Tuesday , 13 November 2018
The Politics of Rape

The Politics of Rape

Frederick Noronha

In the ultra-polarised world of the social media, even an issue like rape gets politicised. On discussion groups in Facebook, in WhatsApp forwards, and via email messages, we let our bias show when it comes to these most shocking forms of violence and attacks on even young children.

Rape is an extreme crime. It shocks us out of our complacency. When we see an innocent face of a child killed staring at us from even a newspaper, the first thought that strikes us is: how could someone even do such a thing?

It may not be fair to compare the different kinds of atrocities that people face in today’s world. But then, there are other utterly shocking crimes committed on a regular basis in today’s times.

The wars in the Middle East, undertaken on various pretexts but mostly just a battle over resources (read: controlling oil, the West is now focussing on Syria) has destroyed the lives of millions. Literally. This, and the utterly imbalanced global economy, makes so many flee to a better life in Europe. Yet, it is only when we see a bleeding child in a war, his face shocked and bathed in gore, that we wake up to begin feeling about the situation. Only when we see a tiny boy, drowned, face down on a beach while trying to flee with his family to Europe, do we realise that we are dealing with terribly traumatised human beings at the other end of the war.

Some 18,000 children are dying each day in today’s world – mostly from preventable causes – according to Anthony Lake, Executive Director of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). Every day, approximately 800 women die from preventable causes related to pregnancy and childbirth. Some 800 million people go to bed hungry each night. Air pollution kills 18,000 people per day. Isn’t this a scandal in our day and age at the start of the 21st century?

But, even if two rape cases might seem like a tiny blip on the scale of human inhumanness, let’s not underestimate the relevance of the same. The tiny human faces we see staring back at us remind us of everything that is going wrong with us in the early 21st century.

Not everyone is convinced though.

Depending on which side of the political one is on, there is scope to debate about why such issues are being raised now, whether those raising these issues have vested interests, or whether other issues were similarly raised in the past.

In a situation where almost every issue gets converted into a BJP-versus-Congress tug-of-war, and a your-religion-versus-mine debate, concern for the underdog is the first casualty. Should we just agree that my rapists are better than your rapists, and we will somehow find some means to justify their actions?

These are times when lawyers take sides over rape, and our response to it depends on which political party’s hand is involved. Ironically enough, the BJP which squeezed the most mileage out of the Nirbhaya case (and rightly so), is now squirming over its Prime Minister’s delayed response, and some of its ministers’ seeming condonance of the unjustifiable. Or, at least, their attempt to defensively rake up quite irrelevant issues while discussing the cases of Kathua (J&K) and Unnao (UP).

Rape, especially when children are involved, brings to the fore more serious issues – communalism, human right violations, unequal power equations, gender imbalances, and much more.

In the case of the few but highly publicised cases of rape and crime against foreign tourists in Goa, the many issues related to tourism (which we as a society have mostly attempted to push under the carpet) have been reopened for discussion in a dramatic, if not always pleasant, manner.

In a war-like situation, where we are made to distrust and suspect others based on their religion, caste, state or racial origins, such unexplained bitterness and inhumanity are bound to surface. But is this any way in which to go ahead?

Nidhi Razdan of the NDTV criticised those who “have spent the whole day indulging in whataboutery on the Asifa case. ‘But did you condemn this, but did you condemn that’.” As she added, without mincing her words: “Sorry, but no amount of whataboutery will work here. This exposes your basic inhuman core. You fake nationalists.”

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