India’s Daughter – Her Fault?

With “India’s Daughter”, Leslee Udwin has once again brought Nirbhaya into the limelight and with her, dragged out the sinister monster of rape. What are we supposed to address now? The fact that the documentary has been banned in India or the statements made by the driver and the defense lawyers or the rape itself?  A brutal rape and the death of a young student was what it took for the country to open its eyes. The streets were lit up with candles and filled with policemen and barricades before people carrying placards, screaming for justice and liberation. Never before had people come out in such huge numbers to express their solidarity and to demand justice. Two years later, the documentary has created a wave in waters that were disturbed by a few ripples.

The statements of the driver and defense lawyers shocked many. The conviction with which they blamed the girl was appalling. According to them, she had it coming. They claim that because of the influence of western culture, women are abandoning tradition. Is the punishment for that rape? Was it truly her fault? Who are they to take law in their own hands?

What drives a person to commit rape? Is it just lust or is there more to it? This is going to be very hard to dissect, but one thing that we find at the root of many of these statements is male chauvinism. Our patriarchal  society has taught young boys at a tender age that they are superior. They are given more milk than the girls, the girls are allowed to eat only after the men have finished eating. Not only are the boys sent to better schools than their sisters, but the girls are also forced to drop out at an early age because education is not as important for them. People believe that they can go to heaven only if a son lights their pyre. The son will carry the family name. He will support them in their old age. But a daughter will just get married and go away.

We call ourselves educated and civilized, but what we are primarily missing in the construct of our personalities and society, is the issue of teaching morals to our children. By the end of the day, are we actually teaching the boys how to be gentlemen? The habit of instilling male chauvinism into the young boys has been deep rooted in our society since ages. But what we are losing in this process is the delicate and ignored fact that their minds are cultivating an irreparable inferior attitude towards women.

The concept that men are superior is like a great tree with roots so deep that uprooting it might crack the very foundation on which our society is built. The same message is being passed on from parents to children like seeds being dispersed. This chain needs to be broken. It has to be uprooted when it is just a sapling. Once it grows into a tree, it is almost impossible to uproot. Even if you cut it, it will sprout.

We always teach our girls to be in control, not to exercise a lot of free will and bow their heads in public. They are taught that they are weak and fragile, that they need to depend on men.  They are expected to keep quiet in any uncomfortable situation. After all, the name of the family is more important than the integrity of the girl. Why all this? Are girls nothing more than walking dolls?

The way we are brought up decides the way we behave as adults and in a society like ours which promotes this belief, that’s a vital aspect to be given a good deal of thought to.

How all this relates to the rape incident you may ask. It is said that rape is a way to assert superiority. It gives them a rush to put someone else down.

The way a man sees a woman depends on his state of mind and not on whether the girl is alone at night on the street or if she is dressed in a different way. Hell, a rapist would probably rape her even if she were wearing a space suit! And it is all the girl’s fault! In the words of Mukesh Singh, She had to go and tempt him, She shouldn’t have fought and Why was she outside her house in the first place?

The driver may not have been educated well enough, but what about the lawyers? They are not illiterate. Education doesn’t appear to play a major role in the development of moral values, which by the way aren’t even focussed on in many schooling systems in India where girls are differentiated at several levels from boys. Men and women are different, but that doesn’t make them unequal.

So the answer to all this lies not in education or banning documentaries, but in changing the way our children are brought up. It can only be solved when we start looking at men and women as equals and showing women that they can be stronger and independent.

Before you take to the streets and demand that the rapists be hanged, just stop and think for a minute, how many will you hang? Almost half of the people share the same mindset. Hang one, there will be more to take his place. To them, rape is nothing very unusual. All their lives they have been told that the only purpose women serve, is to bear their children and look after their homes. They do not understand the seriousness or the crime.

India is not the rape capital of the world. The Democratic Republic of Congo is the rape capital of the world. Sweden has more rape cases. But what made India receive so much attention? Was it the brutality of the act or was it because it happened in the national capital?

Times are changing. The role of women in society is changing. It is time for the old beliefs to retire but they are part of our culture, grossly mutated and spreading like a tumor, threatening to destroy us.  The excision has begun but it is slow, too slow. Will it be removed before it is too late? When will India finally be safe for her children, not just for her daughters?

Co-written by Vrinda Lath and Sravan Chenji.