Flix Thursday, March 05, 2015 - 05:30
By Deepthy Menon Follow @deemen The News Minute| March 4, 2015| In India, we have two narratives – one that the educated, TV watching elite would like to believe in and another, which more often than not, is the reality. Our society was never as safe and secure as we want to believe, it was just that the crimes hadn’t invaded our living spaces- it was happening to women in the villages or urban slums.  When reporting something as gruesome as the December 2012 rape, no details were spared. I knew exactly how rusted the iron rod was that was rammed into the victim, I knew how many times was she cruelly raped. Pages, airtime and lots of newsprint was devoted to the men who committed the crime, the squalor in which they lived, their past lives, convictions. And then, Nirbhaya died. She became a saintly memory – of a girl who fought men- one that cannot be tainted. And it was decreed that the rape should now be talked about but only in connection with the rapists being hanged to death. Or with soft music focussing on the tears of a parents who lost a ‘braveheart’ ( another pet phrase). If you dare to say no death sentence, then you are perhaps anti-national too. Why is this documentary that talks to the rapists and their lawyers about voyeuristic TRP hogging while all the reportage earlier was about placing facts before the nation? Freedom of speech and the right of people to present all parts of the arguments apart – there are other important reasons why this documentary can be a big tool in engaging differently with communities and youth. For the first time, we have the rapists telling us what they think of what they did. They have no remorse, but should remorse be an automatic emotion? The outrage over the lack of remorse or even worse, the language and opinions revealed by the defence lawyers is misdirected. Any journalist, who has followed cases around violence against women or even relatively less violent divorce cases, would know the kind of repulsive opinions that masquerade as legal arguments in defence of their client. Our criminal justice system- from the point of complaint to the point of resolution is filled with examples of repugnant mind-sets and arguments that often win cases! The outrage must be over how many men identify with this manner of thinking. The outrage must be over how repressed the women in the households of these lawyers and their circles must be, for them to proudly endorse their repulsive chauvinism so blatantly. Instead, the anger is over how this documentary can be aired.  Perhaps, the thinking is that there is nothing new that this documentary unveils. Let’s look at the points that appear to be taken for granted – consciously or otherwise - Men are chauvinistic, Rape is the fault of the girl – must have been her dress, her manner of behaviour or even the fact that she was out with a man late at night! So why are you surprised to hear it being said out aloud? For once, this interview is a public vocalisation of thoughts millions of men in India have about violence against women. It is disgusting and repulsive, but it needs to be watched. We live in a fragmented society, where much as you would want, your view is not the view held by the majority. Your father, husband or brother might be a believer in equality of sexes, but there are several around you who do not – not yet. Why should Nirbhaya’s gruesome end be an untainted memory? Her parents know the fight is going to be hard and gritty, they have said on air that nothing that the rapists could say will make a difference to them – so on whose behalf is the outrage over what the rapists allude? As a society, we have internalised the Three Monkeys stand – don’t see, don’t say, don’t hear – but the three monkeys will not help you clean our society or the mindset that it harbours. Only when you hear the filth can you imagine the depth of rot that exists. On a television interview, senior lawyer Dushyant Dave worries if this interview justifies the actions of the rapists – that you can construe the documentary as a justification of the actions is to me a far dangerous manner of thinking than what the documentary maker sought to achieve.  Organisations championing for women’s rights have been trying for decades to engage with men and boys to make society safer for women. In patriarchal societies like ours, you need to work within the system to cleanse it of the rot within. Asking women to unite against their abusers and oppressors is not a viable solution. Instead, when men realise the import of their actions, the community as a whole begins to reflect changed behaviour. How can we talk to men if we do not know how they think of issues like rape? Why should resolution of issues like rape be done behind curtains, in the privacy of homes, offices or in courts only? If prevention is our goal, then this documentary can be an effective starting point – to start conversations, start dialogues and use the national shame that the rape produced to channelize it towards making men dissociate themselves from the thinking of these rapists and their lawyers, we would have walked ten steps forward in our fight for Nirbhaya and several other untold stories like hers.  In a country, where our research on crimes related to sexual abuse is limited largely to statistics, documentaries like these are valuable building blocks of sociological and psychological evidence – research is the starting point to plan how to engage with communities, what to say to them that will create impact or result. To outrightly protest its airing so vocally is also damaging the cause of justice for Nirbhaya – and justice should not be narrowed down to seeing her killers hang. Justice is when there are no Nirbhayas for India to cry over. Read: Have you watched 'India's Daughter'? I did Read: Are Indian Men Getting Stereotyped as Rapists? Tweet Follow @thenewsminute (Deepthy Menon is a burnt out TV journalist, with no political allegiance, left or right. Her current avatar as a mercenary writer and communication strategist is largely her way of funding her insatiable lust for travel and stories).
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