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10

Yesterday, Zee TV interviewed the victim of the assault, in which his friend was gang raped. The interview itself contained nothing new, except putting a face to the tragedy. The information was already public apart from the personal expression from the victim's mouth itself.

Many imagine that the wrong was disclosing the identity of the victim. This wasn't done, actually. Nor were the details of the rape talked about. What the victim of the assault (friend of the victim of the gang rape and assault) described was everything else. He spoke of how they got on the bus, how the altercation happened, how he got hit, described his injuries, skipped the rape, described how they were dumped on the road, abandoned without help by the citizens and police who arrived late spent time arguing about jurisdiction and the hospital not attending promptly or even giving him something to cover himself. All this is public news, but as the story is now devoid of new masala, the emotion arousing face of a man who actually saw it first hand is a fresh breath of TRPs, to put it very cynically.

It is not about revealing victim identities per se. Many times victims have given media interviews with faces blurred, their family members have spoken to media.

I dislike this practice of milking a story by repeating information in various ways, through what is best described as putting human suffering on exhibition for voyeurs. However, that too is a media reality. My problem is the whole interview itself.

The chargesheet had been filed when the interview happened. The fast track case has its first hearing today. Police have asked for death sentence for the rapists based on the death of the victim. This is what most people want, however India does not have the death sentence for rape yet. It is her death being attributed to the assault that has enabled the police to ask for it within the parameters of the law of the land. The system indeed will face a huge backlash if the rapists don't get a death sentence.

At the same time, it will be a perversion of our legal system itself to judge a crime by inventing a law that did not exist when it was committed. That is not how the legal system is supposed to work. It sets up a dangerous precedent for the possibility of hyping up a crime enough to rig the punishment criminals get. The police are trying to frame charges as per existing laws, and the charge of murder hinges on the death of the gang rape victim being due to the assault and gang rape.

On the day before the trial begins, you have Zee TV putting what they call the "only witness" on air, talking about everything except the brutality of the rape (thankfully). Instead, he describes the plight of the victim on the road, not helped by citizens. The time wasted by police, the lack of any help offered by them, the callousness of the hospital (the biggest problem the victim fought was infection). He speaks of how the victim should have been taken to a better hospital like Apollo or Fortis instead of one like Safdarjung where facilities may not be adequate (remember, police admit casualties daily - who pays?). In other words, he detailed the role of everyone except the rapists in her death in a most convincing and emotion evoking manner. It clearly blames a lot of people for what the victim (and he) went through - except the rapists - who were outside the scope of the interview.

The trial begins today, where the court is asked to hang rapists for murder. What exactly is Zee TV trying to do here? Of course police are furious! Where are they supposed to ask the much demanded death penalty if channels run media courts condemning their role the day before trial begins? Particularly when the information is already known as well as endless opportunity to air any time later. What does it mean to arouse anger about everyone except the rapists the day before they are on trial for murder?

Sure, many issues need to be addressed. But for me, when I read/see anything in media, I definitely use a filter of "why this, why now".

10

The mountain of shame with our treatment of women keeps mounting. There is unending evidence that provocative clothes have little to do with rape and molestation, yet our policemen and political leaders choose to blame the women for being victims. I challenge them to find the woman in India who hasn’t been molested on public transport. If the entire country is full of provocative women, then maybe they need to come to terms with the world they live in.

On the other hand, considering that most men don’t rape and will spend entire lives without raping, it is difficult to blame women for being provocative, because if women’s clothing were the problem, all men would have raped at some point or the other – or at least most of them. If provocative clothes were the problem, women in salwar kameez and saris wouldn’t be raped.

These are facts women have got tired of repeating, and yet they seem to make no impact on the intellect of these misogynists.

Behavioral science deals with a phenomenon called projection, where a person denying something about self condemns its manifestation in the world outside. So, a person who feels lust and hides it out of guilt, blames whatever he is seeing at the timefor his feelings that he doesn't want to face. The fact is, we see the world through a lens of our thoughts. It is like the blind men and the elephant. Whether the elephant is called a pillar or rope is less about the elephant and more about the blind man's ability to understand it.

To avoid discomfort of responsibility for their own actions, the irresponsible mind projects it at the object they wish to exploit in an effort to justify attacking it. In attacking it, the perpetrator finds relief for his own illegitimate thoughts. But the justification is false. The cause of the action is not external. This is not dissimilar to hitting the object that a child hurt itself on to make the child stop crying. Except that these are adults making no effort whatsoever to manage their own thoughts and actions and the “objects” being hit are living, breathing human beings.

They prefer to deflect condemnation from those who represent their thinking onto victims of those thoughts and actions in a macabre attempt to justify their own inhuman attitudes toward women.

In a superficial sense, it works too. The DGP of Andhra Pradesh, V. Dinesh Reddy blamed women’s clothing and (believe it or not) food men eat for rapes. Now Karnataka’s women and child welfare minister C C Patil blames rising incidents of rape on provocative clothes. And KK Seethamma, who heads the committee against sexual harassment in Bangalore University thinks women wear obscene clothes to tempt men. Last year, the DCP of Delhi had blamed women traveling alone, unescorted, conveniently forgetting our “Women’s day celebration” of the murder of a young girl in broad daylight outside her college in the capital of the country. Shiela Dixit's "One should not be Adventurous" was another such one.

The terrifying part of this is not just that women are being blamed for rapes, but the kind of clothing that is being considered as obscene. Reddy speaks of women wearing salwar kameez. Seethamma thinks that blouses of saris should be full sleeved! In other words, almost every woman in the country is obscene and that is why men rape. Every person mentioned above is in a position where he or she is expected to protect rights of women.

Chief Justice of India K. G. Balakrishnan K. G. Balakrishnan had tried to fix this problem by approving of marriage between rapist and victim – in essence opening the door to permanent victimization of the women by being pressured into a marriage to prevent shame – make it look ok, never mind if the victim is condemned to living with her oppressor.

Aparently these shining custodians of the well being of our country don’t read news. MOST rapes are of modestly dressed women. Women dressed provocatively are actually NOT attractive targets for rapists, because they are less likely to stay silent out of shame, more likely to fight back, make a scene, file a complaint and slap them in a line up.

But the ostrich game here is that this is about provocative women. "If only women were not provocative, everything would be all right." Tell that to men who get raped. Tell that to babies that get raped. Should the baby have worn a less transparent diaper? The vulnerable in any society are the first visible victims of its decay, but make no mistake, the decay is all pervading. If all women and kids were separated totally from all men, there still would be rapes.

Blaming the victim is a long time technique of those in power who are not interested in protecting the weak. Whether it is peaceful protesters being brutally silenced, or it is women being raped. It becomes convenient to make their safety their problem and shrug it off as them being responsible for their own suffering. There is no interest in challenging powerful people and suffering unnecessary inconvenience in order to protect un-advantageous weak people.

This, bigotry is the reality of the protectors in our country. Is it any wonder that India is the fourth worst place in the world for a woman? Yes. A worldwide survey has come up with data. The even scarier part in this is our population. Fourth worst in the world takes on a whole new meaning when put into the context of our size. To put it bluntly, we are one of the major contributors to women's rights violations worldwide - not a list we should aspire to be on.

Women’s clothing is a guaranteed red herring. It distracts from their failure to prevent crimes to a debate that is irrelevant to it – the conclusion becomes about women’s clothes or men’s culpability and misses the fact that these people are incompetent at their jobs and continue to earn salaries and victimize victims of their incompetence further through blame.

Well, here is the wake up call. A mob of thirty odd men gang molested a woman standing on the street on New Year’s Eve. It was broadcast on TV. She was escorted by a man. She was wearing a full sleeved sweater. A group of thirty odd men fell upon her like a pack of dogs and the police beat them away like the dogs they were.

In other words, these brilliant orators explaining how it is a woman's fault she gets raped don't know which end of their anatomy they are talking from. Sorry to rain on your parade. Happy New Year!