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Vigilante justice at the hands of mobs may be reinforcing regressive patriarchal ideas, and we must be cautious, says this post.
This post contains descriptions of violence that may be triggering for some readers. Please use your discretion.
The recent news of a middle-aged man in Rajasthan who allegedly tried to rape a teenaged girl has gone viral. The post is to discuss what happened to him afterwards, and why it was disturbing from a rights-based perspective. Considering the increased instances of gender based violence in the country, this case, and the public reaction to it needs to be inspected carefully.
The local residents of the Ganganagar area pulled Suresh Kumar away from the girl and publicly beat him up. After this, his penis was cut off using a butcher’s knife. A lot of people on various social networking sites, where the news article is being circulated, are coming out in support of the act, calling it apt vigilante justice. This article is a basic exploration of the reasons about why such an activity is problematic on several accounts, and how it does nothing to ensure true safety for the women in the country.
Historically speaking, mob mentality has been known to spread havoc rather than bring a positive change in society.
Historically speaking, mob mentality has been known to spread havoc rather than bring a positive change in society. Public disgrace and shaming of people who are termed as “offenders” is not only outside of the social and legal sanction, it also fuels an anarchist (and not in good way) and regressive mindset. During a mob formation, there is absolutely no regulation of unruly behavior of each participant and this can lead to extreme miscommunication between them.
The exact details of whatever is happening around the mob participants can be very unclear due to the unchecked rage and sentiments. This can lead to huge injustices and unnecessary assaults on innocent people. While it is true that rage and anger is useful in initiating important revolutions, it needs to be in adequate doses which can be channelized in positive ways.
After going through all the reports in the digital media, one tends to ask where is the girl in the picture and why is her voice missing from these news articles? As a victim of sexual assault, her experience as well as her opinion about the attack is vital, as it forms a platform through which a bystander can perceive the incidents of the aftermath. We need to remember that in a patriarchal society a woman’s body is regarded as a cultural symbol and therefore related to the honour and respectability of a family, community, religion etc.
We need to remember that in a patriarchal society a woman’s body is regarded as a cultural symbol and therefore related to the honour and respectability of a family, community, religion etc.
A lot of times, some relationships that are outside the dominant sociocultural sanctions (such as inter-religious or non-hetero normative relationships ) can face violence at the hands of an angry mob. In a way, this denies the woman any agency in claiming her sexuality and choosing her partner as she deems fit.
A lot of irrational attacks have happened in India due to xenophobic, homophobic ideas and with communal intentions. What if this particular case was on the similar lines? How can we be sure of the authenticity of the news unless we know the “victim’s” and the “perpetrator’s” viewpoints which can be used to objectively access the case?
There is a reason why laws exist in our society. Mob justice can take care of one or two cases at best but effective legal action on the other hand can help in questioning and changing the unequal distribution of power in our society. It is important to bring a paradigm shift and restructure the patriarchal society instead of resorting to temporary and reactionary justice methods that can and will fuel into further systems of oppression for women in the country.
Pic credit : Image of lady justice via Shutterstock.
This post was first published here.
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I really find the article quite good and sensible. We need more and more stable and clear-headed voices among us women, who can rationalize the way women are quickly programmed into violence, called upon in the so-called form of goddesses when we (or society on behalf of us) views women conveniently as helpless victims….and that too, victims only in certain types of situations. These are typically those situations where anger against outsiders (as pointed out by the article) is systemically allowed and then we and others can use these incidents to actually express all the anger we have repressed within us from all those situations where we felt systemically helpless in the past….where expressing anger was impossible and taboo. For example, India does not have a marital rape law. Child abuse, incest, all these things need to be ‘proved’ in the court of law, despite all the very sympathetic things Flavia Agnes has said to help women in distress in courts. Women have to make a long journey before they can open their mouths against rapist husbands, fathers, brothers, other family members in front of even other women in the family….leave alone law courts. There is systemic violence….and often domestic violence to accompany sexual abuse that serves to silence it. There is financial dependence. So whom do you beat up, castrate and kill as a rapist? Of course it is the outsider. Of course it is he who is made into the scapegoat. We need to kill him and make his indictment into a witch hunt, more and more cruel and gruesome, because the internal process of keeping quiet rises and becomes increasingly silencing and dumbing for us women, who are alternately exalted as goddesses and pushed into victim roles. The question to ask is: who is hiding behind the mask of this poor castrated scapegoat from Rajasthan? Is it the same men who have forever hidden for generations behind the killed Mahisha-sura? Are these the same benevolent feudal lords that produced Stri-dharma and Sati? Who wears the benevolent mask and why? This is a very important article.
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