Today, the commonality among these is not just some geographical locations in and around Kolkata but is linked up with witnessing much grave social disease — one after another story of horrifying rape incidents.
- Park Street: The victim was gang-raped at gunpoint in a car at Park Street, Kolkata.
- Nivedita Setu: The victim was gang-raped and found battered and bloodied on Nivedita Setu, Kolkata barely a fortnight after the Park Street incident
- Katwa: The victim was dragged out of train and gangraped by five men by the railway tracks, barely a day after the Nivedita Setu incident.
- Raiganj: A 13-year-old girl was gangraped by her neighbour and two others in Raiganj town in North Dinajpur district in North Bengal,
- Bankura: And finally, it can’t hit lower than this. A deaf and dumb girl was raped by a junior doctor in a government hospital.
Such meteoric rise on the number of rape incidents in Bengal hitting the newspaper headlines almost every day, compelled me to think what actually drives a man to such a heinous crime.
When we hear the word rape, we usually associate only sex and lust. Instead of attaching value judgement and personally driven subjective criticism to rape, let’s think about the complex cause-effect systems that drives a man to rape a woman.
Various studies on the mental make-up of the accused reveal the relative absence of even the most basic social values in them. One casual cause is sexual hunger but most rape is not lust-motivated, but committed in rage or on a power trip. To probe further, many unemployed frustrated youth might rape a woman belonging to an affluent class because of jealousy or revenge. And the other way too. People of a higher class/caste may do it to a person whom they consider inferior, often due to land disputes.
“Gang rapes are more common in India (particularly in rural India), and are often motivated by revenge,” Deputy Commissioner, Detective Department S. Sahoo of Kolkata Police, had stated recently.
Displaced aggression is another driving force. Here, the rape almost always follows some unpleasant event involving a wife, girl-friend or mother and the rapist uses rape as an outlet for his anger. Such crime can be based on impulse. For example, it can be carried out during a dacoity/robbery as it had been reflected in Katwa incident. There could be sexual aggression diffusion where the aggressive and sexual components coexist. He sees the victim’s struggle as seductive and even believes that women like to be raped. When compensation comes to play, sex is then the key component and if the victim struggles or tries to escape, the would-be offender flees. The recurrent fantasy of these rapists is that the victim will surrender. These offenders are passive and these rapes are mostly pre-planned. Another scenario could be anti-social or psychopathic personality, where a rapist is often a cold, seemingly hard-hearted man who has always taken what he wanted from others without concern for their feelings. They want something and they don’t care whom they hurt to get it.
The majority of men accused of rape cases are young males between 16-26 years of age. As a group, they mostly represent lower end of the socio-economic ladder. Typically they are unskilled workers with low intelligence, little education and low income.
While on one hand there is an increase in the education and overall well-being of women, crimes against women are on the rise in our country. It is a strange contrast.
There have been numerous researches conducted on the increase in women’s wellbeing correlating to a rise in the occurrence of violent crimes against women. There are two popular trains of thought on that.
First, in India, as women have a lower status in society than men, it makes them more vulnerable to sexual crimes as men view them not only as sex objects but also as non-entities. So, sexually violating a woman is kind of being macho.
Second, in today’s world, as women gain freedom and power in society, some men are threatened by it, and the likelihood of their attacking women increases as they blame women for problems in society and in the men’s own lives.
In the first case, the problem is compounded by the fact that in our society raped women are often rejected by their families. This makes them reluctant to complain against their attacker, which in turn encourages rape.
Also, many men see rape only as a physical violation. They are unaware of the psychological scars that rape inflicts on women. In victims, the act brings in post traumatic stress disorder. The women are so traumatised, they lose touch with reality and can even become suicidal. Though the increase in rapes could be because more women are coming forward with their complaints, but the stigma attached to being raped is still so high that the reported rapes will remain the tip of the iceberg. Hence, they need to be counselled, supported, loved and made to feel whole again.
So, it seems, there isn’t actually an increase in violence against women — only an increase in women’s rate of reporting those crimes due to an increase in self-respect and their actual status and power in society.
Now a day, the media is also active enough to flash such bytes often. Flashgun shines, exposure embarrasses people, women (and men) continue to work for gender fairness, and new laws that are passed. These must have a positive effect on crimes that used to be committed in dark and with society’s implied — and sometimes explicit — support.
Point to note that, everyone is guided by their own mental conditioning, social environment, and upbringing. All these factors contribute in forming one’s psyche. People accused of rape are not the sole source and cause of the act. They are playing out their own mental wiring. Then it may be inferred that the performer is not the man, it is all the events in the man’s life, all the causes that have misshapen his psyche into driving him to commit an atrocious act.
All such men suffer from one or more mental disorders, be it in some form of psychosis, neuroticism or phobia. Such disorders usually originate from childhood abuse, domestic violence etc. Punishing the rapist would at best, only serve to prevent that particular person from raping again. This is not to justify rape, but to throw light on what drives rapists to do the act.
Countries like Kuwait, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, where autocratic kingship prevails, often take a penalising approach, e.g., either a death sentence or castration unless pardoned by the victim. Sharia calls for capital punishment. This helps to instill fear in the hearts and minds of others, so as to deter them from repeating similar crime. Thus the only reason they would not commit rape, is not that they respect the dignity of a woman, but that they fear punishment. Ideologically, they still think rape is justified.
If a reformatory approach is taken, as it is in many developed countries, then efforts are directed toward helping the perpetrator overcome the impulses to rape, and instead view women, as worthy partners deserving of love and respect. This seeks to educate and neuro-linguistically “re-programme” the mental wiring of men who see women as nothing more than mere objects of sex.
Moreover, in rather regressive societies, huge efforts are made to make a scapegoat out of the rapist, but the damage done to the victim remains the same. Often, the damage is even aggravated by ignoring the victim for she is not “pure”, in line with what we saw in the Park Street rape case. Surprisingly, during investigation, even the police took this easy route. It is even more surprising and shameful for a civilised society when those in power (like West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee) label such heinous crimes as “insignificantly small” or “a fabricated case” or “a political conspiracy to malign the government”.
Initially, the police have chosen to reinforce the traditional, illiberal urge to keep women’s sexuality under tight male control. ‘Na stree swatantryamarhati’ (women do not deserve freedom), said our ancient lawgiver, Manu. Shockingly, the Bengal chief minister, herself a woman, also concurs the same, in the 21st century.
Instead of focusing solely on punishing the doer, many progressive societies offer counselling and psychiatric treatment to the victim as well. No one is born intending to become a rapist. They gradually emerged as rapists in the course of their lives. In my opinion, targeting and punishing the rapist, may partly reduce the count of similar cases but will not wipe out the problem.
It is vital that we become more considerate to rapists in providing them treatment and retraining, in addition to imprisoning them. I strongly feel, locking up doesn’t rehabilitate people. It is also crucial that we become more compassionate to rape victims in providing support and not morally and legally finding ways to blame the victim. But the bottom line is that if human beings are not fully responsible for their choices, then we have no right to pursue justice when a man rapes; and there’s no point in providing therapy to him either.
Most people are aware that it isn’t right to rape. My heart goes out to those who have endured abuse. It does not mean we treat them as less free in their choices and less responsible in their actions. Many of us have been damaged. If our upbringing/ training/ abuse experiences truly determined our choices, then all abuse victims would go on to damage others as rapists do. But many people don’t. It’s their choice.
I feel the lack of respect for women is the single-most important issue preventing the advancement of Indian society and the growing image of the Indian nation in the world. The basic fact is that until men respect women as much as they respect other men — as equals — some men will rape and many will harass (this excludes true psychopaths who will torture anyone, etc). (Read: Guardian Take Note: It’s Scary, Very Scary, Being a Woman in India)
Can we deny that a vast number of Indian men do not respect women other than their mothers (if that)? That they in fact are taught not to respect women, by their fathers, peers, media, general cultural behaviors and even women themselves? Whether this lack of respect results in rape/harassment of higher status women (as vengeance), or lower status women (because they have little protection and are seen as even lesser ‘non-entities’) — lack of respect for women as equal beings entitled to inviolable personal space is the key issue. We don’t have to go far — our favourite cuss words are always denigrating the women — the mother or the sister. Why, if men have to use them at all, cuss words don’t target the men?
In addressing the question of rape, the choice between the politically constructed answers of social science and the evidentiary answers of evolutionary biology is essentially a choice between ideology and knowledge. Let me conclude that I feel passionately for women who bear the burden of society’s most ugly crime: rape (to which is also affiliated paedophilia and domestic violence).