What the rape documentary teaches us

Did you hear the news from India yesterday? A court outlawed the showing of a documentary with the men who killed the young medical student after a mass rape in 2012, a crime that made headline news around the world. The case is complex, yet it is always questionable in a democracy to put up roadblocks against free speech, as disgusting as it may be. The perpetrator, on death row, shows no remorse and blames the victim for her own rape & death: she shouldn’t have been on the bus, she shouldn’t have struggled during the rape, yada yada yada, blah, blah, blah.

rape, Delhi, Mukesh Singh

Mukesh Singh, one of the Indian rapists. Image: The Telegraph

We’ve heard the arguments before. Which is exactly why it is so important to hear them again. The perp, Mukesh Singh, is not a very smart man, and even though we know little about him, it’s not a difficult guess to understand that he is probably uneducated and belonging to the countless masses of  lower caste Indians who survive on a day to day basis with little or no hope for a better future. This is of course no excuse for his actions, but certainly part of an explanation.

In a country, with a culture that values male heirs over female (given the enormous dowry cost to “get rid” of a girl), where considerably more boys are born than girls due to the ongoing female infanticide and abortions of female fetuses, it’s a question of simple mathematics to understand that there aren’t enough women for every Indian man to marry a woman. And since that also applies to gay men (another can of worms altogether), no relief on that front either. Therefore, many men will remain unmarried, with their sex drive unchecked. All these things are connected, paired with parents who teach their sons that women (it’s extremely painful to see how women teach their sons to treat other women badly) are things to be treated as such, rather than human beings of equal value.

It’s also easy for us in the west to point fingers at a culture like the Indian, yet we forget that our head start isn’t all that great. Examples? How much do women make compared to men, in any job, all else equal? Less, between ten and twenty percent. How many Fortune 500 companies have female CEOs? Female Chair persons? How many board of directors and C-suites have a representation of women that corresponds to the number of women in society? Let me guess: none? The largest western religion still doesn’t allow women to hold any office whatsoever, and even on the evangelical side, the most orthodox ones cling to “women be silent in the parish.” And how many of us still secretly believe that a woman dressed “provocatively” has no one to blame but herself if she’s raped, just like Mr. Singh? Is the outrage due to the fact that we have a convicted murderer say what we, too believe? To share the same thoughts with a convicted criminal may be difficult to accept, but if we’re to change our views of women, it’s important to shine light onto them.

My mother giving me a bath. #TBT Photo: private

My mother giving me a bath. Forty years ago. She may have been a great mother, but she was raised to be a subservient woman, doing what her man asked her to. Luckily, she failed miserably at passing on those cave man values to me. #TBT Photo: private

I remember my own mother and the one advice that still rings like church bells in my head: “When a woman says no, it’s not always a no.” We were discussing dancing and that it is always a man’s duty to ask a woman to dance, never the other way, and that I shouldn’t be discouraged if she said no. Just press on, because… It’s not a big step from dancing to something else, and once you disregard a woman’s opinion or conviction in something as trivial as not wanting to dance with you, you’re very likely to also disregard her views in other, more important aspects of life. God knows I’m grateful that I was gay and never, ever had to face this. Who knows, I might have turned out like my father (who frequently disregarded my mom’s wishes) or most other men out there. After all, don’t we all emulate and learn from our parents?

India can play ostrich all she wants, but Mr. Singh’s testimony in Ms. Edwin’s film should be made mandatory for all boys and girls to watch, not just in India. He says what almost everyone in the country believes. It could be a first step to actually fight ancient beliefs and traditions. Indians may no longer burn their widows alive, but the country still is a far cry from treating the two sexes equal. In the west, we may no longer hear rapists publicly state that it is the victim’s fault that she was raped, yet there are still plenty of judges and defense attorneys out there who do.

What is your take? The comment section is all yours to use…

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Hans M Hirschi

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