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Journalist, Author, Columnist. My Twitter handle: @seemagoswami

Friday, February 24, 2012


The experience of the Kolkata victim shows why rape is still a crime that dares not speak its name

So, what was a 37-year-old divorcee with two children doing at a nightclub in Calcutta well past midnight? Well, I’ll tell you what she wasn’t doing. She wasn’t looking to get brutally gang-raped at gunpoint in a moving car by a bunch of vicious thugs.

That’s all you really need to know. She wasn’t looking to get raped.

Other than that, her sexual history, her marital circumstances, what she was wearing, how much she was drinking, how she was behaving, none of it is at all relevant. All that matters is that she wasn’t asking to be sexually violated.

And yet, ever since the single mother has come forward to report a sexual assault, that’s all we’ve heard: criticism of her behaviour; barely-veiled insinuations about her ‘character’; even a bizarre claim that she is part of a ‘political conspiracy’ against the Mamata Banerjee government.

Divorcee. Nightclub. Drinking. Anglo-Indian. All these words have dominated the discourse for a reason. In fact, the sub-text just leaps out and hits you in the face, doesn’t it? This was a good-time girl looking for a good time.

This was no dutiful wife and mother. She was divorced from her husband. She had left her children at home while she went out partying with her friends. She was drinking. She struck up a conversation with strangers and left the nightclub with them.

See where this is going? Yes, right. She was ‘asking’ for it. Why else would you interact with complete strangers at a nightclub late at night? Why would you allow them to drop you home in their car?

Okay, so let’s assume for argument’s sake, that all these value statements are correct. Let’s accept that her judgement was impaired because she had been drinking. Let’s agree that she made a bad call by leaving the nightclub with a bunch of strangers. Let’s concede that she acted without a requisite regard for her own personal safety.

But you know what? Even if all of this is true, none of it is at all relevant. The only thing that matters is that she was raped. She was subjected to a sexual act that she did not consent to. Her body was violated against her will.

And yet, no matter how hard we try, we can’t seem to wrap our heads around this simple fact: the victim is not at fault. She is not the one who has to pass some sort of ‘purity test’ set by the moral police. She is not the one who needs to account for her past behaviour or her life choices. She is not the one who is guilty. She is not the one who should be feeling ashamed.

But the way things pan out in this skewered world of ours, that’s exactly what ends up happening. It’s the victim who is put in the dock of public morality and asked to explain why this should have happened to her. It’s the victim who is made to feel that she bears responsibility for the assault on her body.

In the Kolkata case, when the victim finally steeled herself to go and report the rape to the police she was met with derision rather than empathy. She was asked how it was possible for someone to be raped in a moving car. Could she describe the positions exactly? One of the officers at the station even asked if they could go to the nightclub in question and get a beer together (because she was ‘that kind’ of girl, right?).

Worse was to follow. The chief minister of the state, Mamata Banerjee, announced grandly that the rape charges were cooked up and were just an attempt to malign the reputation of her government. One of her Cabinet ministers then went on television to ask: why was a divorcee with kids at home doing at a nightclub so late at night?

Well, Mr Minister, let me say this once again very slowly so that you get it: She. Was. Not. Looking. To. Get. Raped.

Now repeat after me: She was not looking to get raped.

But her experience explains why so many rapes go unreported in India. Consider this. Only one out of ten rapes in India is ever reported. And of those reported, only one out of four cases results in a conviction. Pretty good odds if you’re a rapist, right?

If you are a victim, however, the dice is loaded against you from start to finish. First up, the police will refuse to take you seriously unless you fit in with their idea of a rape victim, i.e., a good girl who doesn’t drink, wear revealing clothes or flirts with men. If the case does get registered, it will be open season on everything from your wardrobe choices to your sexual history. And then, the case will drag on for years, making it impossible for you to move on or get some sort of closure.

In other words, after being violated by your rapist, you will end up getting raped yet again by the system. Are you surprised then, that so few women come forward to file a complaint of rape?

Which is why all of us need to salute the bravery of this 37-year-old Anglo-Indian divorcee from Kolkata who had the courage to come forward and tell her story, who had the guts to take on her rapists, who refused to lie down and play dead. No matter what the outcome of the case, in my book, she’s already a winner.


Della said...

A spine chilling story! and perfectly true. we female always need to justify for our action in this current system..

being a girl from north-east i have often seen people thinking we are cheap people who deserve bad things when something terrible happens.

Anonymous said...

A NO is a no.. as simple as that..

Anonymous said...

I beg to differ,

You said that for arguments sake lets agree to a whole bunch of things that she did, like staying up late in a night club past midnight and going out with strangers blah blah and u stated but she didn't want to be raped

U know how this sounds? Its like lighting a fire and putting ur hand into it and telling everyone 'I didn't want my hand to be burnt '

Secondly I feel, drinking isn't an issue with women BUT u ought to know when to stay up where to stay and NOT to trust strangers.

U cannot deny the fact that this world is filled up bloody men who want have nothing else but sex in their minds.these men who rape she be castrated in public

But despite mordernism and high level talk ur whole post is pointless.

It is imp for us to be in senses when we go out and to draw a line for ourselves,I do feel for this victim.

shiv prasad said...

as much as i like to agree with you,
the whole point of going late out with some stranger from club wasnt the wise idea. It is true that the it has always been the rape victim who has to go through all the bad things even after the rape, but as we all know that India's street hasn't been a safe place for women's of her age... she she should have been more careful!!
i hope to see the people responsible for this strictly punished to set an example for the future.

Anonymous said...

agree with the Seema here - none of it is relevant.

@anon and @shiv prasad - yes, she should have been more cautious but still it does not give us men the right to rape any women just because she does not fit into our idea of an 'ideal bharatiya nari'

aashis said...

@ shiv prasad @ mr. anonymous
read the title of the blog once again. its not just about the kolkata girl. its a broader topic 'why is rape a rarely reported crime'.
No one would like to be ever raped but the aftermath of such incidents have dire consequences and are just pepper on salts. Rape was an mishap to the victim but when she came out to report the incident, she was made to realize that she has made a mistake by doing so. The author of the blog reports that "one in ten incidents are reported", i think the values are underestimated. We live in a country where people are more concerned about the reputation and name of their family than the injustice they fell prey to. Such mindset only airs the fire of the freely roaming thugs.
Cant comment about the outcome of the trial (if at all it ever happens) but this incident will definitely reinforce the criminals' belief on Police and Politics and demoralize other victims.

Anu said...

What the lady did could have been unwise and a result of a poor judgement on her part but nobody deserves the kind of treatment and response she got from the police and the CM. They have a duty to perform irrespective of what they think of "women who go to night clubs and drink". Protecting a person's rights is their duty not moral policing!

अनुपम अभिव्यक्ति said...

Yes Seema, this rape-turned political tamasha can't be better described than in these words. -"After being violated by your rapist, you will end up getting raped yet again by the system."
Why should then a Rape victim go to police? ...to invite another torturous assault by the System?!

Anonymous said...

i agree with you ..high time our officials learn to accept the failure of the system nd not always look for an easy way out....

Lucknow said...

u have so nicely put it in simple words....i would ask evrybdy herer to share this column n spread d word.....whts gng on in our country is shameless...no security and safety for girls studying in hostels,married women n divorcee....disgusting

Let Knowledge Grow said...

Ms. Goswami, you have no idea how much I agree with your post! It is the duty of the government to protect the liberties of its citizens, not to cast aspersions on their character and motivations. I will defend the right of all individuals, men, women, gay, straight, or otherwise to live their lives as they please without being seen as 'inviting' verbal, physical and sexual assault from anyone due to perceptions about their behavior. The victim is NOT AT FAULT.

caissg said...

our prayers for victim.

as to some comments by others whether the woman was right in her judgement or not? As humans we all make mistakes. that does not mean, someone can trample over your rights in a civilized society.

whether the deficit of trust with police discourages future rape victims to report?

It takes a lot of courage to speak up especially when you have to relive the horrific time. The more people we have with courage to report and speak up, it highlights the problem. I see a day in the future where people awareness will become the biggest deterrent for would-be rapists.

Prateek said...

Isn't this stupid? Let me deliberately jump in front of a train moving at full speed and then when I die you can argue that even though I was a dick for doing it, I didn't meant to be crushed by a train and I'm not the person at fault. The driver of the train is. Grow up people.

Creepy gal (Author: Shipra Jain; Email: shipra.cool.jain@gmail.com) said...

Well the point is 'Do not tell me what to wear, how to talk, how to socialize or how to behave. Instead tell them NOT TO RAPE'. And I agree to it.

KrRahul said...

This case has also exposed how a "lady chief minister" herself was so crudely insensitive towards the victim... It reveals how women's reservations in any area will not help genuine workers and will be one more method to madness for the corrupt lady politicians...