Why 'Nirbhaya like' rapes continue to haunt India

We must collectively endeavour to curb patriarchy in our daily lives which breeds such monstrous crimes.

 |  4-minute read |   16-01-2018
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As I scrolled through my timeline on Sankranthi, I came across a rather morose tweet by my closest friend. He’s normally quite cheerful and for him to put out a sad tweet on Sankranthi, which is one of the most important festivals for us Andhra people baffled me.

Worried about him, I asked if everything was fine. He replied he was fine, but said he felt a sense of helplessness after he read about the numerous rapes reported over the past 48 hours. It appeared that the one from Haryana  [of a 15-year-old girl] particularly disturbed him as he advised me not to read the details of it. "It’s 'Nirbhaya'-like," he said trying to find a euphemism for the macabre nature of the heinous crime.

I could sense that he was refraining from referring to a conversation we had a few months ago when I fell out with an old friend who displayed signs of being extremely possessive. While we spoke about it, my friend expressed his fears and often cautioned me to keep away from such people. In jest I told him that he’s being a milquetoast and letting his fears get the better of him.

Yesterday’s conversation ended with me assuring him that I will be more conscious of the people I interact with, to allay his anxieties. I also reminded him about the #MeToo campaign which revealed the magnitude of sexual harassment.

However, what caught my attention about the interaction we had was the sense of helplessness we both felt. We wondered whether this will capture the nation’s attention as it was as brutal as the Nirbhaya incident. We also pondered over what the threshold is, to attract the nation’s attention? How brutal must a crime be for society’s conscience to be shaken? We rued over the sorry state our society has been reduced to.


We can at best expect rhetorical discussions on news channels. The trite arguments for more stringent punishments and whether capital punishment will curb sexual violence will keep us occupied for a couple of days. And then, all will be forgotten till the next brutalised corpse is found.

Politics will be played out and a slugfest will ensue between those supporting and criticising the government. None will however attempt to introspect and seek pragmatic solutions.

Numerous studies have shown that sexual violence is not about lust, but more about power and control. It is therefore no surprise that a state like Haryana which is notorious for its patriarchal society, reflected by the skewed sex ratio, also leads the country in the number of gangrapes reported. It is a manifestation of patriarchal minds feeling insecure about the changing social dynamics where women are being emancipated and empowered.

If we are to control sexual violence, which has now reached epidemic proportions, we must first address the root cause of the problem. Rather than find scapegoats, we must introspect into how we can instil a sense of equality in young children. While all agents of socialisation like the family, mass media, popular media etc will be important to promote gender equality, schooling will be cardinal in bringing about a social transformation.

It reflects poorly on our education system that it has failed to inculcate a sense of morality among a large section of society. In many schools, especially in the smaller towns, despite claiming to be co-educational, boys and girls are discouraged and even penalised for talking to each other. How can we instil mutual respect if school administrations don’t understand the importance of gender parity?

Women face discrimination at every stage of life. When the relatively emancipated women assert themselves, patriarchal minds feel threatened and impotent. Some of them respond with violence.

Instead of shedding tears over brutalised, lifeless bodies of violated women, we must collectively endeavour to curb patriarchy in our daily lives which is the breeding ground for such monstrous crimes. Only when we resist gender discrimination in all its manifestations can we expect to control the rape epidemic.

The deep-rooted culture of patriarchy, misogyny and repressive attitudes need to be purged from our society if we expect to become a respectable country in the 21st century.

And every crime against women should be treated as a national shame.

Also read: Where's the outrage over Haryana gang rapes?


Madhuri Danthala Madhuri Danthala @madhuism_

The author is a political analyst based out of Bengaluru.

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