INDIA as a country is under going a crisis. When this crisis began cannot be ascertained and one can’t put a date to it. But that this crisis is being experienced, particularly by our country, cannot be denied. Rape, molestations, and violence against a certain section of our society is in the news and stark in our faces. But it is like the elephant in the room everyone pretends not to notice.
A lot has been written and spoken about, and many articles have emerged, that focus on the victim. But not much has been spoken about the rapist. He is treated as general evil and desecrated, shamed, but one can’t really put a reason to his act. Why does a rapist physically abuse, murder, violate a person? What is in his mind? What is the baggage he carries? These are the questions which need to be asked. For after all, many of these rapists who commit these demonic acts are a part of our society. They have grown up in our neighbourhoods, roamed in our streets, eaten in our restaurants, and many a time are even a part of our family. For the sake of clarity and brevity, one shall only analyse the crimes committed against women and children in this article.
Deconstructing the rapist’s mindset
For her doctoral thesis, Madhumita Pandey interviewed a hundred rapists in India. Her findings brought to the fore the burning question about how the minds of these men work. Some of her findings suggested that the gender roles are skewed in India. The men wield an authoritative power over women and in many families, women don’t even think it correct to use the first name of their husbands. In her many interviews, her findings suggested that these men don’t understand what consent is. Some men denied that rape happened at all, some gave excuses, some even made Pandey feel sorry for them, some put the blame squarely on the victim, but there were only a handful who regretted their actions. In one of the interviews a man expressed remorse for raping a five-year-old and said he would marry the child after he got out of jail, since no one would accept her after what he had done to her!
The questions of these findings suggest myriad ideas that stem from the mind of these men and the skewed masculinity they are attempting to performing in society. Also, the interview only reflects the mindsets of convicted rapists. There are many who have never been reported and continue to walk the streets free. The mindset of a free person and that of a convicted one might be different. Many times rape happens within the family, and many of these people are members who get access to the private spaces of the home. Such incidents are ignored, not reported, and the male member of the family who is in an authoritative position inside the sanctum of the home, is never challenged.
One of the central tenets of Friedrich Nietzche’s philosophy was the ‘Will to power’. Schopenhauer influenced Nietzche’s thinking by his concept of ‘Will to live’. He stated that everything in the universe is driven by the primordial will to live, in it is the desire to procreate and avoid death.
But Nietzche, in his many doctrines, put forth a will, which is much more than the will to just survive and reproduce. He puts forth the doctrine of power, making it central to human existence. Though Nietzche doesn’t define the will to power, he does pose the argument that achievement, ambition and the will to reach the highest possible position in life is what drives the human, and not just the will to survive. But in this continual struggle to execute one’s will, the role of cruelty can’t be denied. On the doctrine of the feeling of power he quotes –“Benefiting and hurting others are ways of exercising one’s power over them—that is all one wants in such cases! We hurt those to whom we need to make our power perceptible, for pain is a much more sensitive means to that end than pleasure: pain always asks for the cause, while pleasure is inclined to stop with itself and not look back. We benefit and show benevolence toward those who already depend on us in some way (that is, who are used to thinking of us as their causes); we want to increase their power because we thus increase our own, or we want to show them the advantage of being in our power—that way, they will be more satisfied with their situation and more hostile towards and willing to fight against the enemies of our power.”
The Kathua introspection
The Kathua rape case, where an eight-year-old girl was murdered after being gangraped for several days was one of the episodes that made India introspect. While it has not been proven and the matter is sub-judice, it has been posed that the crime occurred to “dislodge” a group of Bakherwal Muslim nomads from Rasana village in Kathua near Jammu. Women’s bodies have been a site of violence and political trauma for a long time. Even the democratic republic of Congo has seen widespread use of sexual violence to execute power, take over territories and ‘punish’ civilian populations who are supporting the enemy. Thus cruelty is used categorically in all these cases to execute power. But to say that the act of violence doesn’t stem from a sense of satisfying sexual gratification would be problematic. It is undeniable that ‘sexual gratification’ is a basic instinct that drives human kind. The entire existence of the human race depends on the instinct and hence the phrase “rape is about power, not sex” would not give the correct picture. It is posed that human events could be influenced by more than one reason, hence, while power could be a determining factor, sexual gratification could be an undeniable association.
In a study Michael F. Mckibbin and three other researchers at Florida Atlantic University identified five types of rapists:
1) Disadvantaged men: Men of lower socioeconomic status who are deemed undesirable mates, who resort to rape.
2) Specialised rapists: Those who are aroused by rape than consensual sex.
3) Opportunistic rapists: Those who can rape with low risk of punishment, like rape during war time.
4) High mating effort rapists: Those who have high self-esteem and do not like it when they are refused. They have expectations after they initiate a date, pay for dinner etc.
5) Partner rapists: Those who fear competition, suspect infidelity, or have a break up.
By evaluating all these categories, it might become evident that the mind of a rapist is a complex environment and the reasons influencing one to carry out these devious crimes can be multi- plicate. But all this is not to say that just because the crime has reasons it is reasonable. It deserves correction, intent and doesn’t have quick fix solutions, for its nature is embedded in instinct and power structures. The punishments to these crimes are also myriad: life imprisonment, ban on certain employment positions and death penalty, are among a few that are utilised by different countries all over the world.
These crimes are our immediate evils. How often has one seen news about people with political influence dismiss the act as a ‘mistake’, and how often one sees the regression begin at home, where women are not given the right to participate in decision making, or even speak on sensitive subjects. Where rights to property, executing wills, and even the right to have an opinion are male domains.
The Kenya story
Does sex-education change all this? One in four schoolgirls in Kenya had experienced sexual assault when Ujamaa Africa introduced the programme ‘Your moment of truth’. This programme focused on adolescent boys and took them through a six-week course that took them through making difficult choices, not participating in a misogynistic conversation, and taking courageous decisions. The curriculum did influence the minds of the participants and some pre-conceived notions and prejudices were challenged.
The point that this article wants to make is that punishment is an import- ant part of a committed crime and should be meted. While instilling fear might demotivate some, it might not change the attitude where it should change, i.e., in their minds. One should not rape, not because one might face the death penalty if one does, but because if one rapes it causes untold harm to the other person, who is a living breathing person with aspirations, dreams and a thirst for life like we ourselves do. Sex education has been opposed in India for various reasons. Some being because people believed it would corrupt the youth and lead to promiscuity. Some even argued that it is a Western construct forced upon India. Well, another argument is, that rape exists, and many human lives are getting affected by it. Doesn’t it need a human intervention somewhere? While some organisations in India are working towards an education in this field, there needs to be more work that goes to the grassroots. A definite truth is that India cannot afford to live with a conscience that gets stained time and again by victims that have been tormented, and by men who have no idea that what they have committed is a crime.
We do have miles to go before we sleep, but it is important that we do not sleep till we walk those miles.