From Nirbhaya To Tara, What We Have Learnt About The Mind Of The Rapist

Women, especially those further marginalised by caste, class, etc., are seen as 'disposable', and 'punishment' has just pushed rapists to 'finish off' their victim completely, further increasing violence against women.

Women, especially those further marginalised by caste, class, etc., are seen as ‘disposable’, and ‘punishment’ has just pushed rapists to ‘finish off’ their victim completely, further increasing violence against women.

This week, as we are celebrating triumph of our women in the Tokyo Olympics, how is it looking for respect for women in the nation? Betterment of gender rights – reduction of gender violence – and all other such?

Well, we are coming off a month of dowry deaths, and the week’s headlines – with nowhere near as much outrage on social media as rightfully deserved  – also include the alleged gang rape, murder, and forceful cremation of a nine-year-old Dalit girl in a crematorium in Delhi.

The girl, as per reports, went to get water in the crematorium, and never returned. Instead, the crematorium staff showed her mother her dead body after notifying her that she had been electrocuted, stopped her mother from reporting to authorities, and forcefully cremated the body.

The family and activists are alleging gang rape, and cremation to get rid of the evidence. Protests are ongoing on streets, including a hunger strike by an activist – but not much noise so far on social media. After all, we are desensitized by now, even to sexual violence on minors. There is also the factor of caste and class, which makes the marginalised more vulnerable. How much more can we protest? What will it bring anyways?

I don’t know the answer to those questions – but I do see a dangerous trend emerging, and a disturbing fact that we ought to note, but never do when it comes to sexual violence.

NOTHING is stopping the violence on women

First, India is not moving away from gang rape or violent crimes on women deterred by high visibility – the outcry following such and inevitably higher chances of prosecution (and persecution) since Jyoti Singh’s death in 2012. India is finding a way, or continuing to try to find ways, to still rape – but get away with it.

The first chilling inkling of this was heard in the movie India’s Daughter, which was suppressed in India, for it apparently ‘marred India’s reputation’ and promoted bad influence by interviewing a rapist. But in that interview, the rapist – without any remorse, or comprehension of what he has done, proclaimed that the mistake was not the rape, but to leave the girl alive. His proclamation was, very aptly (for he knew the mind of a rapist) – harsh punishment for rape will just aggravate the crime. From raping to the killing of the victim to get away with the crime.

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Since then, we have seen multiple accounts of rapists recording videos and blackmailing victims of release on social media to keep them silent. But more disastrously, killing and burning of the body to make sure no evidence can be gathered postmortem. From Hathras to victims who were set on fire post-rape.

This gives the key message critical to note when it comes to curbing gender violence –  tough punishment and no escape is important, but where costs of lives are low and women are marked as lesser and objects (literally, lesser objects), perpetrators are not going to stop. They are merely going to work to fully destroy their victim. With all our strong example setting, we are not distinguishing and safeguarding against this. This also speaks to the need for increasing the value of women as the only route to curbing gender violence.

Who is seen as ‘disposable’?

The second factor to acknowledge here is what we deliberately refuse to acknowledge. What lowers the cost of lives further in the eyes of perpetrators? Who is seen as the most disposable?

Class plays into it of course, and so does caste. Many get sensitized when the caste question is brought into gender violence. While it is true that gender violence affects everyone, caste adds immense vulnerability into this equation for women who are considered to be of ‘lower caste’. Their lives are further devalued and therefore can be ‘burnt off’!

It might be easy to think that we are protected against this – and therefore disregard it (with a bit of shock and some amount of pity, but mostly with a lot of not understanding how prevalent caste-based devaluation is). But there is no protection for anyone in a society which has a mindset that allows such blatant disregard of life to be possible for one segment. History has proven this again and again.

In the same vein, other headlines this week include a girl beaten to death for wearing jeans, by family members. Elsewhere, women were beaten for talking on cell phones.

The pandemic has changed us we say, mostly for the worse as it comes to women. Their economic power has reduced and social vulnerability has therefore increased. But these incidents can’t be blamed completely on the pandemic. India was and is like this, because we don’t tackle the patriarchy and bias that lies inside each one of us, men or women. Getting Olympic medals doesn’t make Indian women valued higher in India. Just like the goddesses worshipped, it merely creates exceptions.

So while one more nine-year old gang raped and killed and cremated gets buried amongst other news  – there are lessons in this – chilling lessons to note.

Image source: gerault on pixabay

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About the Author

Tanushree Ghosh

Tanushree Ghosh (Ph. D., Chemistry, Cornell, NY), is Director at Intel Corp., a social activist, and an author. She is a contributor (past and present) to several popular e-zines incl. The Huffington Post US ( read more...

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