If only it were just a crossword clue anymore.
‘Eve-teasing’. An all-too-popular pastime in this wonderful country we call home. It isn’t even English, really, but an Indianism, ifyou will, much like ‘prepone’, ‘reply back’, ‘do the needful’ and our Indian version of ‘propose’, which doesn’t mean what it means everywhere else.
It is commonly defined as men ogling at women on the street, whistling, singing songs, basically boorish men behaving like they own a woman they see. Or at least that is how it starts off, with men at street corners singing the cheapest Bollywood songs they can think of, with the most crass lyrics imaginable (and my goodness me, our lyric writers give them so much to choose from it’s like listening to an even less melodious version of the radio). There are catcalls, whistles, remarks like ‘item’ and ‘wah’, and then there’s outright groping.
I have been fortunate enough not to ever have been groped or had anyone attempt to do so, but for your average Indian woman, tapori ‘seeti’ and catcalls have become a way of life, something that’s in the background, like annoying white noise you cannot get rid of.
As we all are FULLY aware, rape has nothing to do with sex, or titillation, or whether my clothes are too tight or too short or too something-or-the-other. It’s to do with a moron (or an entirely stupid, backwards society) SO steeped in patriarchy that he is convinced he absolutely must show his masculinity, or as they like to say here, ‘mardaangi’. What better way to show you are a MAN than by subjugating a woman, no? Of course! What better way to subjugate a woman than to violate her?
Of course, with this comes the wonderful label of a woman’s ‘modesty’. My sexuality. My ‘modesty’. Her modesty was violated. The farmer committed suicide because his daughter’s modesty was outraged. Modesty in India is a wonderful umbrella term that covers virginity (only for a woman, though, let it be remembered), female sexuality, anything that could possibly even indicate that the woman has her own independent thought processes, makes, nay, even wants to make her own decisions – and god forbid they are sex-related – or just wants to be considered a human being like any other, and the way to show what I shall subsequently call ‘penis-power’, you grab this ‘modesty’.
Recently, an acquaintance of mine I met through mutual friends when I studied abroad, and a Facebook friend, did this, and it was amazing.
He was crossing the street in Bangalore with two female friends, when two uncouth hooligans on a bike began to ‘eve-tease’ them. Akshay Kingar, instead of bowing his head and walking on like most of us (myself included) do, he took a photograph of them and posted it to the internet. Our two lovely idiots may not have been aware of the power of social media when they so wonderfully flipped Akshay the bird. They’re likely more than aware now.
In addition to garnering immense Internet traffic, the post was brought to the attention of the Bengaluru Police. Members of Parliament, news channels, publicists and even average Joes working in the field of the media latched onto the story and brought it to the attention of the entire country.
Those two upstanding pillars of modern society have, I hear, since been arrested by the Bengaluru police.
Unfortunately, there are many like them that roam the streets unfettered, feckless pieces of filth that live with no fear of the law (which, of course, inspires no fear in anybody because it might as well not exist), and only two days ago, in spite of ALL the lip-service the public received post Nirbhaya, THIS was a headline: “Woman gang-raped on bus in Indore”.
Clearly a LOT has changed since Nirbhaya, then.
Lip service, lip service, and more lip service. Changing the law may be one thing, but changing people’s mindsets is another.
A wonderful guy left this nugget of wisdom on the photo Akshay shared on Facebook [and I’ve left his name in because he deserves to be shamed publicly in every way possible].
“Venu Krish Reddy first over girls must wre the proper dress’s den y the hell da guys ll teas them, so guys plz think of t also k..,”
That comment was ‘liked’ by 3 different people, one of them, sadly, a woman.
In our country, it doesn’t really take much for something to escalate into violence. It could start off as vile jeering and creepy leers, but with no legal regulation, anybody can pick up a bottleful of acid at a corner store for a nominal amount, and, should his lecherous advances be spurned, use this to prove his might. (I am penis, hear me roar?)
Everybody now, Delhi police included, seems to be telling women how to ‘take precautions’ so that they are not attacked. That in itself is ridiculous, in that the police is obligated to make people abide by the law, the same law that should punish them if they do NOT. Unfortunately, that is not the way it works here.
No, instead of that, let’s tell women what ‘modesty’ is. Modesty is not showing your shoulders/arms/legs/cleavage/neck/ANY skin whatsoever, because otherwise you’re just asking to be raped. How DARE you show skin? And if you do, how do you expect the man to control his sexual urges?? Poor diddums!
Then, we shall make ‘historical’ reference points to outline what exactly we define as modesty. Draupadi, Sita, Parvati, Sati, whatever mythological woman was the most subservient is automatically the most modest.
Indian men (and again, I do not mean educated Indian men – I mean the ones who lean on their bicycles/motorcycles by the side of the street, wearing their ‘Dabang’ glasses, thinking they have all the swagger in the world) seem to consider ogling a birthright, something that they just do. Then you have this man proving it’s not just your average cheapo who does it. And he’s wonderfully shameless about it, too.
Tie this in with our leftover white supremacist ideals and our obsession with whiteness in general, which have seeped so far into the cracks of our broken society that they have become part of its very foundation (and are proved, time and time again, by the staggering sales of fairness creams and bleach, or even the sheer volume of advertisements you see about them on the television), and you get an increasing spate of crimes against foreign tourists, who from what I gather are looked upon as ‘itummm’. While I was writing the article, this happened and it is terrifying. I think I might have done much the same.
Victim-blaming is a lovely, lovely pastime of (in increasing order of the gravity of how stupid this is) the people, the law and the upholders of the law. First you have idiots like Mr. Venu on Facebook, blaming the girls and asking them to ‘look at what dress ur wearin’, an idiot I saw on the Times of India comment board implying Nirbhaya deserved to be raped because ‘what did she expect travelling so late wid boyfrnd’, the Swiss tourists who were told by Madhya Pradesh police ‘not to be wandering around so late’, and the Suryanelli rape case, where her tormentors, among them Rajya Sabha MP P.J Kurien, said she was ‘of age’ and the sex was consensual. In addition, THIS:
The Court order described the alleged rapes as a “willing journey of a misguided girl”, and claimed that the male accused were “guilty only of the immorality of going to a woman, who they thought was a prostitute.
Of course, this is entirely logical, because if she’s a prostitute, it’s totally okay to rape her, right? It’s not like she is providing business that SHE should conduct at her OWN discretion, right? (However, considering the level to which trafficking goes on in this country, this is an article I would like to save for later.)
The JUDGE in that case, a man named Mr. R. Basant had said “The girl is not normal, she is deviant. All these are there in the judgment”.
First off – even if she was a prostitute (which I sincerely doubt), that gives nobody the right to rape.
Second, considering legalese is supposed to be extremely accurate, with no room for any ambiguity whatsoever, I wonder if there is any way for Judge Basant to explain the word ‘deviant’. Perhaps he means what the collective Indian male I mentioned earlier believes. ‘Immodest’.
There can be all sorts of banter about laws being changed, anti-rape law this, anti-rape law that, anti-rape anything. But at the end of the day, it all boils down to this. We have to, as a society, bring up men that do not think of themselves as a superior being or species, but just a homo sapien that happens to have a penis. It is a fleshy, vascular appendage. Not a Golden Excalibur between your legs that you draw out to proclaim your kingship.
We need to stop calling the cheap morons by the street Roadside Romeos, although I quite approve of the name if it involves them ingesting poison of some sort.
Dear 19-year-old guy at my gym, this means that when you ask my friend “Why do you cook your own dinner, aren’t you married? Doesn’t your wife cook for you?”, or “You change your daughter’s diapers??”, you are part of the problem. The very, very big problem. The law may precipitate the problem, but the problem is your mindset, and that of a billion others, not all of them men. The problem is that these people need to be taught something that most of the civilised world has been aware of for a long, long, long time.
It’s something I’ve said before, and it’s something I will say again. New Delhi needs to be rechristened Rape Delhi or something to that effect. In Uganda, rape is a war crime. In New Delhi, I wonder if it is even a crime anymore. If you’re Indian/living in India, sipping your morning coffee and reading the paper, and you see ‘Rape in New Delhi’, more than likely you will be angry but not particularly surprised. Saying somebody was raped in New Delhi is like saying it snowed in the Arctic. It’s something that never goes away. It isn’t just the rape capital of India, it might as well be the rape capital of the world.
India is still, sadly, largely patriarchal. We’re at the end of 2012 and still attempting to break stereotypes that belonged in the Middle Ages, that everywhere else in the world disappeared at the turn of, I don’t know, the 19th century. And we’re not even doing a very good job. Browse any online newspaper and the comment boards will be chock-full of misogynistic rubbish that somehow blame the victim, for reasons made up by the commenters, reasons that make rational sense to them and them alone. Reasons like, the rapist ‘lost control’, the girl was ‘skimpily dressed’, or a lot of other comments that somehow imply the victim had it coming. The kind of comments that make you want to throw these morons against a wall and beat the living daylights out of them. (And I’m not even a violent person.)
For those of you who are as yet unfamiliar with what happened – a 23- year old girl caught a Dwarka-Delhi bus with a friend after watching a film. The people on that bus beat her up, gangraped her in the bus driver’s cabin, nearly pulverised her, then her friend for attempting to protect her, and then threw the girl out of the moving bus. In spite of the fact that the bus passed FIVE police checkpoints, nobody stopped it or even bothered to look.
It’s something that sends chills down your spine wherever in the world you are, chills and utter shame when it happens in your own backyard.
I’ve written time and time and time again about my absolute lack of faith in the Indian judicial system in general, and that continues. But New Delhi/NCR policemen are a whole new level of foul, disgusting, bottom-feeding dirt that do not even deserve to live, let alone have any power.
If a girl is raped, their first thought is not, oddly, “How do we catch these men and what do we do to them?” It is “What was the time when the girl was raped?” If it was nighttime, that is their rationale for justifying said rape, because ‘what is a woman doing out so late at night?’. “What was she wearing?” Because if she was skimpily dressed, of course she’s to blame, she might as well be holding a sign that says ‘do me now, I want you inside me, violate me completely’. Or that it ‘was consensual, but these guys just get violent halfway through so the girls call it rape’. Because that’s completely logical, obviously.
It’s not just them though, lots of people somehow seem to think if a woman dresses as she wishes, drinks, parties, or basically has any will of her own, she is a ‘loose’ ‘slut’, and I don’t know what either of those two terms mean. Basically, according to them, said woman is trying to be a man, which is unacceptable, women to them are supposed to be beings that are there to stay around till you feel like marrying one, then mop your floors and make you food and tea, show off to your wife, and put your penis in as and when you feel like, following which, if and only if you deign to choose, she will carry your seed, which is hopefully a male. (This is exactly how the brain of your average misogynistic MCP Indian man functions.) Women are not meant to be just regular human beings with different genitalia from men, they are not supposed to have their own desires, wants and needs, unless aforementioned needs include ‘staying a virgin for marriage’, ‘looking for a boy’, and, oh, ‘marriage’. And whatever they think marriage entails, which they think, for the most part, is access to sex as and when you want it.
Why am I talking about these people? Because it is precisely this sort of mindset that gives rise to hordes of utter idiots who do not respect women, or even other human beings, which is another thing New Delhi is notorious for (like this guy, who shot a toll booth attendant because he didn’t want to pay).
The moment you believe men are the only acceptable species of human, the species that should hold power, and women are not homo sapiens, but just some sort of instrument that is there , you have morons like these. This sort of backward ideal of the woman being unequal, a sad little being that depends on a man for everything, including to give her life meaning, (which of course it has none of otherwise), is not something I see changing any time soon, simply because there are both women and men out there who believe in it and are watching it propagated through pathetic TV shows that are on Indian television all the livelong day. [An aside: One of said TV shows includes, to my knowledge, a woman whose husband cheated on her, left her for another woman whom he later married, and she still keeps a photograph of him on the mantelpiece and gazes at it lovingly. (Saw all that in a promo.)]
That, to me, is one of the root causes of stuff like this. The simple fact that we’re not moving forward from patriarchy, misogyny, from the idea that the man (and not man, but the homo sapien with a penis and testicles) is an ultimate being and all else is his kingdom to do with as he pleases. Instead of TV shows (which are a prime way of reaching out to the bulk of our population across every socio-economic level, because watching TV is something everybody does) that are about women being married off, looking for a husband, looking for marriage, and only that sort of thing, maybe there could be shows about women looking for careers, looking to make their own choices, doing something with their lives. Sadly, as I type this, I see a promo for a new show about a girl looking to have a “Karan Johar-style ‘sasural'” to marry into. It cuts to a shot of the girl serving a boyand his family tea, and the boy then saying “Oh, nothing beats mum’s tea”. Incidentally, the girl in said promo looks to be about 15, 16 years old at the time of her pining for a ‘fancy sasural’.
I have made no secret of my absolute hatred towards arranged marriage, which is a term that makes me go into Hulk Smash mode. Really. It brings up bile and vomit and possibly stomach acid, because the ideas behind it are disgusting and outdated. I have also written about my feelings regarding arranged marriage at length before. That ad highlights a few of these reasons. The whole idea of marrying not a person, but a family. The idea that you need marriage to be a ‘complete person’, whatever the hell that is. The idea that you have to serve someone tea (if you want tea, you better get it yourself), the idea that a girl must serve tea to a groom-to-be, and the idiot groom, whose mother’s apron strings might as well be his damn umbilical cord, has to comment.
Nearly EVERY socio-economic stratum and sector in Indian society has access to television. And not just television – satellite television. How do I know this? Drive past a chawl (for non-Indian readers, that’s an Indian ghetto), slum, makeshift set of homes, even a construction labourer’s tinfoil-and-asbestos home and you will find a satellite dish hoisted atop it.
Clearly, we have data that will prove how much of our population has access to TV. More people nationwide have access to (and by access, I also imply an understanding of) television, more so than newspapers because a large chunk of our population is also completely illiterate.
Can we not then use a tool we know is at our disposal to disseminate messages that we also know will be useful and will make an impact? Instead of using primetime cable network time to broadcast archaic TV shows that are little more than period Victorian dramas masquerading in 20 layers of makeup and Indian clothing, we could use it to get people OUT of a mental rut instead of digging them deeper into it.
But we can’t seem to.
The second big issue is the fact that there is absolutely no fear of retribution among these people. They know that with money and connections, or either one of those two, they will get off scot-free, untouched, and free to roam the streets like the pathetic sewer-rat vermin they are and commit as many crimes as they please. Nobody will touch them, if they know the right minister, cop, have a rich uncle, aunt, mum or dad, or are rolling in money themselves.
Actually, scratch that. No matter what socio-economic background you come from, rape is part of a completely messed up, life-sized game of Monopoly that seems to come with a ‘get out of Jail free’ card. Which is exactly what they do, if they even find themselves in prison to begin with.
Our legal system is absolutely pathetic. It takes at least four years to even BEGIN to deliver a verdict, and any verdict made in that time or less is looked upon as something wondrous, and ‘wow’. More than half the cases out there have probably been lying in files since they were registered, the only things that have seen them being silverfish, for whom it is their next meal.
Rape or divorce, who cares? It is all ALWAYS made out to be the woman’s fault. Here you can read about a Bangalore judge who asked a woman looking to divorce her husband on the grounds of domestic violence to ‘adjust’, because her husband puts food on the table. Why are abject morons like this given any power whatsoever?
People actually have lists and pointers for steps they think women should and should not take so they can ‘avoid being raped or eve-teased’. Don’t stay out at night, don’t dress in ‘skimpy clothes’, inhabit crowded areas.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Rape is not about sex. It is not about so called ‘horny feelings’ or these men’s ‘lack of access to sex’. It is not about cellphones, chowmein, interaction, or the age of marriage. It is about disgusting, feckless criminal assholes who think they can have their way, and in New Delhi, end up doing so.
I also abhor the nomenclature of rape by the news media. Why must rape be described as ‘VIOLATING MODESTY’? Is a girl’s virginity her so-called modesty? I am well aware we live in a disgusting, completely backward society that in Twenty-blooming-twelve (and now thirteen) that seems to prize a girl’s virginity, look to it as an indicator of her virtue, grace, her purity, her brilliance, and of course that all-important criterion, her success as a wife and human being, which of course are not mutually exclusive. India is one of the few countries where you still hear of rape victims being married off to their rapists. Why? Because the rapist ‘deflowered’ them, and since he has already taken her, er, ‘modesty’, he might as well KEEP it.
But must so called modern media, media looking to erase this sort of retrograde ideal, promote it, on whatever level? Rape is not a ‘theft’ of anything. It is not a violation of a woman’s modesty. It is, however, a violation of her as a human being, which is the same as it would be if it were a man. It is a violation of her right to exist peacefully. It is a violation of justice to allow scum like this to roam the earth unfettered, swaggering around without any fear of punishment.
Violence has never been something I have condoned, but every time I read about a rape case in New Delhi (which is to say, every day), I keep thinking taking some sort of harsh, yes, violent action against these lowlifes, these sorry excuses for human beings might be effective, at least at instilling some sort of fear within them, something that seems insofar to be nonexistent. Considering that these same men seem to think rape proves their ‘masculinity’, I suggest doing away with their genitals, which would have the added benefit of ensuring trash like that never reproduces, ever. We won’t also have commenters like this guy I saw on the Times of India online comment board, pity I can’t find a permalink anymore:
” zahoor ahmed (bambayi) 1 min ago
why so much hype on this gang rape?the girl was roaming around in late night with a boy…what else one can expect? ”
We don’t need to be leaving women tips about how to take care of themselves, we need to be weeding out crappy human beings from functioning society (if you can even call it that, really).
And to all those morons, everywhere, talking about people’s ‘mothers’ and ‘sisters’ and ‘how would the rapists like it if it were their mother or sister’, or ‘rape the rapists’ mothers and sisters’, WHY all the “mother-sister” talk? Are you not supposed to respect a woman otherwise? I suppose it’s telling that the two most insulting words in hindi have to do with screwing somebody’s mother or sister. Because if they aren’t, you’re free to do what you’d like, right?
We need to change the way we think (and by we, I mean a nation). We can all sit and wonder from what rat-infested corner of hell people like those rapists are born. And you know where? Right here.They’re all born right here. Right under our noses.
Sadly, this is not about that wondrous Hindi version of Yes Minister, the one that starred Farooque Sheikh in the role originated by Paul Eddington. No, it is about our lovely MLAs and the lovely male chauvinist statements they make. They’ve made so many, and such brilliant ones this past month, that I thought there should be a commemmorative.
Reading in the news that there was a rape somewhere in India is one of those things that makes you angry, makes your blood boil, but not really something that particularly surprises you very much. Our, er, ‘mango people in a banana republic’ are certainly angered by it, but that does nothing to change the fact that
a) at least a few hundred rapes happen every day all over the country,
b) The law is doing absolutely nothing about it.
All you hear about most rape cases is that the ‘perpetrator was taken into custody, and an FIR filed.’ Nobody knows what ensues, but evidently, the law fails to run its course – if it did, at least some rapists would be discouraged. That is,of course, the whole idea of punishment – to be a deterrent. It has clearly failed, because corruption means that a certain, agreed-upon amount can get you off scot free.
Haryana might as well be the rape capital of the world. Log on to ANY Indian news website, and you will see at least 10 cases of rape, attempted rape, molestation, some sort of sexual crime or the other, every single day. Which is kind of ironic, seeing as we claim, as a’culture’, to think that sex is ‘gross’, ‘disgusting’, everything that is wrong with the world, and imbibed from that nebulous but iconic Godzilla-like monster Indians like to call ‘Western Culture‘, which is related to all things sex, which we shouldn’t talk about. Tauba tauba.
Haryana is extra special in that regard, as are its MLAs for whom misogyny seems to be a standing requirement, as does having as low an IQ as possible. This is evident every time they open those ugly, shit-spewing orifices of theirs. First, watch culprit number one, Haryana Pradesh Congress committee member Dharamvir Goyat:
Translation: ” I have no hesitation in saying about this matter that 90% of girls go willingly, but end up meeting ‘criminal-minded people’ who are just victims of lust. The girl does not know that further there are five, seven, ten… 90 per cent of girls go with complete consent and end up meeting criminals. This is what I would like to state clearly.”
Like all backward, woman-hating men and their statements, this guy and his eloquent banter made me absolutely blind with rage. How is it WILLING when these hulking lumps of shit drag screaming women to dark alleys and whatnot and violate them in unspeakable ways, sometimes multiple men at a time? When they’re mentally scarred for life and some of them even suicidal?
As for the rapists being ‘victims of lust’ – yes, poor victims. Poor victims, standing over the terrified form of a random person five or more of them have dragged in from the street, laughing and cackling away like a horrible 90s Bollywood film. Poor victims, like that piece of scum, Amar Jyoti Kalita, one of the main accused in the Guwahati Rape Case this past July, who tugged at her shirt, pulled her hair, and grinned and gurned for a camera he KNEW was recording every scene of a girl being raped in the heart of the town. Yes, poor fucking victim.
Proof that the law is utterly useless in these matters? From news coverage of the case: “The police reached the spot after half an hour and took the girl to her parents. The Assam Police has identified twelve men from the video footage, but they have only managed to arrest four so far in three days.”. It has since been three and a half months, and no news since. [Proof that the law is useless overall? The fact that it has been a little under FIVE years since the Arushi and Hemraj murder case, and NOBODY appears to have an inkling of what actually happened.]
Let’s cut to another Haryana scenario (if I were doing this in order of stupidity, this would certainly be first).
Khap panchayat leaders blaming women for rape is pathetic and disgusting, but not really a new thing. Awful as that is, it isn’t the stupidest thing one of them has ever said, but THIS may be:
“Poverty and intoxication are the main reasons for rape as well as young people sitting together the wrong way. But also eating chowmein causes a hormonal imbalance which is a big reason for rapes.”
That little nugget was brought to you courtesy Khap leader and clearly, scientist and rape expert extraordinaire, Jitender Chhataar. I, personally, have no idea how to react to that other than to want tear my own hair out in ire. I expect the thela–walas who sell ‘Chinese’ food want to punch him, too.
I would also very much like to know what ‘sitting the wrong way’ is. Cross-legged, one leg over the other, my ankles touching, or just like your average khap panchayat guy, legs open and crotch and balls aired to the world?
One would assume basic education should be a necessity for any leader, whatever level they may be on. Obviously education, intelligence and common sense all seem to have eluded Mr. Chataar ( and, evidently, every MLA in Haryana).
Here we have a rape-related statement from another Khap leader:
“”When asked why rapes are occuring at this scale in Haryana, Sube Singh said that movies and television are to be blamed for rapes. “I believe this is happening because our youth are being badly influenced by cinema and television. I think that girls should be married at the age of 16, so that they have their husbands for their sexual needs, and they don’t need to go elsewhere. This way rapes will not occur.”
According to Mr. Singh (and, I’m sorry to say, several, several other people also), rape is sexual, it’s all about the sex, the penetration, the act of intercourse, the lack of which, to them, is the root cause of rape. Also a cause of rape? Short skirts, no? It isn’t the perverted, sick criminal who is to blame, but the girl whose ‘dress is above her knees’ (seen on the TOI comment board), the ‘slut’. She is to blame for giving the rapist ‘come fuck me’ vibes, apparently.
Here’s some news – it’s not. It’s about the power, the sick, perverted ‘happiness’ the rapist feels at finally having had his/her way, the ability to have controlled something, the exhilaration like some awful, awful drug. It’s about having violated someone and subsequently having gotten away with it, in the full knowledge that here, you can do it again, and nobody will care a damn.
Speaking of MLAs, one would expect them to have marginally more intelligence or education than your average Khap leader, and a less backward way of thinking, having grown up in more civilised, socio-economically privileged society..but no, out they come to prove that statement ridiculously wrong, in the form of Om Prakash Chautala, the former Chief Minister of Haryana (?!?!), not for one but THREE terms. Really.
Now Mr. Chautala here compared the Khap ruling to the (clearly wonderful, not violent at all) Mughal era, and said “….During that period, people used to get their daughters married at a very early age fearing somebody will abduct them. A similar situation prevails in the state. Teenage girls are being gangraped and the government is doing nothing. I have seen young girls getting married due to this fear. In such a situation, if Khaps have suggested lowering the marriage age of girls, I think it is correct.”
Let’s process that for a moment. Again, I cannot reiterate often enough how much I truly hate the concept of arranged marriage, which really has no place in a civilised world, but might as well be the norm here. I have heard of several cultures within India that think of women as ‘paraya dhan’ , which translates roughly to ‘somebody else’s wealth’ – and this in 2012. The idea is that the woman, who was insofar the responsibility of one man, daddy dearest (or daddyji if you prefer) has now been, er, bequeathed, to her husband who now has to ‘take care of’ her. Because women aren’t educated, don’t work, and something with boobs taking care of itself? Holy hell! How could that happen? What is the solution to all of this? Marriage, DUH.
So, to the khap and Mr. Chautala, marriage = rape security because by their logic, one man ‘owns’ her and will protect her from those poor darling ‘victims of lust’.
Yet another Khap leader echoed Chautala’s sentiments, saying rape was a ‘result of boys and girls attaining puberty and their sexual needs not being fulfilled’. That speaks volumes, and not just about Khap Man here. A LOT of people in our country think ‘pre-marital sex’ is something awful, a penis-or-vagina shaped Tyrannosaurus Rex that threatens to engulf all of our ‘values’ and ‘culture’. And god forbid boys and girls got into relationships – that would mean the apocalypse is nigh.
Oddly enough, the one country that makes the biggest song and dance and issue about sex in general is the country with the second highest population in the world. It’s not like those children are giving birth to themselves. We have paintings and sculptures and (yes, this has been done to death) the Kama Sutra, the world’s foremost, most ancient sex manual.
But while it’s been 65 years since we gained independence, we seem to have been stuck with Victorian ideals while the rest of the world has moved far ahead.
Case in point: this guy, who thinks women should not have cellular phones because they will ‘get distracted’, and one of our most esteemed politicians, the CM of West Bengal, according to whom rapes are on the rise because “men and women are interacting more freely….. …. It’s like an open market with open options.”
I’m going to leave that one open to the world to take apart, because I have no idea what to say.
India is slowly becoming a Talibanesque society with regard to women, but with crazier leaders, leaders who seem to be in competition with one another and the Taliban themselves for the title of ‘most regressive ideals ever’, leaders who neither deserve nor have any idea how to use the power they have.
If these leaders have their way, we will be there sooner than we think; and we’re already there in some ways, because you can be arrested for having an opinion and wanting to show it, even if it IS in a cartoon or three. Or you can be thrown in the slammer because somebody up there doesn’t like you, or what you did.
In the meantime, these idiots need to be held accountable for what they say and do – being a politician should no longer equate to being above the law.
A disclaimer to those who feel rabid patriotism for no apparent reason (the kind that somehow only reaches its zenith when India wins a cricket match and doesn’t really exist otherwise).
If you’re looking for a post about how awesome India and Indians are, (and they are, in their own ways), this is not it. You have been forewarned.
I’d been to the local club last week, for my evening swim. Adjacent to their swimming pool, unfortunately, is a sort of party ground, if you will, where anyone who’s willing to pay can host an event of their choice. I like to call it the Boat Club Mangal Karyalaya.
More often than not, the kind of event hosted at the BCMK is the kind that brings out ‘aunties’ in flashy, bejeweled saris, dripping in gold, their faces caked in makeup, looking for all the world like overstuffed sausages, and sexist ‘uncles’ who pretend to be ‘above it all’ but will end up in a large group, gossiping, filling themselves with enough whiskey to get an entire battalion drunk.
This time, the ‘event’ happened to be a tiny little sprog’s birthday . The only reason I knew that it was, was because there were gigantic, political-rally-sized posters of the baby, with his name plastered beneath them. At first glance you’d actually expect to hear some holier-than-thou idiot spew rubbish about how roads need to be widened,and communities need to be be closer-knit (again, something that will never happen, because our politicians need communal hatred as much as plants need sunlight, if not more).
The huge, easily 10ft x 10ft posters proclaimed ‘PROUD TO CELEBRATE THE FIRST BIRTHDAY OF OUR SON’, with his name colourfully emblazoned underneath.
The entire idea of having a 200-strong party or really, any party at all, for a child’s first birthday – one that s/he will never even remember, is absolutely idiotic to me. (I could, perhaps, understand the parents wanting a memory to cherish – in which case, the best thing would be the parents and the child spending its first birthday together, perhaps with immediate family or close friends.)
It has turned into the same ostentation-fest that most ‘Big Fat Indian Weddings’ are – that one day (or in the case of certain sects, 3 or 4 days) , where you can put on public display how much money you can afford for your daughter’s or son’s wedding (although in our lovely, still patriarchal society, I think the bride’s parents, to this day, bear the costs of the wedding. Just because.) The whole event ends up being flashier than a pop ‘concert’, with everyone dressed to the nines, trying to do exactly what the host is in the process of doing; showing off their wealth to the world, in a sort of twisted version of ‘mine-is-bigger-than-yours‘.
Gossipy, near-uneducated women, relegated, over the years, to lives of servility and drudgery, gossip about whose third cousin-twice removed is married to whose brother, how they’re related, any issues with the sex lives of the couple, ‘why don’t they have a child yet? Kuch problem hai? (alluding, ever so subtly, to non-functioning reproductive bits) ‘ and so on and so forth.
The men are much the same, trying to boost their own self-esteem by critiquing others, and calling it ‘networking’ (Because finding out who Tony slept with when his wife was away on a trip with her friends is networking, yes indeed.)
Their wives, who are a handful of feet away and doing much the same thing, however, are labelled gossips.
As loud Bollywood music blared out of speakers that I am certain were not at decibel levels healthy for a one-year-old, or really, any human or dog, I saw a woman, her thick, glittery sari draped across her head, run out of the party with a yowling baby held close to her, and she ran into the pool area, just as I was drying off after my swim.
I told her the area was specifically for members, or guests that they brought to the pool, and asked her why she was there. In broken Hindi, she looked at me and said that the baby was hungry.
In that instant, I felt annoyed for many reasons, a couple of which, I admit, may seem selfish.
Then I wondered – if a regular, full-grown human being felt hungry, would they go eat in a loo? As healthy and/or sterile as breast milk may be, I really don’t think a bathroom/shower, or really, any place with a lavatory (and its accompanying Shigella, Staphylococcus, Salmonella and other nasties) in the immediate vicinity is particularly hygienic to eat in.
She nursed the child, and I, still grumbling, had my shower and left.
I kept wondering why in an apparently ‘advanced’ country, the world’s second-largest economy, not only do people still have issues with breasts, but this woman was still in ghunghat (a form of purdah), something we tend to associate with villages and/or the lower socio-economic strata of society except this ghungat-wali , much like the other women there, was covered in shiny jewellery from head to toe, and carrying a Blackberry AND an iPhone.
There was no proper hygienic area to actually feed the baby anyway, like a nursing room, or anything of the sort. Are pregnant women in India just supposed to be housebound until their babies stop breastfeeding?
Could the mother, too, not have pumped milk for the baby in advance, or, alternatively, not have brought the tiny little thing to a place where its eardrums were at serious risk of rupturing? But of course, that is secondary to keeping up with the Joneses. [Or the Kardashians. Whatever floats your boat.]
This is a country where breastfeeding (one of the most natural things in the world, not just for humans, but every single mammal in existence) is, for some reason, frowned upon, and the baby is forced to ‘eat’ in a toilet, but men will openly, unabashedly stare at breasts – it doesn’t matter if they are tiny mosquito bites or gigantic melons, they shall be stared at and you will, categorically, be mentally undressed. I say this from the awful personal experience of not being able to run peacefully, for fear of the creeps that stare at my chest which,thanks to gravity, moves when I run. I feel like they’re boring holes into my clothes with their creepy stares.
I’m quite sure men stare at breasts the world over, and it’s not really an India-specific thing. What DOES seem to be India-specific, however, is the fact that here, it’s okay to not just look, but whistle, leer, and sing disgusting,suggestive, third-rate songs as they walk/cycle/ride by and follow you around, trying to bait you into reacting, or try to grab something in a moving bus or at a store counter, the creep surreptitiously sidling up next to you.
The men who do that are the same ones for whom ‘item numbers‘ are made, with the camera panning suggestively between the actress’ legs, lingering for just an extra moment on her breasts, which have been all but smushed into a ten-sizes-too-tiny prison that they seem to be trying to escape from. (Is it really even ‘cleavage’ anymore when it’s about 90% of the actress’ breasts just spilling out of her blouse?) [Some of you might even remember the infamous Mandakini wet sari bit from the 80s.]
In our beautiful, diverse nation, we seem to have trigger-happy, up-their-own-collective-backside censors and lawmakers that seem ridiculously hypocritical. It’s somehow okay to watch Aishwarya Rai gyrating to Kajra Re, shimmying and shaking her chest, (which really, shouldn’t bother anyone) but bar dancers who do much the same thing in real life (but without marketing themselves as ‘thespians’ – which god knows, most Bollywood actresses are not! ) are denigrated, called all sorts of names, and in 2005, had their livelihoods taken from them by the Maharashtra Government, which decided it wanted to impose a blanket ban on bar dancers and dance bars altogether. Somehow, however, it deemed it still okay to allow a scantily clad, near-naked Mallika Sherawat to dance on stage at an upscale five-star hotel in Mumbai.
The audiences were rather similar, lying back in their seats, enjoying half-naked women gyrating in front of them whilst sipping on their poisons of choice – replace glasses of Chantilly and Sauvignon Blanc with Desi Daru and McDowell’s Number 1 and you might as well be looking at the same people.
The performers, too, are more similar than our (undoubtedly beautiful) Bollywood ‘actresses’ would like to admit, especially to themselves; Except for the number of zeroes in their respective paychecks, and the fact that one’s costume is designed by Manish Malhotra, couturier to the stars, and the other by Manish Tailor, Panvel, they are being paid for precisely the same service.
Our politicians and ‘public figures’, however, (and, let’s be honest, about 90% of the general public) label bar dancers ‘sluts’, ‘harlots’ and other misogynistic terms that I’d rather not even mention, because they make my blood boil.
Why are the esteemed members of Tinseltown so saintly and blameless and virtuous, and why are they beatified by the media when they are doing the same thing everybody else is, which is working to earn a living? (I am not even getting into the whole ‘casting couch’ bit – that, to me, is another ‘job’, which both women and men do, voluntarily, which makes it their business exclusively. If it’s voluntary, by both parties, it ceases to matter. Whether it is sexual or not.)
Speaking of sex, India as a whole seems to be singularly self-righteous when it comes to the actual subject. The phrase ‘land of the Kama Sutra’ seems like it’s been done to death, but it’s true nevertheless. For a country that has its own, 2000+ year-old sex manual, we sure are repressed, what with all the publicity ‘kissing’ and ‘lovemaking’ scenes in Hindi movies manage to drum up – simply because they show people doing something ridiculously natural, and something most movies in the rest of the world have been showing for 60 years now, at least.
Then you have guys like this one, and the entire country goes up in arms when Richard Gere (somebody I am a big fan of) came to India to promote HIV/AIDS awareness (something we all know India needs, desperately), and swept Shilpa Shetty off her feet, rather literally, as he gave her a peck on the cheek, recreating a scene from Shall We Dance?
Self-proclaimed activists and the media went into a frenzy, with some of them setting fire to effigies of Gere (which seems to be a very popular way to denounce people here, especially politicians and cricketers. At least the former are a group of numpties who deserve it), others proclaiming how ‘vulgar’ and ‘cheap’ it was, and shouting from the rooftops how Mr. Gere had insulted ‘Indian Culture’.[ I hate the term with all my heart, and I’ll be damned if I know what ‘Indian culture’ is supposed to be – wanting a wife as a substitute for a cleaning lady/cook/carer for one’s parents , being sexist, ogling, spitting on the street, being obsessed with religion to the point of idiocy, or perennially being the moral police to everyone?]
In the end, everybody forgot about the event that was supposed to create sexual awareness – an event that, ironically, managed to show people’s lack of it.
Indians, as a people, frown upon sexual conversation, public displays of affection, even mildly sexual content on television (as evinced by this woman, who moved the Bombay High Court to have any programs with remotely sexual content (again, a term that is so ridiculously broad it is impossible to know what really is ‘sexual content’ and what is not) taken off the air. Here, it meant that even a couple kissing or making out on-screen was ‘obscene’ somehow. [If you do watch an English film on the telly in India, you will notice how it skips awkwardly when you know a kiss is about to happen. Yes, it looks incredibly stupid.]
Although there are ads for condoms in India, they are few and far between – one I remember seeing on the TV while growing up was for Kohinoor condoms, and I remember them being marketed aggressively (no pun intended) during the 2003 Cricket World Cup. Sure, it was a little weird watching a mattress shake like that with my parents in the same room, but the content didn’t really bother any of us.
In the last two, maybe three years, I’ve seen two ads for condoms – one in which a cleaning woman finds a pack of condoms in her employers’ bed as they nibble at each other on a bike elsewhere, and another with a half-dressed, extremely attractive woman licking melting chocolate off her fingers. In both advertisements, someone or the other was giggling stupidly, for no reason at all. Condoms are not disgusting, profane, or funny, but somehow they seem to be portrayed as such.
The saddest part of all this is the fact that if the Indian public (by Indian public, I mean the aam junta, not the swankily educated) were aware of condoms, we wouldn’t have the second highest population in the world. For a country that has a billion-and-one issues with anything even remotely related to sex being shown in the public eye, we sure seem to know what sex is – obviously SOMEBODY (and by somebody, I mean hundreds of millions of somebodies) are having it – these babies aren’t dropping out of the sky. But if Khushboo, or any other public face for that matter, talks about premarital sex (which somehow is only an issue in India, an issue that befuddles me),she is, again, vilified in the media.
As a result, you have women who feel the need to ‘pretend’ to be virgins for their ‘arranged’ marriages ( another issue that sends my rage into overdrive) seeking to have reconstructive hymenoplasties.
We will still, however, deny schoolchildren sex education in this country. My personal view is that by the 6th standard, all children, irrespective of their gender, should be given basic sex education, by a trained professional, or a biology teacher. With puberty hitting teens lower and lower, and the internet providing access to all sorts of sexual content, I think it is essential that these children grow up with a clear idea of what sex is.
While I see absolutely nothing wrong with pornography per se, and I know most 12-and-13 year olds have already discovered it, I don’t think it’s the best way for an impressionable young kid to learn about sex, simply because they should have some semblance of an idea of ‘normal’ sexual contact and human bodies, instead of thinking that the only good breasts are the ones filled with silicone, or that everyone has to be a certain ‘length’ or ‘girth’, including themselves.
Is it not, then, better for a teacher and/or a parent to talk to their child and give them the ‘talk’ ? Infinitely safer than having them discover one of the millions of pornography websites out there, managing to confuse them completely and destroy their self-esteem in one fell swoop.
Here in India, sadly, we have no law in place for sex education – in fact, just last year, Indian policy makers shot down efforts to make sex education mandatory. Their reasons? The content is ’embarrassing’ and ‘too explicit’. They also bandied about their favourite term, yet again. ‘Indian culture’ and social values would be affected, they said, if sex education happened. How, exactly, I am not very sure, especially considering part of India’s culture is the fact that we are multiplying in the millions, day by day.
For anybody in India who has ever read their local variant of TOI publication The Mirror (unrelated to the English newspaper) , a quick scan of the Ask the Sexpert column will show you just how little people know about sex. For anyone who is not in India, you can read it online, too.
A childhood friend of mine who is studying medicine, both of whose parents are also doctors, specifically in the field of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, recounted a scary, scary incident to me, one that highlighted just how much,and how urgently, we need sexual education in this country.
A couple came into their clinic one day, complaining about how they had been unable to have a child, a year into their marriage. After a thorough examination, they found that the woman’s hymen was still intact. They had never, in fact, ever had sexual intercourse.
You know you really shouldn’t expect too much, however, when the Union Health Minister labels homosexuality an ‘unnatural disease’. (Anybody who wants to read more about this or watch the video can do so here.)
I’d like to go into India’s LGBT awareness, but that is an issue that deserves attention all its own, attention that I will give it someday.
For now, I’d like to go back to an issue I did not expound on earlier, when I was talking about our beautiful stars being completely blameless. Let’s face it, we’re a Bollywood-obsessed nation. (Three things sell in India – sex, Bollywood, and cricket. Want to maximise your profit? Combine them all!)
It’s pathetic how much fame can blinker people – which, again, is something that happens all over the world, but not to the extent it happens here. In Bollywood, you can shoot innocent wild animals for sport, be inebriated and attempt to beat up your significant other, be inebriated yet again, drive, and kill a bunch of people in the process, and then sell t-shirts labelled ‘Being Human’ – because, clearly, that is something you know how to do if you’ve done all those things I just mentioned.
Still, you will find people on the street – rickshaw drivers, cleaners, paanwallahs, random guys referring to these stars as ‘bhai’, and talking of them lovingly, as if they were their own brothers.
A few years ago, a convicted terrorist, a man who, along with his girlfriend, was wanted by Interpol, was in the news, with the paper polling college-going girls, asking them to rate how ‘hot’ they thought he was. A few months later, his girlfriend landed a spot on a ‘reality show’ here, had her own fan following, even, and is probably back in Bollywood, doing something or the other.
The last edition/season of this same reality show, which, for some inexplicable reason, seems to be ridiculously popular, played host to an international face (?) in the world of pornography, a certain Sunny Leone, an appearance I am certain was engineered to help her gain a foothold into Bollywood.
People on the street will pretend to be scandalised when you talk about sex, sex education, or anything even remotely related, but ask them who any given Bollywood actor is sleeping with at any given point in time, and you will have an instant answer. Talk about sex on a realistic basis and you’ll probably hear something along the lines of ‘ghar pe maa-behen nahin hai kya?’ , which translates to ‘do you not have a mother or a sister at home?’, a line I hate. Are you not supposed to respect a woman unless she is your ‘maa’ or ‘behen’?
And hypocrisy shall continue to rule. As we avert our eyes from sexual education, 51 babies are born every minute. We will continue to blame rape victims for ‘dressing provocatively’, instead of the creepy men who can’t keep it in their pants.
Politicians will wax eloquent about Indian morals and how our culture does not promote over-sexualisation, about how it is all the influence of western culture that has led to the degradation of our nation, only to go back to their homes and be the philandering slimeballs that they are, to rape women, be third-rate philanderers, get them pregnant, and have them murdered.
And people, at large, while being obsessive about their own privacy, will still find it exciting to know where Aishwarya Rai had her baby, whether she pushed or had a c-section, whether or not she had an epidural, probably even how many centimetres she was dilated as of 0600 hours on the 16th of November (and the celebrities, of course, oblige by telling us via Twitter that they aren’t ‘too posh to push.) [If I could respond, I’d say ‘who cares?’, but clearly, more than a million of the man’s followers do, so I would be in the minority.]
And we will live amongst a public that knows precisely where Anushka Sharma is and who she is or is not dating, but is absolutely unaware of the existence of a true ‘celebrity': a woman named Aung San Suu Kyi.