By Ipshita Agarwal

Edited by Namrata Caleb, Senior Editor, The Indian Economist

Rape. There’s nothing that hasn’t been said about this topic already. In fact, a lot has been said. Too much, it may seem. Everyone’s posting and re-posting and sharing links and videos created to make society, people like you and me, sensitive. We watch a video with a strong message, read about small acts of bravery that saved some women, and share them on social media. We believe we’ve done our bit. But, have we, really?

Take yourself. You’re reading this article. I assume you have a certain level of education, enough to be able to own a computer/laptop and read in English. You might think you know nobody who’s capable of such a heinous crime, and hence, you do not need to worry yourself about this. It’s not happened with anyone you know, has it?
Why then, do you tell your daughter or sister to not wear shorts in the metro? To not go for sleepovers to their guy-friends’ places? Why then, are you so paranoid about girls? When was the last time you said to your son “Take care and don’t do anything stupid.”? I’ll tell you, never.
But your daughter probably gets to listen to this every time she goes out. Because, rape or sexual harassment, is obviously, the girl ‘doing something stupid’. Or wait, there’s better. “Boys will be boys”, or so we heard.
It’s not you loving your girl any less than you love your son if you tell her to come back home before it’s dark, even though you’re cool with your son staying out till late. You care for her. But the way this love and care gets represented in society, the form that this care takes; has to change. If you want your girl to be safe, you need to tell your son to be careful. You need to tell boys to respect women. It’s not being feminist. It’s just giving women the same status that you enjoy.
Why is being ‘beautiful’ a girl’s biggest achievement? Why do all those mushy novels about love talk about how the guy fell in love with how ‘perfect’ the girl was – perfect hair, big eyes, rounded body, soft lips. Why can guys not love girls for being strong and independent? For being more successful than they are? For being just who they are and not how they look.
Men are not the only ones to blame here, though. All of us, girls, like our guys to be protective, don’t we? We like it when our guy threatens to beat up any other guy who comes near us. We like being owned. And it is this sense of ownership and position that women allow men to assume, that leads men to believe that they, by virtue of being physically strong, are actually superior to women.
How often do we see a man sitting at home, taking care of the kids, cooking, cleaning and being of service to every other member of the household? Never. Is it because men earn more and therefore it makes economic sense for women to quit their jobs and take care of the house?
Believe you me, an extremely large number of households have women whose earning potential surpasses that of the working man, but, by virtue of being a woman, she has to ‘obviously’ stay at home.
Children are brought up with the belief that it’s the father’s job to earn and the mother’s job to cook. Why? If the woman can earn better, doesn’t it make economic sense for the man to take care of the household chores and the kids? Or just because they came out of the mother’s womb, she’s been condemned to a life where she forgets who she was. Who she was, before the kids, before the husband. Who she wanted to be.
In India, as in many other countries of the world, there exists no concept of ‘marital rape’. You got married to him, so you’re supposed to have sex with him. Whenever he wants to. If you dissent, you’re not fulfilling your ‘responsibility’ of being a wife. And we thought the definition of rape was ‘sex without consent’; more like ‘sex before you’re married without consent’. If you’re married, who are you to say no? The concept of giving consent, sadly, is non-existent.
And while I’m at it, I remembered. Why do we see girls posting and re-posting those links and videos? Of girls feeling strongly about rape being an inhuman crime? Why are our so-called innocent brothers and guy friends just sitting, reading what we share; but never sharing it themselves? Are they scared they might be called ‘girls’ or ’emotional’ or better still, ‘feminists’? Oh, I love this word. Feminist. “Oh, you’re a feminist?” “Ha! Stupid” or “Don’t you have anything better to do in life?”. The best is “It’s just a phase. That rape incident happened, you know. That’s why she’s all worked up and is going around lecturing everyone who cares to listen.”
NO, it is NOT a phase. It is the rights of 48.3% of the population. It’s not a phase. Caring about women and respecting their individualism, is not a phase. It has to become a way of life. It has to become the obvious thing to do, as obvious as eating and breathing.

Where then, do we begin? Do we share links and videos on social media, and think we’ve done our bit? Well, for starters, do that at least. But how do you actually initiate this process of change?
As cliched as it may sound, you begin this process from yourself.
Stop feeling scared or intimidated when you go out in the dark, stop feeling the need to be ‘protected’ or ‘watched over’ by a guy. Stop listening to people who say “Koi nahi, chodh na. Ho jaata hai (It’s okay, let it go. Happens)” whenever someone passes a comment or touches you deliberately. Start from people around you. Tell your sister she can pursue her passion, she can travel the world, she can remain a spinster if she doesn’t want to get married. We’ve all heard of the term ‘bachelor’, but hardly any of us knows that the word ‘spinster’ is the female counterpart of the word ‘bachelor’.
When you’ve done that, change the society. And don’t think nobody cares, or you can’t make a difference. Everybody cares. People just need to be reminded and prodded on. Nobody wants to live in a barbaric world like this.

Remember, a few decades ago, women couldn’t even see who they were getting married to, until after they were actually married. Women never thought that they could work, or they would have a say in important family decisions. Women never knew they could go sunbathing on the beach. But, the women of today, do. We’ve come a fairly long way in ensuring equality. But we have an even longer path ahead of us. We need to ensure that this equality and these opportunities come with respect and dignity.
And as I quote Robert Frost “And miles to go before I sleep”, I cannot help but be filled with a sense of righteousness and belief. A belief that all humans have a good conscience. Some just need to be reminded.

Ipshita is a second year student pursuing B.Com Honors at SRCC, Delhi University. She loves to read, interact and network. Books are her first love and she dreams to set up a chain of bookstores around the globe. Writing is her passion and she is particularly interested in the fields of public policy, politics and international relations. She aspires to build a career in public life and take up writing as a medium to bring change.

Posted by The Indian Economist | For the Curious Mind