The gang-rape of a 22-year-old BPO employee in Bangalore, which bears eerie similarities to the Nirbhaya story, has been largely lost in the hullabaloo surrounding Dalits, beef-eaters, Sahitya Akademi Awards and Dandiya Raas. But why are we, as women, not more outraged? Why is no one carrying out protests, marching to candles or creating a social media furor? Is it possible that, as a nation, we’ve become desensitized to rape?
Is this desensitization because a woman is raped every 20 minutes in our country? Is it because sexual violence has become an epidemic? Have we already made our peace with the fact that we will always be in danger? That we will not be able to change our men or our boys? Have we stopped expecting the police or the government to grant us justice? Has the impunity granted to most rapists and perpetrators, who state machinery has been unable to punish, left us cynical?
We’ve arrived at an almost collective consciousness that rapes are not going to stop. Men who feel threatened by emancipated women – pushing back on the socio-cultural boundaries ascribed by tradition – are countering the power shift with an aggressive dominance, the most execrable manifestation of this being the rapes we are seeing.
We don’t teach our boys a healthy attitude towards sex. We thrust them in front of our oversexed pervasive movies and have them understand sexuality within the context of an item song. When discrimination begins at the crib, it’s pretty difficult, if not impossible, to not have it end in police stations.
When I think of the number of times I have opened my door without checking who stands on the other end, or taken a taxi at four in the morning, or ignored the leery eyes and hoots of many a hooligan, or walked by myself on dark empty roads at midnight, I shudder. The only reason I have not been raped when women in less vulnerable positions have is a matter of luck, or destiny as we Indians like to call it.
The onus rests with us, within us, and therefore we need to do everything we can to protect ourselves. But as women there’s not much we count on. Sure, we can carry pepper spray, learn Krav Maga, avoid confrontations with men, educate ourselves about our rights, and watch another actress in a video on women empowerment. We can remove the cloak of silence surrounding sexual violence even as we cloak our short dresses from the penetrating gaze of men. Technology – sexual harassment apps like Safecity and Mapping Sexual Violence – can be appropriated as a means to ensure greater safety for women, but these are the only tools we have.
Aside, of course, from the tool of caring about women unluckier than us, women who have been raped. Let us not forget them.