Rape crimes in India are becoming a daily part of our news feed. We read about war-ravaged Ukraine, Finland’s Prime Minister being accountable for a party video leak, Sonali Phogat’s death, and Bilkis Bano’s case, all in the same breath.
Maybe we are slowly becoming accustomed to violence against women and also starting to accept this as another entitlement that men in rage can have over a woman.
In a patriarchal society, rape culture is far more insidious and twisted in its understanding among the masses. In this culture, the blame is diverted towards the victim for either implicitly or explicitly bringing it upon herself. To an extent, the media is to blame for the objectification of women, which is always done through the lens of the male gaze. With the bombardment of crude female nudity, the normalisation of such crimes becomes a natural thought process of punishment towards women.
Also, in such cultures, women are taught to not express disapproval when they are molested or eve teased. It is or was something that she bought upon herself. The stigma of shame is extremely high for the victim.
Many cases don’t get reported because of the taboo attached to sexual misconduct. The truth is molestation and rape don’t happen only when a woman is outdoors during late hours, risking her safety. Rape also occurs within the confines of close-knit family relationships, neighbors, and friends. Women are viewed as someone who deserve punishment for not towing the line or adhering to the prescribed norms. According to the National Crime Records Bureau 2019 report, in 94.2% of rape cases, the accused was known to the survivor.
Such men who commit these atrocities are raised in environments and mindsets that subjugate women.
Any form of rebellion or resistance on her part is not acceptable.
Rape in marriages is not even considered a crime.
Bilkis Bano’s case reveals the horrific hatred that men have towards women. This dastardly act has shaken the very core of every thinking woman in India. Women no longer feel safe, nor can they trust that their complaints will be heard and that the culprit will be punished suitably.
Every day, we read horror stories about minors being mutilated and raped. The minor is a girl in all cases. Bilkis’s case was among the other most heinous crimes that have been committed in India, including the gang rape of a 22-year-old Nirbhaya, who had dared to travel on public transport in our capital city of Delhi.
Pregnant Bilkis Bano’s rape isn’t just a political or religious matter for women in India. It is about the collective consciousness of women that is being tested.
It is equally shocking when the elite of India try to argue on grounds of religious hatred and historical data of the Mughals ravaging India to half condone the act. The reasons cited are that when multiple Hindu women are raped, why is there no outrage? These arguments fail to see the atrocities committed against women as a collective gender.
Bilkis was gang raped when she was 5 months pregnant and her three-year-old toddler was smashed to death. Plus, her entire family of 13 was killed in front of her eyes.
One can’t deny that this does make us wonder about the issues of minority safety and majority power in a country as diverse as India.
One does shudder to think of the level of trauma that Bilkis Bano had to face. Plus the crestfallen look in her eyes to watch the 11 rapists being released and also welcomed out of jail with the ceremonial feeding of sweets. This seems beyond dystopian to any civilised nation.
The informed women in the country are shocked and dismayed at the obscene public display of injustice.
This isn’t Hindu versus Muslim. This is men against women.
A rape victim is traumatised for her entire life and the shadow it casts on her emotional health is still not discussed as it should be.
Bilkis Bano, winning this case and ensuring the rapists go right back into prison again, will reinstate the faith we have in our government and the judiciary.
Mohua Chinappa is an author and a podcaster of a show called The Mohua Show.