Delhi gang-rape: Some answers – 1

Read my last post for context.

Severity:

Numbers are hard to come by but it appears that the number of reported cases has doubled in the last two decades.

Causes:

To determine why the number of rapes as against other crimes is increasing, it might be useful to distinguish between rapes that are perpetrated by ordinary criminals who cannot control their sexual desires and those that are perpetrated by seemingly normal men. The former category probably correlates with crime in general, it is a law and order issue. The latter category is the one that explains the rise and it is the one that is particularly worrying. This kind of rape has little or nothing to do with sexual desire. It is a reaction to women who dare to assert themselves. Recall that in the Delhi case, one of the accused admitted that he went berserk when the girl tried to resist the men and defend her friend who was being attacked. A woman asserting herself is unimaginable to those who still live by a traditional value system. What is this system? In this system:
A woman does not marry a man. She marries into the man’s family.
A woman does not marry by choice. She is given to another family (Think of Kanyadaan).
A woman is the property of her family.
The honor and status of the family is derived from the property it possesses.
A woman is honorable as long as she is untouched (unused) by anyone outside the family. (Think of Sita in Ramayan)
Sex is taboo unless it is between husband and wife.

To a man who who is steeped in these values, what is the worst he can do to a woman? Destroy her honor by using her sexually, rendering her unfit for use by anyone else. Hence rape.

Rapes of this kind are nothing new. They have been perpetrated by soldiers after winning a war and by rioters wanting to teach a lesson to members of a community they hate. What is frightening is that they are now being perpetrated by ordinary men against women who dare to challenge traditional values.

The typical profile of such a rapist is a man steeped in traditional values who resents the social changes that challenge his values in general and is angry enough by some act of resistance to forget common decency in a moment of madness.

The typical profile of a rape victim is simply any woman who dares to reject the traditional value system by choosing to marry against the rules of her village, wearing western clothes, going out with a boy friend, refusing to accept harassment, rejecting someone’s advances etc.

To be continued…

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One Response

  1. It was considered ideal for all men in a family to marry and bring their wives to live on the family estate, and for all women born to a family to marry and go out to live with their husbands. The change of families was of course a defining event in the life of a woman, and the traditional, even prescriptive, sentiment was great sorrow at leaving her girlhood home, only sometimes mitigated by a sense of adventure or excitement about assuming her new status as married woman. In some parts of western China there is a tradition of women’s musical lamentations on this theme, and the days leading up to marriage may be celebrated with carefully structured sessions of ritualized sobbing involving the bride-to-be and her unmarried friends or younger sisters.

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