Rape culture is an environment or culture where rape and sexual violence is normalized due to societal ignorance and attitude. It extends from rape “jokes”, casual sexism, catcalling, acceptance of toxic masculinity, victim blaming, and other violent acts. Such an environment does not only exist in India, but it is actually fostered.
In India the severity of this culture is to an extent where it ranges from young girls being told how to dress as to not “invite unwanted attention or trouble”, to male predatory behaviour being normalized. Women are only given a shrivel of respect if they are seen as “sanskari” by society. Whether it’s different dress codes for girls and boys in school, or not letting girls roam around at night because of safety concerns, India’s rape culture is extremely deep-rooted. It is a country where men have raped few months old babies and even 100 year old women.
India is a terrifying country to be a woman, and according to government data there is a rape case reported every 15 minutes. If you think about it realistically, these are just the reported cases which means, this only includes the 100 courageous women who come forward and report the sexual acts against them. The actual number – definitely much higher – never get the attention they require and end up getting buried under judgement, victim-blaming and the overall stigma surrounding it.
Out of the ones that are reported, very few are investigated due to the fact that they are termed as “false accusations”. People often jump to conclusions without enough information, and it has been recorded that false accusations have only been seen for less than 2-10% cases. This is the reason very few are pursued in court, and out of these only 27.2% cases have a conviction rate. Such a low conviction rate shows, that perpetrators of sexual violence enjoy a high degree of immunity, including being freed of charges. Does this not encourage more men to commit sexual offences? Does this not discourage women to speak up against their persecutors?
Even though women are not the only victims of sexual harassment, in most cases they are. Women live with a constant sense of alarm and trauma, unlike men. Do they have to think twice about what clothes they are wearing like women need to? Do they have to check the time they are leaving their house or see if it’s too dark outside like women need to? Do they always need to share their location like women need to?
It is important to understand that the way women dress or act is not what perpetuates rape, it’s the attitude of the oppressor that does. Women wearing short or “slutty” clothes or consuming alcohol or flirting does not mean a yes, so men need to stop assuming it does. We have to overcome the belief that victims contribute to their victimization. Instead of instilling the belief and telling women to not get raped, we need to educate men not to rape.
In order to even attempt to tackle this issue, we need to start at the roots. This would include the actions and attitudes we term as ‘harmless’ and ‘not related to rape’, which are not only in fact very much related to rape but also reinforce, as well as excuse, more violent sexual acts. It all starts from school and our homes, from having sapid conversations about this prevalent issue to teaching boys it’s wrong to talk disparagingly about women. Whether it’s media glorifying toxic masculinity by saying “Mard ko dard nahi hota” or “Ladke nahi rote” or big Bollywood blockbuster movies promoting treating women like their “property”.
The lack of the enforcement of laws, the extreme ignorance of the government and many other such factors combine together to give a rise to sexual violence. We can’t simply ignore this topic, because the process of change is “too slow” or the problem is too deep-rooted, we need to keep fighting for it and let it be known that such rapacious behaviour is not in any way “normal”, “ok” or justified because “boys will be boys”. Otherwise instead of building an inclusive and diverse culture, we’re just feeding rape culture.
** Here men are not being talked about as individuals rather as structural issues such as patriarchal systems, institutions and the community as a whole. It is necessary to remember that “not all men” is a statement that is very controversial as one benefits from the privilege by being a part of a group. By being a man, one is automatically more privileged than a woman. A trauma starts building up inside of women, due to the innumerable news articles they read about sexual violence. And as a result, women end up assuming the worst most times because most times when they assumed the best, they ended up enduring painful consequences. For them, it’s easier to refer to the oppressors as “all men” because it’s never known which man is “good” and which isn’t, and it’s better to be safe than sorry. **
1. Menon, Anjana. “Sexual Violence: India’s Serious Problem, Its Men” The Economic Times, 10 December 2019.
2. Singh, Prerna. “Understanding Rape Culture 101” Feminism In India, 2 July 2018.