Are Indian Men Getting Stereotyped as Rapists?

Purba Ray
Are Indian Men Getting Stereotyped as Rapists?
Are Indian Men Getting Stereotyped as Rapists?
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In an interview for a BBC documentary, Mukesh Singh, one of the accused in the Jyoti Singh Pandey rape case (romanticised as Nirbhaya by the press), claimed that it was the victim who was responsible for the brutal assault and murder. Had she not fought back, the gang would have dropped her off after 'doing her', instead of beating her so savagely that she died two weeks later from her injuries.

A man convicted of brutalising a woman with iron rods then went ahead and came up with a comprehensive list of what women should do to avoid getting raped, since it’s her fault anyway.

This attitude of blaming everything, from a woman’s choice of clothing, to what was she doing so late at night and if she’s out with a guy, she must be loose and willing, is nothing new. Rape is the only crime where the victim’s morals are questioned while the perpetrator wears the ‘poor me’ halo around his head like a crown. In fact, Mukesh Singh’s views on women are shared by many including those in power.

Haven’t we heard enough Politicians blame a “woman’s body language for inviting potential rapists lurking around in the streets” or insisting that “if any woman goes along with a man, with or without her consent, she should be hanged!”

This ritual of shaming women who are confident enough to speak up for themselves, fight regressive mindsets and lecherous bosses who think they are entitled to sexual favours, is not just restricted to our polity but many men and women who claim to be educated. But not every man who thinks “decent girls don't roam around at 9 o'clock at night, that they are meant for housework and not roaming in discos and bars at night doing wrong things, wearing wrong clothes”, goes around raping women.

Nirbhaya’s rapist’s remarks represent a sick mindset, whose idea of fun is raping a woman and beating her up ruthlessly with rods because she dared to resist.

Did we really expect that years in jail would alter the mindset of a man who’s essentially a murderer and a sadistic sociopath? Maybe, as the reporter in the BBC article suggests – he’s not the disease but the symptom of a sick society and hanging him will not make the rot go away. 

Maybe, it’s me who’s at fault for not being able to garner empathy for a man so chillingly unmoved by that blood-splattered night. In fact, Singh kept expressing bewilderment that such a fuss was being made about this rape.

I feel that a man who doesn’t value life, doesn’t deserve our understanding.

I am not appalled that this man awaiting a death sentence shows no repentance for his horrific act that united us in grief and revulsion for what those men did to her. We all cried for that brilliant girl whose only mistake was her fate that led her to a wrong place, at a wrong time.

What’s more appalling is that BBC Four will air this interview on International Womens' Day as compelling evidence of the atrocious attitudes shown by Indian men towards women.

Approaching a convicted rapist for his views on women, using it to mirror Indian men's attitude towards women, ends up stereotyping our men as the libidinous things who have nothing better to do than rape and subjugate women. It's like approaching a hooligan English soccer fan for his views on Britain's sporting culture or asking Bill Cosby or Rolf Harris for their views on sexual harassment.

Does one sick mind represent millions of Indian men, many of whom are caring fathers, sons, friends who make us feel safe and cherished?

I’m not suggesting that our country is safe for women. In fact, it’s far from the truth. But our knee jerk reaction of treating all men with hostility and mistrust every time a girl gets assaulted doesn’t help anyone. Rather, it fills our men with resentment and guilt for crimes they are not even responsible for. Labelling Delhi as a rapist city, men from Haryana and UP as sex predators, accusing women of playing victims and overreacting to a ‘trivial thing called rape’, only ends up fomenting bitterness.

It’s not a game of one upmanship where we get to point fingers at each other but a serious crime that everyone irrespective of their gender must condemn in strongest possible words. Tragically, many including certain sections of our police view sexual assault as punishment for being a bad girl and anybody filing a case against her rapist as being a whore who didn’t get paid.

The bitter truth is, if men judge us on the basis of the length of our dresses, depth of our cleavage and how many drinks we have downed, we are no different. The shabbily dressed man walking behind us in the dark lane makes us nervous. 

If we are alone in the elevator with a cabbie or a courier guy, rather than make small talk with them, like we do with other residents, we anxiously check the floor number on the panel. 

Even we judge men on the basis of the clothes they wear, the kind of English they speak and the number of chains they are sporting around their neck. Vicky is meant to be uncouth, the man with too many shirt buttons open must be a letch and men from certain strata are not meant to be trusted.

Maybe that’s why it hurts so much that millions of women watching the interview will think of all Indian men as Mukesh Singh, and would walk a little faster, clutching on to their purses tighter as they encounter an Indian guy in the subway.

This post first appeared on Purba Ray's blog

Deepthy Menon has a different take. Read- Why does airing the Nirbhaya Documentary offend you?

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