When asked about what he thought of a politician’s clueless remarks on rape, an auto rickshaw driver said: “The remarks are not all wrong, as the ‘city-girls’ do try to gain attention with their dressing and attitude, and could help the situation if they keep to themselves.”
By now everyone has heard this a thousand times. People always ask women to dress properly to avoid rape. Not just men, but many women themselves say this. And not just those from the lower strata, but from all walks of life. The attitudes towards rape might, just might improve as one climbs the economic ladder, but by no means is it a given. There are enough rationalizations. And here’s why they’re bullshit.
Women are Already Careful
Women in India are under siege. They are already conscious about the threats to their safety to a degree that I can never even imagine. I see it in the way they plan their schedules, and the questions they ask themselves about what they’re wearing before they go out. The cautious way they view men who come close to them in public. And it pisses me off that they have to do this. All over Europe and in the US, talking to strangers on the road is common. Light banter when sitting down at a restaurant. Compliments on your dress or other accessories, remarks on books or electronic devices. These are casual interactions that take place on a regular basis with no suspicion and no tension.
But not in India. I cannot just casually make eye contact with a woman in public here and expect a smile back in response in a friendly manner. And you know what? They have every reason to be suspicious. I have personally known men who would take it as an open invitation that a woman is “available” if she smiles back at them on the road. What should have been a casual “hi/hello” has turned into something sinister. And that sucks donkey balls.
So don’t go around telling women to “be careful at night” or “watch what you wear”. They’re already overburdened with the knowledge and they don’t need or appreciate additional comments from clueless assholes who don’t know jack.
Most Rape Victims are Already Properly Covered Up
The overwhelming number of rape victims are not glamorous girls who wear what they please and are proud of it. Most of them are assaulted when they’ve vulnerable and have no one to turn to. Schoolgirls are accosted on the road and dragged away. Women are raped in marriages because they have no recourse to the law. Those living alone in their houses are in danger. They key theme in all these is vulnerability.
It matters not to the Indian rapist whether a woman is dressed in underwear or wrapped in layers of blankets. What they look for is weakness and an inability to fight back. Never imagine for a moment that rapists lose control. They damn well know what they’re doing and carefully assess the situation before they decide to sexually assault someone. A well protected woman will always be safe regardless of what she’s wearing. I can give it to you in writing. Can you show me the number of scantily clad women who were assaulted when they had adequate protection?
I didn’t think so.
Rapes are not Natural Disasters
Those telling women to be careful insist that it’s just a common sense measure. After all when there’s a threat, don’t you take steps to prevent it? If it’s dark, aren’t you careful that you don’t fall down a pothole? People telling women what to wear take the line that it’s only reasonable after all. And how do you argue with that?
The flaw in thinking like this is in confusing a rapist with a natural disaster. A storm is not a citizen of the country. It obeys no rules and answers to no one. It has no free will. Getting hit by lightning is not personal. The lightning doesn’t have a choice whether to hit you or not. It makes perfect sense to take precautions against something that has no free will and no agency. A mad dog has no ability to control itself and we are all rightfully wary of it.
But a rapist acting in full possession of his senses cannot be equated with a lightning storm or a mad dog. The onus is on the rapist not to rape and not on the victim to avoid getting raped. Sexually assaulting someone is an act of free will. It is a choice. The entire responsibility lies with the person initiating the action.
Some people think it’s asking too much of a person who “lost control” because he saw a vulnerable woman. Bullshit. If they’re old enough to vote, old enough to get married, old enough to raise children, and old enough to enter legal contracts, they’re bloody well old enough to choose to keep their pants on.
Most Rapes in India go Unreported
Every once in a while someone will trot out statistics claiming to show that rape is more prevalent in so-called “western countries”. Though I’m sorely tempted to, I will not blindly assume bad faith on their part. Instead, I will calmly point out that the overwhelming majority of rapes in India go unreported. How many exactly? As much as 99%!
That’s right. Just one percent of rapes in India make it to the police. And to add insult to injury, the police then often refuse to register an FIR and ask the girl to “compromise” or whatever the fuck they want to call it. So no surprise that rape statistics are low in India. What do you expect?
Bottom line. Indian women live a sucky life. I don’t know if they’re used to it or not, but I know that were I a girl living in this country I would want to get the hell away as soon as possible. I would want to be free to live my life, free to wear whatever I want without politicians blaming me for it, and free to walk down the streets alone at 3 am if I want. After all, I pay taxes too right? Don’t I have the same rights to the street at all times of the day that everyone else has?
But I’m not a girl. And it’s sad that I’m grateful.