[Content note for discussion of rape and rape culture]
So I have been thinking a lot about the ‘Delhi gang rape’ that has been all over the news lately. The outpouring of disgust at the heinous crime that was committed against this young woman has heartened me. It has also made me think, mainly about my former friend and colleague who was a Delhi native and passed away in 2011. It is poor form for me to try and put words in her mouth, but I can think of worse ways to live my life than by ‘what would Rohini do?’. It is hard for me not to imagine her in the thick of all the action if she were in Delhi, doing her part to make sure that this young woman did not die in vain. So I too feel I must do my part, to make sure the world does not forget. That we do not move on so quickly to the next horrifying tragedy that captures our imagination.
It is important to remember that this young woman is not and will not be the only woman to experience gendered violence in India this year, and she certainly will not be the only woman in the world who will experience gendered violence this year. It is almost a guarantee that other assaults were happening all around the world at the same time as she was being horribly abused.
Violence against women in all its forms is not something that is just endemic to India (which it is) It is endemic in basically all modern cultures across the world. This includes the ‘civilised’ global north as well as the ‘oppressive’ global south. It is easy to think about violence against women in ways that distance ourselves from it, that other it from our lives but the truth is violence against women happens everywhere and it is always tragic and heinous. This young woman in Delhi has become a symbol towards which we can direct the fury we feel at the daily violations of women’s autonomy, but it should not have to take such extreme violence to set the embers alight.
Sexual violence happens because we as a society permit it and in many ways encourage it. Every time we look at the actions of a victim instead of the actions of a rapist, we say rape is OK. Every time we laugh at a rape joke we normalise rape. Every time we brush of incidents of sexual assault or harassment by saying “he didn’t mean it like that” or “boys will be boys” we say rape is OK. When we call sexual harassment ‘eve teasing’ and focus on policing women’s actions we say rape is OK. Every time we teach young women that they must prevent rape by what they say, do or wear, instead of teaching young men that raping is not OK we say rape is OK. Every day in so many ways we are all complicit in allowing rapists to do what they do with impunity. This is what rape culture is.
Tomorrow I am going to make a very tiny stand against rape culture. Every single day as I come out of the train station, I am harassed by a group of men who stand on the corner trying to convince people to take their taxi’s. They snicker at me as I walk past and say things like “hey baby” “hey sexy” “you wanna taxi darling?” and that is not OK. So tomorrow I am going to tell them that, I think it is what Rohini would do and as much as it scares me I think it is time for me to be brave. I don’t want to be complicit anymore.