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Rituparna Chatterjee
Monday , October 15, 2012 at 11 : 03

Open letter to men: Let's talk about rape


'Rape is mostly consensual' - Haryana Congress leader

'Rape is just another method of conception' - Congressman Paul Ryan

'Some girls, they rape so easy' - Wisconsin (US) lawmaker

'If it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down' - US Republican Todd Akin

'I think that girls should be married at the age of 16, so that they have their husbands for their sexual needs, and they don't need to go elsewhere. This way rapes will not occur' - Haryana Khap Panchayat member Sube Singh

I beg the pardon of the faceless men and women victims of sexual assault if I give the impression at any time that I have appointed myself their representative without having physically or mentally experienced even a fraction of their pain and trauma. I am not an authority on sexual abuse and do not pretend to counsel from the pulpit of moral self righteousness on how a human being should or should not behave.

But I am a woman who is trying to make an honest living off hard work in a city that isn't exactly reputed for the security it provides its women. I put myself in risk's way every time I have to travel home alone at night. I pay my taxes, abide by rules and make the best of the conditions I live in and it gives me the right to voice my anger and indignation at the humiliation I have to repeatedly suffer at your hands.

You are entrusted with my security, safety and wellbeing and it is indeed a sad day when I start seeing you as my mortal enemy.

I have always thought that feminism undermines the very cause it sets out to champion. But the antediluvian misogyny you demonstrate with your deliberately irresponsible statements makes me dread a future I'm stumbling into, blindsided and bruised. It makes me wonder if there is, after all, more to the brand of rabid feminism born out of bitterness.

You want to talk about rape? You want to discuss it in front of studio audiences and television cameras with that infuriating smirk on your face suggesting you are privy to a secret we are not? Let's talk about rape - which you believe happens because a woman is provocatively dressed, unmarried, or giving her tacit assent to the act of violation of her privacy.

I have a friend who was dragged into a vacant parking lot and sexually assaulted by two men when she was 19 years old. She has picked herself up and moved on but she lived for 10 years in the fear of being disfigured by an acid attack by the men who systematically crushed her will over 15 minutes in that dark parking space. Why don't you go look her parents in the eye and explain your vile, pop theory of what comprises rape? I dare you to.

A child of six is raped by her neighbor. Should she have been married at birth? A homeless boy is sodomized by teens at a railway station. Did he 'dress provocatively' and invite the attack? A married woman is dragged into a car and gang-raped. What a shocker that her married status did not instantly insulate her against all such incidents!

I would normally dismiss these statements on sexual attack as gimmicky bullshit by uneducated, ill-informed men. Hell, I wouldn't even mind your presence if you did not step out from whatever rock you live under. But when I checked your credentials I was amazed to see that you are our bunch of Oxford-educated, democratically-elected representatives drafting laws and setting down rules for civil society. It's doubly sad that there are men and women who voted for you to legally trample all over their human rights.

The Oxford English Dictionary defines 'civilization' as 'the stage of human, social development and organization which is considered most advanced'.

Whether you are conservative, pro-life, anti-abortion, affiliated to the Roman Catholic Church, a village patriarch or a far right ideologue - do you think you have the right to abuse the inclusive premise on which a civilization stands? Your regressive thinking is the reason we go back two paces for every laborious step we take towards gender equality.

A rape is a rape. When you rape a woman's body, you rape her mind, driving her into a tight internal shell. There is nothing that you can say that will elevate its status. But your insensitive stand can demean the efforts of the millions of activists across the world fighting to provide justice to the victims of assault and rehabilitate them.

So you, the Neanderthals in the Khap Panchyat, no matter how you interpret rape in your tiny mind, the law in India is very clear about it.

1. Substitution of existing section 375 of the IPC recommended - the existing section 375 be substituted by the following:

"375. Sexual Assault: Sexual assault means -

(a) The introduction (to any extent) by a man of his penis, into the vagina (which term shall include the labia majora), the anus or urethra or mouth of any woman or child -

(b) the introduction to any extent by a man of an object or a part of the body (other than the penis) into the vagina (which term shall include the labia majora) or anus or urethra of a woman

(c) the introduction to any extent by a person of an object or a part of the body (other than the penis) into the vagina(which term shall include the labia majora) or anus or urethra of a child.

(d) manipulating any part of the body of a child so as to cause penetration of the vagina (which term shall include labia majora) anus or the urethra of the offender by any part of the child's body;

In circumstances falling under any of the six following descriptions:

Firstly - Against the complainant's will.

Secondly - Without the complainant's consent.

Thirdly - With the complainant's consent when such consent has been obtained by putting her or any person in whom the complainant is interested, in fear of death or hurt.

Fourthly - With the complainant's consent, when the man knows that he is not the husband of such complainant and that the complainant's consent is given because the complainant believes that the offender is another man to whom the complainant is or believes herself to be lawfully married.

Fifthly - With the consent of the complainant, when, at the time of giving such consent, by reason of unsoundness of mind or intoxication or the administration by the offender personally or through another of any stupefying or unwholesome substance, the complainant is unable to understand the nature and consequences of that to which such complainant gives consent.

Sixthly - With or without the complainant's consent, when such complainant is under eighteen years of age.

Provided that consent shall be a valid defence if the complainant is between sixteen years and eighteen years of age and the accused Person is not more than five years older.

Explanation: Consent means the unequivocal voluntary agreement by a person to engage in the sexual activity in question.

Whether a woman 'provoked' the rape, whether 'it is a business arrangement gone wrong', whether 'she knew her attackers', whether 'she is promiscuous' or whether she is married - the courts do not assume a moral stand for women who have been sexually assaulted. Neither should you.

Instead of asking girls to get married by 16 to avoid getting raped, why don't you teach your sons to respect women?

Let me wrap this up in the language you understand. In the 2012 Assembly elections for UP, Uttarakhand, Goa, Manipur and Punjab, an Election Commission analysis found that women voters largely outnumbered men. Congratulations. You just lost half the votes of your targeted electorate. Keep it up, and we will kick you where it hurts most - in the polls.


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More about Rituparna Chatterjee

In her 10 years in the media, Rituparna has worked both on the field as a reporter as well as off it, on the desk. Lover of cumin flavoured "authentic" Chinese food. God is watching but that's no compulsion to keep the desktop neat.