I know I normally don't put up this kind of thing on this blog, but this is a part of something I wrote to a friend about the gang rape that took place in Delhi.
Obviously, my first reaction was that’s my bus stop. My best friend used to live there. I could almost picture it. A white bus with purple, tinted windows. I could see the men peeking out the window calling a stream of names of the places they could take me to. MunirkaDhaulaKuanGurgaon, they’re calling. I’ve even been tempted, several times, to take those buses.
But after many re-drafts of that thought, I have some confusing, contradicting, gnawing
The first of those, surprisingly enough, is about class. How much of this protest has been made possible because of who these men are? Is it because of the ease with which the middle class can separate these men from themselves? Sleazy looking, late-night bus-driving men in spaces that are dark, confined and completely alone; Stuff that mothers have warned their daughters against for generations. How much of this outrage is against them, and how much of it is against the assault?
The second is about the nature of punishment. This is a more complex question, one that I don’t think I comprehend enough to frame. There’s so many people convinced that there is a need for them to be punished, a need for retribution, a need for some odd and obscure Justice. That locking them up or cutting off their penis or killing them off will bring about a sense of order restored; because you see, these men are abnormalities.
These men are the things that make our lives unsafe and these men are the people who roam about freely among our women molesting them and making passes at them and going ahead and raping them. Only these men, and no others. Because you see, they don’t realize how wrong they are, and how much indignity they have caused and how inhumane they are. Because their actions, their actions aren’t the actions of men. They’re the actions of people removed from us. And so, they need to be taught a lesson. Specifically, they need to be taught the lesson of what happens to their penis and their regular lives when they go ahead and rape our women.
Which brings me to the third question, the question that I should probably be asking first, but the question that I want to put off because it’s mostly an exercise in angst, the question of gender.
Will punishing them make me feel safer if I stand at that bus stop at night, waiting for a bus to go home? Will hanging these men or cutting their penis off make the possibility of the man on the motorcycle blowing kisses at me or the man on the metro pinching my breasts less likely? Will it make me feel safer leaving my children at home with child-care? Will I be able to trust my neighbours, household help better? Will the husband raping his wife every night not do it anymore because some bus driver got hanged? There is a series of things that has begun to happen in the country. Behind curtains, in second and third pages of newspapers, in homes, in colleges, in hostels, there is a series of things happening.
I know how it works because it happened to your and me and our female colleagues when we were in Mumbai and one of our classmates was gang raped. It begins with the words safety and protection. On our college campus, they did a series of things. They put up surveillance cameras. They set up a curfew. They told us they were going to call our parents if we came late more than three times. We were hauled up to the office every single time we came later than the time they set for us, and asked to explain what the hell we had the audacity to do out in the city out there unprotected so late in the night. At night, they set up patrols on campus telling us not to walk around with our male friends. It’s happening again, but this time it’s country-wide. The UGC has issued guidelines to universities asking them to make campuses safe for women. This means, mostly, all those things that they had us do at our institute.
We’re crying our throats hoarse, trying to Take Back The Night, trying to make the streets of Delhi safe for women. Instead, they’re going to make the women of Delhi safe of the streets. They’re going to protect us and keep us safe. They’re going to ask us to wear more Modest Clothing and not take icky looking buses at night. They’re going to tell us that we need to carry pepper spray and learn how to karate.
Because these abnormal men, they can be anywhere. They hide in their abnormal bubbles of society, eat abnormal food, do abnormal jobs and live abnormally. They’re not a part of you and I, they’re Someone Else, Someone Other, and we have to root them out if we have to keep Our Women safe. And when we find them, we will punish them. We will cut their balls off, but until then, we have to make sure the women behave properly and don’t do anything that will invite rape.
And we have to bear it, because we have to stay safe. Because nobody is going to tell the men not to rape.