Misogyny and hypocrisy: Confronting India’s Rape Culture

Aniruddha Babar
Asst. Professor, Dept. of Political Science,
Tetso College, Dimapur

Violence against women continues to persist as one of the most heinous, systematic and prevalent human rights abuses in the world. It is a threat to all women, and an obstacle to all our efforts for development, peace, and gender equality in all societies. Violence against women is always a violation of human rights; it is always a crime; and it is always unacceptable. Let us take this issue with the deadly seriousness that it deserves.”

~ Ban Ki moon, United Nations Secretary General


Of all crimes committed against a person, rape is the one that leaves a person feeling the most violated. A rape victim is often left with the feeling that; that a part of them has been torn apart. Because the feeling is still with them, the victim may have a sense that the crime is continuously occurring. To use another person’s body and ignore the soul that resides within is the most egregious crime that one person can commit against another.


The Rape culture can be considered as the sociological concept under which the sexual abuse and rape are considered as pervasive and normalized. This also displays the societal attitude and behaviour towards gender and sexuality. Rape culture is an environment and, in such environment, rape is prevalent and the sexual abuse is normalized in popular culture and media. This can be more effectively understood as the glamorization of sexual abuse and sexual violence, by influencing the society and disregarding the women’s right and safety in India.


Some of the common forms of rape culture are blaming and shaming the victim, displaying tolerance to sexual harassment, trivializing sexual violence, inflating the false reports regarding rapes and sexual abuse, publicly shaming the victim by scrutinizing victim’s dress, motives, mental status, describing ‘womanhood’ as sexually passive and also submissive, and describing ‘manhood’ as sexually aggressive and dominant. Rape culture also influences the thought and mental thinking of the people in the country by showing that promiscuous women are the one who get raped and also teach women to avoid rape.


Rape culture is a tool of castism, racism, colonialism, nationalism, and other pernicious hierarchies. These and other power relationships in turn make women and girls even more vulnerable to rape. In virtually any situation where women and girls belonging to especially desperate, powerless or downtrodden populations are at the mercy of men in authority-from female inmates and girls in foster care, to undocumented immigrants, to refugees dependent on U.N. peacekeepers and/or humanitarian aid workers for survival-some of those men use their authority to force or extort sexual access the fact of which take us to the understanding that Rapeis all about power. Therefore, taking the context of ‘power dynamics’ in Indian society, it would not be wrong to assert that rapes of Dalit women by upper-caste men is an exercise of power. It is also how upper-caste men can imply that Dalit men were not able to ‘protect’ women. Hence, rape is also a contest among men. Moreover, when mainland ‘caste-conscious’ Indians ogle, assault or rape Naga or any other ethnically different tribal woman;they objectify her body and reduce it to merely a ‘sex-object’ belonging to community which has been thrown at the lowest strata of Indian social order by their socio-political-religious ideology. Rape Culture has also been used as a weapon to strengthen the cultural hegemony of dominant culture on subservient culture.


Rape culture in India is significantly associated with the news content developed in media and the understanding of the male and female journalists in understanding the patriarchal influence on the news gathering and news reporting process. The findings of various studies on Indian media have reported that many male and female journalists in India have acknowledged that patriarchy in India significantly influence the way people think about women’s rights and also inform that sexist norms exist in the Indian society that influence the rape related reporting in Indian media. The International Women’s Media Foundation reported in the year 2011 that women make only 12% of the total media workforce in India. This information displays a significant gender imbalance in the country.


This has been one significant reason that news gathering and news reporting process are often directed to appeal male interest, while the female journalists are often confronted to make the balance between their work and home. The patriarchal hegemony is significantly apparent in all aspects of Indian society. The rape and sexual abuse stories are often formed and prepared in the traditional forms, by giving a traditional story angle of blaming the victim. However, with the time this practice is being tried to be changed by the female journalists of India.


The female journalists in India are trying to change the way, in which sexual assault and rape cases are reported and these women are trying to view and present these stories in non-traditional story angles. However, one significant problem that is inflicted on women is the influence of male dominance and patriarchal hegemony in India. Rape culture is also influenced by the rape myths and aspects of victim blaming in the society. Rape myths can also be considered as stereotyping, discriminatory and prejudicial and are generally false. Such myths are generally for denying or justifying the male sexual aggression that results in depreciating the position of women in society.


Some common rape myths are husbands can never rape their wives, women often lie about being raped, women ask for rape (by going out alone, wearing short cloths, travelling alone in night etc) or enjoy being raped, women can’t be raped against their will and women saying no is not no, but it is yes. Such rape myths are deeply rooted in the patriarchal system of the society, which results in providing the superior position to men and stigmatizing women, who are raped or sexually assaulted. Therefore, rape myths and rape culture can also be considered as the social construction of justifying the male actions.


Media is a very influential medium, which also has the power to influence the thinking and perception of public. However, underrepresenting rape cases and stories and helping women to learn about avoiding rapes is the form of patriarchy and a system where the women are considered to be weaker. One important theme identified in the rape culture is sexualization and sexual objectification of women, which results in normalizing the incidents of rape and sexual assault. Some forms of the media has also resulted in hyper-sexualizing women, which result in increasing the attitude that supports violence against women.


Women are considered responsible for their rapes, because for the patriarchal society, the sexual aggression of men and perpetuating such behaviour on women are considered to be normal. The effect ofrape culture on women is very deep and affect women mentally and emotionally. Patriarchal societies still lack awareness regarding the rights of women and also lack the concept of consent in rape. The gendered environment that reinforces the patriarchal hegemony is required to be changed to challenge the perspective of people towards rape and sexual violence. Media and mass communication can be used to enhance public awareness towards such concepts.The ideology of gender, family and national/religious “culture” are invoked in contemporary Indian political, economic and social narratives to justify gender, caste, class hierarchies and religious divides that not only commercialize and objectified the sexuality of women but also reduced their status merely to a ‘social commodity’. The hypocrite Indian society that on one hand celebrate the ‘womanhood’ by giving status of ‘deity’ to the women and on the other sacrifice those ‘deities’ in the fire of ‘lust’. An ancient Indian treatise, according to American Indologist Wendy Doniger, “legitimised rape as a form of marriage and gave some degree of legal sanction, retroactively, to women who had been raped”. Rape is an abhorrent crime that taints the purity and dignity of women, often reducing them to mere shells of what used to be their happy, delicate, spirited, free selves. The man who rapes women strips himself of the love and respect due him as a husband, friend, lover, father and a human being. Being thus a slave of his prurient desire, he is reduced to a level lower than beasts. He is no more than a soulless husk and deserves to forfeit his place in human society.Men do terrible things to women the world over, for personal as well as political reasons. The real difference is that in India, their fearlessness is enabled by something that mere punitive justice cannot uproot from this old, vicious and brutal patriarchy.