Welcome (Back) to India’s Rape Culture

Serving up some chai to go with that misogyny

Photo by Thiago Matos via Pexels
Pyramid of the caste-based occupational hierarchy with Brahmins at top (priests) and Shudras at the bottom (labourers)
Image by Author

So how do we define sexual assault?

This senior police officer’s statement isn’t true. He says that the “report clearly says that sperm was not found in the samples … so she has not been raped.”

“Everyone’s out to make it look like there’s something inherently wrong with [rapists]. But they are a part of our own society. They are not aliens who’ve been brought in from another world.”

What is rape culture?

Coined by American feminists in the 1970s, rape culture is a sociological phenomena where rape, male sexual aggression, and violence against women is normalised and pervasive because of society’s attitudes towards it. This includes seeing violence as sexy (Netflix’s 365 Days, anyone?), and where a woman’s “no” actually means a coy “yes”.

Victim blaming is all too common, but isn’t always obvious.

It takes many forms.

  • “Girls should be married by 16 so they don’t need to go elsewhere for their sexual needs; then rapes won’t occur.”
  • “Once a girl is 14–15 [years of age], you can’t call it rape [after that].”
  • “When girls wear jeans and pants, boys get attracted to them.”
“Rape is Consensual”: Inside Haryana’s Rape Culture (Source: The Quint)

Everything can be blamed for rape. Except the rapists themselves.

One of the reasons for this is the concept of honour.

This normalisation of rape into a “culture” means using women’s bodies as battlegrounds to establish male dominance.

Sounds a little extreme, doesn’t it?

The supposedly intimate nature of sex (and sexual assault) means these cases go undocumented, conveniently sanitised from our history books, glossed over - and womens’ lifelong trauma is reduced to statistics people can shrug over and say “well, what can you do?”

Like in the Hathras gang-rape case, Indian politicians play the blame game instead. The Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, Yogi Adityanath, in a series of tweets said that the Prime Minister urged the “strictest action” and a special investigative team has been formed to take on the case.

This objectification of women isn’t a recent development.

In most genres of representation, women are visible, but as objects of admiration, attention, or worship. The 15th-19th century European tradition of nude paintings — the nude woman was an object for the privileged gaze of aristocratic and wealthy male patrons and his friends. Women had become objects to be possessed and exchanged in social relations of competition and competition between men (Uberoi, 1990).

Echoes of the brutal 2012 Delhi gang-rape case.

Eight years ago, India was in a similar situation with the Delhi “Nirbhaya” gang-rape case — following which the woman passed away due to extensive sustained injuries.

  • Making punishments on rape crimes more strict, and
  • Improving the standard of consent — lack of physical resistance is no longer considered consent.

A Generation Z kid studying sociology and searching for the Fortress of Solitude.