WHEN it comes to feeling collectively enraged on the issues of sexual assault and violence against women, we have developed an infamously thick culture of silence.
The recent rape case of a 21 year old woman who eventually succumbed to her injuries has yet again resurfaced our criminal culture of silence. The 21-year-old, breathed her last on November 27 after being abducted and raped by two men in an orchard in Ashmuji village of Kulgam. The woman fought grave injuries at the hospital for over a month, but could not make it. The Doctors said she was badly injured. As the initial report goes, she was hit on her head which caused traumatic brain injury. She had strangulation marks on her neck. The final autopsy report is yet to come, yet the level of violence inflicted on the deceased is harrowing.
As per the statement given by the deceased’s aunt, she was not only raped but ruthlessly tortured. The skin around her eyes was found torn, she had marks around her neck suggesting that the culprits attempted to choke her to death.
No matter how graphic the details of the case are, our society has decided to stay firmly indifferent on the matter. As in this case, rape is often accompanied by assault and violence wherein use of sharp objects is made to inflict additional pain. While psychoanalysts would read such violent behaviour as a form of ‘womb envy’, it is also reflective of how toxic masculinity is emboldened by our collective silence.
While we as a society should be protesting against such crimes and demanding punishment for the culprits, we rather choose to dig our heads into the sand. “Social fabric” and “righteousness” in other words, are kept intact by choosing the easy path of denial. No wonder the brutal rape case has failed to shake the spirits of the valley. The criminal culture of silence and the doctrine of denial have thankfully fortified our collective conscience from the bruises of guilt and freed us from the responsibility to act. The rightful sentiment of informed rage is insanely and maddeningly absent in our context.
The whole process begins with a misplaced assumption that we inhabit the Reshi Waerr / Land of Sufis and therefore are immune to aberrations on these lines. If at all any such aberrations do take place they are immediately attributed to “foreign İnfluences” on “indigenous” culture.
Both the statements do hold an element of truth but are largely redundant and evasive since, yet again, there is no space left for collective introspection and interrogation of structures that lead to crimes against women. Such thinking imagines the members of society as passive adherents absolving them of any action. Evil has always formed an integral part of every society and shying away from recognising it is a bigger evil.
Unknowingly, our indifference and our unwillingness of engagement with the issues related to sex education sets a cycle of violence into motion which engenders more violence at each level. Such topics are deemed downright subversive to collective piety and social equilibrium.
The incident serves as a reflection of how patriarchal systems are inherently disempowering and limiting, particularly for women. When the entire society should be up in the arms against the culprits, it strictly adheres to its notion of taboo.Stigmatisation is yet another criminal factor attached. Culprits may be recognised and may face collective ridicule from the society, yet the victim is put under unbearable pressure. Victim-blaming is still a norm. This results in shrinking spaces for reporting the rape cases which further emboldens the criminals and sponsors silence.Even as there is still disagreement over how rape culprits must be dealt with. One view is that violence cannot be stopped by inflicting more violence. Therefore, the paths of re-socialisation and counselling should be taken on board in dealing with the culprits. While such debates will continue to happen, steps for the security of women must be taken right from the beginning.
We must realise that even as we may debate and discuss the merits and demerits of retributive justice, it is also important to see how our own society feeds rape culture. An inconsequential nostalgia is rarely the way forward. Until and unless, we see women as agential beings and do not reduce them to objects, violence against women is inevitable. We need to acknowledge how rape is not merely a sexual crime but a crime that emanates from a position of power.
When we “reason” with rape, it only promotes rape culture. Our discussions about rape and how to avoid them need to shift the entire focus to grooming potential culprits rather than bickering about all that’s wrong with women which is nothing but rape apologia.
Patriarchal structures are impartial to gender differences when it comes to fuelling and enforcing silences yet women in our society are at a particular disadvantage given the complex and intersectional positions they are placed at. The fact that our society has forgotten and disowned its women perhaps serves as pointer of who the real culprits are when such dehumanising crimes take place.
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