Last week’s protests on the streets of Delhi against the despicable gang rape of a young 23-year-old girl were, no doubt, impressive but they missed the point. Rape doesn’t happen because the police permit it or are absent and unable to prevent it. Rape doesn’t happen because politicians won’t strengthen the law and are insensitive to the victims. Rape doesn’t happen because the courts are slow in meting out justice or the legal process humiliates the victims. Rape happens because men rape.
That’s the key point the protests forgot.
Rape happens because Indian men don’t respect women and treat them as play-things. And let’s face it, this is a direct result of the way we bring up our men and the way we encourage them to think of women.
The problem begins with parenting. We treat boys like little Gods and daughters as a curse. And when I say we, I really mean mothers who spoil their sons whilst disregarding their daughters. Attitudes inculcated in childhood lead to adolescents, young men and, finally, adults treating women with disrespect and even violence. So the fault begins at home. It begins with our mums and dads. In fact, hurtful as it may sound, it begins with mum.
Saturday’s protestors, courageously facing teargas and water-cannons, should have first ventilated their anger on Indian men. When you hear of elderly women of 80, or baby girls of 3, who have been raped you have to ask: have Indian men become barbarians?
But the anger needs to go further. We need to focus on the way our families bring us up. We need to question the attitudes society encourages. In fact, we need to ask why do so many, who are capable of thinking for themselves, unthinkingly follow suit.
Pause and consider this: why do the police blame the victims before they start to prosecute the rapists? Why do they believe the way a woman is dressed, or the fact that she is out at night, invites rape? The answer is simple. It’s because we as a society do.
Here women are as much to blame as men. After all, it’s mothers and aunts who conclude from a young girl’s dress she’s behaving like a tart. They are the ones who claim that to be seen with a single man is to suggest you are available.
No doubt they’re like this because their mothers before them were the same. The danger is their daughters may not be different.
So I say to the tens of thousands, in fact tens of millions, demanding justice that you are perfectly right to do so but if you really want it question your brothers, uncles, fathers — indeed, question every male you know.
Then, question the society we live in but are also creatures of. We look upon the victims of rape as women who have been shamed. Actually, it’s the rapist who is shameful. But how do we move to a position where women who have been raped are treated with special care and honour whilst the rapist is made an outcast?
Our politicians and the police can’t provide the answers. They can’t show the way. We have to find it ourselves. By changing our thinking and attitudes. By changing the way we are.
So whilst I applaud the protestors, their dedication, energy and anger, I can’t help feel these should be better directed.
Views expressed by the author are personal.