Below The Belt

Two sisters ordered to be raped? Shame on you India

Why don't perpetrators of these heinous crimes against women ever get castigated, chastised or even castrated?

 |  Below The Belt  |  4-minute read |   02-09-2015
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Raksha Bandhan, an ancient festival which falls on a full moon day (Shravan Poornima) was recently celebrated. Folklore has it that the occasion originated with Rajput queens, who practised the custom of sending rakhis to neighbouring rulers as a symbol of brotherhood.

To this day, all over in India, on this auspicious occasion, sisters tie a rakhi on their brothers' wrists, pledging devotion while the brothers' vow to protect them. Popular culture, Bollywood and our prime time soaps also go gaga over the innate sentimentality and sacredness of the sibling relationship, with the projection of a brother taking up the role of the father in a woman’s life – protector, patriarch, part parent.

Rakhi even features in the Mahabharata - legend has it that Krishna once cut his finger while whirling his Sudarshana Chakra and Draupadi immediately tore a strip from her silk sari and wrapped it around his finger to stop it from bleeding. Krishna, moved by her dedication, declares her as his sister and promised to repay the debt. Later, when Draupadi faces humiliation at the hands of the Kauravas, Krishna indefinitely extends the drapes of her sari to save her from being disrobed.

Do modern Indian women need a powerful, potent male saviour to protect their modesty, given the alarming rates of sexual violence? Or do festivals like Raksha Bandhan, Bhratru Dwitiya, Bhai Dooj, Bhai Beej, Bhai Phonta, Karaka Chaturthi (Karwa Chauth), Ashok Shasthi and other Shasthivratas (celebrated mostly in Bengal), reinforce a time-tested misogynistic model? Where women are left to praying and observing rigorous fasts for the well-being of their husband/children. The goal of such practices is to wish for the long life of the beneficiary, while women are conditioned to suffer pain and strict physical penance, self-sacrifice built into our DNA – a life-long, pervasive guilt. The way we must be made to pay - even if it means to be raped brutally or threatened with molestion on social media - fostering a coercive, corrective model of gender-biased punishment.

Recently, international media brought to light the case of of 23-year-old Meenakshi Kumar, one of two sisters sentenced to be raped after their brother had eloped with a married woman from a higher caste.

Meenakshi and her younger sister were with their family in Delhi for a wedding when a neighbour called them, telling them not to return to their village as a village council, Khap Panchayat, dominated mostly by upper caste Jat men, had ordered the two young women to be raped and paraded naked with their faces blackened as punishment for their brother’s misdeeds. 

Meenakshi was quoted as saying, “I can’t sleep, I’m very scared.”

Their brother, Ravi Kumar, 25, from a Dalit caste was romantically involved with 21-year-old Krishna, a Jat, for nearly two years. When both families discovered this, they did all they could to keep the lovers apart. 

Rapistan all the way

In a country where 92 women are reported to be raped every day, perhaps Meenakshi will soon turn into another bloodied footnote when statistics of sordid sexual exploitation are compiled.

Is this how we train our daughters to look up to men for validation? It is shameful that the highest court of the country seems to be impotent when it comes to taking a stand on issues like marital rape. So even though we may pride ourselves for having abolished Sati and Jauhar, we continue to burn our women for dowry, throw acid on their faces, molest little girls in moving school buses.

Why are our wombs, vaginas, breasts, buttocks and lips stained, shamed, stigmatised? Our suffering caricatured? Why don't the perpetrators of these heinous crimes ever get castigated, chastised or even castrated?

A legacy of sexual violence

In August this year, a 16-year-old Dalit girl, who got pregnant after her father allegedly raped her in Kanpur, was denied an abortion by her doctor who said that it could pose a threat to her life. She was later shifted to a government shelter home in Kanpur after her 18-year-old elder brother expressed helplessness over taking responsibility for her since he was not financially well off. The girl has three brothers and a younger sister and lost her mother two years ago.

Why does our fate eventually rest with men?

Let’s look back in time, further.

In 2005, Imrana, a 28-year-old Muslim woman and mother of five, was raped by her 69-year-old father-in-law Ali Mohammad in UP's Charthawal village. Elders in the village and some proponents of Islamic law claimed that she should treat her husband Nur Ilahi as her son, declaring her marriage as null.

The country's foremost Islamic seminary, Darul Uloom Deoband, was quick to issue a fatwa as the Sharia regards sexual relations with both the father and son as incestuous.

Does our religious sacrilege thrive on primordial slut shaming? Must women always be the first to be shunned by society, instead of being rehabilitated and rescued - our brandished and bruised bodies soft targets - with national leaders sparing no chance to belittle us in political rhetoric? How long will we remain a sexual tool, an object of perverse male lust, a crucifying medium?

Dented and painted?

Writer

Sreemoyee Piu Kundu Sreemoyee Piu Kundu @sreemoyeekundu

The writer is an ex-lifestyle editor and PR vice president, and now a full-time novelist. She's the author of Faraway Music, the best-selling female erotica, Sita's Curse, You've Got The Wrong Girl! and Cut. Last year, she wrote the internationally acclaimed work of non-fiction on single women in India, Status Single. A leading columnist on sexuality and gender, Sreemoyee is also the recipient of NDTV L'oreal Women of Worth Award in the 'Literature' category.

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