always enjoy reading your pieces as they are thought-provoking and compelling.

According to a recently released UN report, almost a quarter of men surveyed looking at violence against women in parts of Asia have admitted to committing at least one rape. Of those who acknowledged forcing a woman to have sex, more than 70 percent of men said it was because of "sexual entitlement." Nearly 60 percent said they were bored or wanted to have fun while about 40 percent said it was because they were angry or wanted to punish the woman. Only about half of the men said they felt guilty.

Another detailed Guardian article looks at the recent brutal bus rape and the backgrounds of both the perpetrators and the victims which are remarkably similar. The article also touches on how the nation's surge to superpower status has left millions behind struggling on the margins who turn to crime.
http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/sep/10/delhi-gang-rape-india-women

Clearly, in looking at the economic surge, India has the capability to make positive changes if the desire is there. One wonders what it will take to make the government sit up and say "enough is enough". Perhaps if their economy was threatened with countries demanding change or pulling out of India, they might act but alas countries like the US are too tied to the inexpensive goods and services to want to make those demands.

Mukut's picture

Coincidence

Janice, what a remarkable co incidence. Today morning I shared the same Guardian piece on FB VOF page. It welled up my eyes after reading it but also strengthened the belief that only the maximum punishment would suffice for the guilty.

I belong to two of the most unsafe places for women in India- Delhi and Kolkata. In this particular piece, I have highlihhted the pervasive impunity and rape culture that exists under a woman chief minister.

India needs extremely strict enforcement of law along with efficient and effective police reforms but what is equally important is the change in the mindset of people who still believe in victim blaming and not shaming the guilty.
So many things at so many levels need to change. Hence the need for us to speak up and be aware.

Tomorrow, friday is the day the quantum of punishment will be decided for the Delhi rape accused. We wait with bated breath.

Thank you once again for your encouraging words. I look forward to your feedback.

Love

Mukut Ray

JaniceW's picture

Verdict

As you know by now, the men were sentenced to death. What was most compelling for me were the words of the judge:

Judge Yogesh Khanna said they should be hanged for having "shocked the collective conscience" of India.

"In these times when crime against women is on the rise, courts cannot turn a blind eye toward such gruesome crime," Judge Khanna said. "There cannot be any tolerance."

"There's a willingness, an openness for greater engagement with what lies at the roots of this violence," said Kavita Krishnan, a leader of the All India Progressive Women's Association.

All encouraging news and even more so is the fact that victims appear to be more willing to come forward. Delhi police registered 1,036 complaints of rape through Aug. 15 this year, more than twice the number in the same period in 2012. Molestation complaints were up nearly six times, to 2,267. Women are courageously refusing to stay silent, a powerful first step to standing up against these violent acts. Thanks as always for being one of those courageous voices.

Nechesa's picture

very compelling piece

Mukut, I'd love to see you write about how you feel living in these parts of India that are unsafe for women. When you go about your day, are you scared that you will become one of the many victims of sexual/physical assault? It must be harrowing just to go to work and run errands! I can't even imagine what that's like.

Also, I'm curious: How much are women represented in the government and what's the trend with that? I know you mentioned that victim-blaming woman in government but I'd like to know her place in context. How special is it that she holds a governmental position? Perhaps one way to change these laws is to get more women in power who view these rapes as abhorrent. What are your thoughts on that?

Great job (as usual)

Nechesa

delphine criscenzo's picture

great job!

Hi Mukut,

Thank you fro bringing out Suzette's voice and telling her story. I was amazed by your ability to keep her very real and personal story at the forefront of your OpEd, while pointing out what needs to happen for the situation to change.
Your criticism of the process and your analysis of why laws will not help the change is strong.
The change in people's consciousness from "don't get raped" to "don't rape" will be the hardest one to achieve, but your piece and others like it and the courage of Suzette and yours, will definitely help with this process.
You rock!
Thank you

Delphine Criscenzo
Online Training Coordinator
World Pulse
www.worldpulse.com

Leigh Anne Kranz's picture

"Concocted Incident"

Dear Mukat,

Thank you for writing this infuriating and illuminating piece. I am inspired by Suzette's bravery! Thank you for bringing her story to the global stage. This all must change.

LA

pelamutunzi's picture

thank you

Oh mukut thank you for the great piece and so timely too. Rape is a big probem we have to confront and dea with so that the cuture changes and bame is shifted to the rapist not the raped. And iam happy with the sentences passed to the gang rape criminals. They deserve the death penaty and wil make many men think twice. How do you feel about the verdict?

we may be powerless to stop an injustice but let there never be a time we fail to protest.
regards
pela

Monica09's picture

Timely and compelling

Dear Mukut,

This has got to be your best piece! I was hooked to read till the end. Suzette is a brave woman and so are you for shedding light on how the society seems to be normalizing rape and blaming the victims always.

I will definitely share your article and pass on the advocacy to a larger audience!

Warmly,
Monica

lynnemhealy's picture

Mukut you are such a powerful voice!

This piece is so powerful ... it has touched me more profoundly than I can describe. You grabbed me from the start with Suzette's words and I could feel her presence throughout the whole piece.

You are so right that trying to change the laws is not the answer ... your call to action to the whole of India to take responsibility for what is happening and your challenge to them to change their own attitudes is spot on. Actually you are calling everyone in the world to step up.

Your courage and Suzette's and all women standing up for their right to be seen, valued and honoured is what will transform life on this planet for everyone. Thank you you amazing, wonderful woman.

Deepest love,
Lynne

Lynne Healy
www.lynnehealy.co.uk

Sangita Thapa's picture

I agree too!

I applaud the courage Suzette has shown amid the cruel and unapologetic culture of victim-blaming. And i completely agree with you Mukut that without society’s renewed attitude towards victim and its deeper understanding on such a grave crime, there is no possibility of legal reforms alone to work miracles.

Oh Mukut, what a strong piece! Brilliantly written! Im engrossed, and so felt the urge to recommend it. Thank you so much dearest for standing against rape, against crime. I’m with you always!

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