Am I the only one here who finds it exceedingly odd that so few of us men have raped women? How on earth, you may say, can I believe that so few of us have engaged in sexual violence against women? Across the country, women are sexually abused and tortured every day and I have the gumption to suggest that 'so few' are guilty of such everyday violence?
The fact of the matter is that surrounded as we are by signs and notions of accepted behaviour that, according to all those experts, not only allow sexual violence to be considered 'an unfortunate yet not unsurprising affair', but also a proactive encouragement to hurt and humiliate women, I consider it a miracle that all of us aren't rapists and women-bludgeoners.
At the source of the problem, of course, lie women. If women were not around - either by becoming extinct like the, say, Mbashe River Buff butterfly that existed in South Africa till the 1860s, or by becoming invisible Saudi Arabian style - then the matter of men unleashing sexual violence on women would have not even made it to the black list. But here again, one has to be pragmatic. There are women and it would be very, very difficult to keep them locked away along with the house deed and fixed deposit account papers in the Godrej locker. In any case, it would be unfortunate (especially for men) for women to not exist. So let's not go down this route. Instead, let's track some expert views on sexual violence that are, whether some of you like it or not, widely shared by a very large number of men and women of this country.
Anita Shukla, a scientist at the Rajmata Vijayaraje Scindia Krishi Vishwa Vidyalaya in Gwalior believes that "when a group of men intend to rape, they will do it". Following that profundity, Shukla referred to the vicious December 16 rape in Delhi saying that "had the girl simply surrendered [and not resisted] when surrounded by six men, she would not have lost her intestine. Why was she out with her boyfriend at 10 pm?" The fact that a lot of us non-rapists see women out after 10 pm - is 10 pm the cut-off time or 9 pm or 8 pm in Delhi? - should have made us at least consider attacking them. Are we then too lazy to rape?
Nusrat Ali of the Jamaat-E-Islami Hind believes that "co-education should be abolished and proper (sic) education facilities meant exclusively for women should be available at all level of education". With Indian school education yet to turn to the madrasa as a model, the thousands of boys who do come out of co-ed schools without unleashing violence on girls is exceedingly strange, to say the least.
A Haryana khap panchayat leader, Jitendar Chattar, is less radical. He believes that "consumption of fast food contributes to such incidents [rape]. Chowmein leads to hormonal imbalance evoking an urge to indulge in such acts". There must be something medically wrong with all those gobbling noodles from shacks and don't rape. Impotency, perhaps?
Then there is RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat who believes that "villages that embody the spirit of 'Bharat' rather than 'India' don't produce a culture of rape. That's something that you see in areas in which western culture's poison has seeped into Indian souls, most notably in urban areas." Like him, social scientist Ashis Nandy seems to also believe that an incredibly uninhibited kind of male horniness stems from a sudden exposure to modernisation, urbanisation and perhaps the English language. 'India', which includes the urban entity called Nagpur, doesn't seem to be populated only by rapists or would-be-rapists. Mighty strange, no?
Maharashtra Samajwadi Party president Abu Asim Azmi believes that "If you keep petrol and fire together then it will burn. There should be a law to ensure that there is no 'nangapan' (nudity). Those who wear less clothes should also be banned." All those girls in item numbers and less - and yet, not everyone seems to be taking the hint of practising non-consensual sex! Odd indeed.
Then there's disco babaji Asaram Bapu. He believes the victim of the December 16 rape "should have taken God's name and could have held the hand of one of the men and said 'I consider you as my brother', and should have said to the other two 'Brother I am helpless, you are my brother, my religious brother'." With women not considering all men to be quite their 'brothers', it's rather incredible that every man who is romantically or erotically involved with a woman doesn't have no-questions-asked non-consensual sex with her. Are Big non-Brothers getting away with unnecessary non-violence?
When Gandhiji blamed the 1934 Bihar earthquake as a retribution from god for India - and Bharat - upholding "the sin of untouchability", this was seriously believed by many. A similar line of reasoning, in the garb of sociology, psychology and 'tradition', is believed by more people today than many of you would care for. So, while changing the 'mindset' is a wonderful objective, I'd stick to the law's helpfulness in punishing and deterring rape. Let's not depend too much on the miraculous goodness of the hearts of all of us who haven't raped. Yet.