What lessons can we learn from the Machong incident?
It was December 2012. I was in a country I shall keep unnamed, when a woman in her late 60s walked up to me, gently put her right hand on my shoulder and asked, “What kind of men are you in India?” I had been talking to a man who was aghast by the news of the Delhi gang rape. Overhearing the conversation, she was so appalled that she couldn’t hold back her revulsion – and it was only natural for an older lady to pour out an angry, disturbed question on the horrific subject.
Rape is the fourth most common crime committed against Indian women. Technically, India is one of the countries with the lowest per capita rates of rape on paper. But it is not an area where a ‘better index relative to other countries’ should give us any sense of relief. What India must realize is that many parents and victims themselves hide the matter due to the huge stigma attached which socially invalidates the victim. Moreover, the brutality and in some cases even murder that accompanies some incidences of rape betray the dark mindset of Indian men in general – ‘Women are mere objects of pleasure and a subject of brutality and hatred’.
Until recently, Sikkim’s citizens felt an illusion of safety, naively thinking that such heinous crimes being reported from the plains of India were not in our genes. We thought that people in the hills were saints with no instincts for such evil. How wrong we were! How foolishly self-congratulatory! But the greater crime now would be to keep domesticating the monsters of our society.
On 8th November, Sikkim woke up to the dreadful news of the alleged rape and murder of a 19-year-old girl in Machong. In an unbelievably shocking revelation, it turned out that the accused was her own 23-year-old uncle. Sikkim has hung her head in utter shame and shock. But, the Sikkim police have once again proved their vigilance and the state is proud of them. It goes without saying that the law will take its course and the guilty will be punished accordingly. But what can repay the loss of a young life? Who can describe the pain and anguish of the bereaved parents and family?
As Sikkim recovers from this shock and horror, there are a number of things that we really need to ponder.
Rape is the ultimate manifestation of male disrespect for female worth, independence and dignity. It is not a cultural issue. It is universal. However, culture does hugely contribute to intensifying male ego that then drives men towards committing such heinous acts. In the west, the openness of sex and an over-emphasis on sensual pleasure have wreaked havoc. According to the RAINN (The Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network), every 73 seconds, an American is sexually assaulted. On average, there are 433,648 victims (age 12 or older) of rape and sexual assault each year in the United States. Self-proclaimed modernists may argue that it has nothing to do with contemporary music, movie and media. But pause half a second and think of the audio and visual content of the songs and movies that we are exposed to. Imagine their impact on the human mind that is inherently inclined to depravity. Our society has been increasingly normalizing taboo words. One may feel like an American when he/she uses swear words in daily life but every time you use an obscene word, you are doing at least two things: one – you are reminding your audience of the sensual aspect of life. Two – we have become so advanced culturally that it is normal to talk about such things. America is the classic case of the disaster caused by a sex-driven Cultural Revolution.
But that hardly keeps India on higher moral ground. Our culture is inherently flawed too. Our attitude towards sex has been hugely influenced by ancient art, literature, sculptures and religions which are fundamentally misogynistic. In other words, the sensual aspect of Indian life is inherently misogynistic. Built into Indian culture is the objectification of women and the subsequent relegation of them to a lower order of society. The “boys-will-be-boys” attitude to justify unrestrained male sensuality and condemn feminine aspirations for freedom is at the core of Indian culture. We are basically a hypocritical culture. Indian hypocrisy is heightened by the growing inclination to a sensual revolution being championed by Bollywood.
Sandwiched between a desi tradition and exotic modernity, both ravaged by a prejudiced understanding of feminine worth, here we are, trying to define who we are. Let me say this – we are no different from either of them. In our stories, females are still mere attractive objects. In our movies, the central role of the female lead is to look beautiful and dance in the park only to be won over by a lovesick man. Ultimate masculinity is winning the most number of girls. In our dictionary, glamour means the shape, size and colour of human physicality. What used to be secret tendencies and never expressed publically in the past, have now been openly expressed, proudly flaunted and even shamelessly promoted. Inappropriate sensual tendencies are proudly confessed facts. Do we have the time to think about the orientation of children who have been brought under the sound of love songs, some of which are the crazy expressions of obsessive feelings towards the opposite sex? Vocabulary is another matter which no longer bothers the modern mind. Also, think of the aspirations of children brought up in homes where sex symbols are family icons. The most critical problem is all of us are guilty of ignoring the elephant in the room. This is more than an elephant. This is a monster.
No one can reverse the process of cultural evolution. Female counterparts are always going to be exposed to certain dangers. All we can do is to inculcate genuine respect for women in our children. Here is a list of things we can do – Restrict the accessibility to obscenity in any form from kids as much as possible. Develop a family culture of serious conversation and clean entertainment. Expose children to sound, non-erotic literature. Alert children to inappropriate talk, attitude and actions. Relatives can also be the monsters who can eventually attack. Nothing can guard children more than the wisdom of parents and guardians. There are two layers of security – mental and physical. We must make a sincere effort to apply both. It would be naive to wait for society to change. It would be no wiser than to wait for the river to dry before you cross. Society will not improve. It will, in fact, only get worse.
“Sandwiched between a desi tradition and exotic modernity, both ravaged by a prejudiced understanding of feminine worth, here we are, trying to define who we are. Let me say this – we are no different from either of them. In our stories, females are still mere attractive objects. In our movies, the central role of the female lead is to look beautiful and dance in the park only to be won over by a lovesick man.”
By Jiwan Rai, the author can be contacted at – email@example.com
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