Why we are to blame for Salman Khan's rape analogy

We made him the poster boy for 'boys will be boys'.

 |  4-minute read |   23-06-2016
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As a nation we tend to grant impunity to our men. We take a Panglossian stand with our celebrities.

So, we forgave Salman Khan when he hit Aishwarya Rai. We forgave him when he killed a man. We forgave him when he shot protected animals. Every time the actor landed into a controversy, we ranted for a few days and then moved on to the next headline.

We took no call-to-action. We did not assign him retribution. We lacked the moral courage to take a stand against him. Instead, we condoned him. We made him a superstar. A multi-millionaire. A brat. We called him a "bad boy" like it was endearing. We made him the poster boy for "boys will be boys".

Also read: My problem with media bashing Salman Khan over 'raped woman' comment

Salman Khan has never had to suffer the consequences of any mistake he’s made. We’ve never let him. So now, once again, he’s taken it too far by comparing the horror of rape to a film shooting and not even apologising for it. Why should he? He knows we’ll forgive. He knows we’ll forget. He knows we will still go watch his new movie and help it rake in crores.

salmanbd_062316011354.jpg Salman Khan should advocate for putting statutory warning in movie scenes that objectify women.

It’s time we stop: stop indemnifying Khan; stop this tripe of "boys will be boys".

It’s time we correct Salman Khan.

To begin with, Khan needs to realise two things: the role he plays in society as a role model, and the role rape plays in society as a malaise.

Firstly, being a role model comes with responsibility. Khan has to understand that his flippant statement, which trivialises a crime like sexual violence, will be imitated by millions of his fans.

A role model cannot debase a serious issue like rape without acting as its enabler. He cannot abet the rape culture in our country instead of castigating it. If he’s willing to accept the love that comes with fame, he should also be willing to accept the responsibility that comes with it.

Also read: When Salman Khan’s fans sent me rape threats

Secondly, as an Indian, he cannot assume the same insolence that Brock Turner’s father assumed when he described rape as "twenty minutes of action". Khan needs to understand that India has the world’s lowest female to male sex ratio; that in the hour he finishes a workout, a woman has been burnt for dowry; that in the twenty minutes he finishes a drink, a woman has been raped.

Does Khan understand that sexual violence in India is an epidemic? That rape cases are rising as we speak? That 72 women are raped every single day? That 10 per cent of rape victims are under the age of 14, and 33 per cent are under 18? That many of the girls being raped are younger than his Munni?

Does Khan know what it’s like to be raped? No. Nor do I. But that doesn’t mean that I cannot be sensitive to the humiliation, numbness, helplessness and anger that a rape victim undergoes.

We are asking Khan to render an apology. It will not suffice. We need more than words. We need affirmative action. Khan should show us that he cares for women; the same women who spend their time, money and emotions to watch his movies year after year, the same women who have made him the icon that he is today.

He should contribute to NGOs that are rehabilitating rape victims and providing them legal, medical and psychiatric counsel. He should advocate for putting statutory warning in movie scenes that objectify women, demonstrate obscene behaviour, or promote loutish ideas of love and sex.

Surely, a line like "Eve-teasing is injurious to your mental health" can be as effective as warnings against smoking and abusive language.

Khan should go Chulbul Pandey on fighting sexual violence in our country. He should show us that he gives a damn.

Also read: So Salman Khan knows what it feels like to be a 'raped woman'?

Instead, Khan has become the great fault line dividing our nation into #InsensitiveSalman versus #SalmanMisquoted. The first camp is being labelled everything from crypto-fascists to feminazis, and the second camp is said to be for suckers swathed in stardust. These are all smokescreens that should not take us away from the truth.

Bollywood has long shirked away from gender sensitivity; it’s time to pay retribution. Khan cannot condemn Nirbhaya while condoning himself. This is beyond hypocrisy; it’s ludicrous and we will not accept it.

Our country will progress only as much as its women progress and its men don’t regress. So, be a man, Salman Khan! Not a girlfriend-beating, man-killing, animal-hunting man. Be a real man. Apologise. Act. Atone. Become worthy of our country.

Writer

Meghna Pant Meghna Pant @meghnapant

The writer is an author, columnist and former news anchor.

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