One of the most depressing aspects of writing about the recent string of rape cases are the responses these kinds of stories inevitably evoke. The Internet trolls come out in swarms to condemn the victim: for being out late at night, for being divorced, talking to strangers, drinking, dressing "provocatively", and, the worst, for making it all up. Who are these people, I'd wonder, who genuinely believe that a woman would deliberately provoke sexual assault, and failing that, pretend she'd been raped – and go public with it.
Because, really, being a rape victim in India is so much fun. First, you're humiliated by the cops, then your personal life is put on trial by the media. After a couple of years being ground down by the judicial process, you get your moment in court where you're expected to recount every detail – and I mean, every detail – in open court. All this only to find that in the great majority of cases, it's all been for naught because the original investigation was shoddy and flawed. Your assailants go scot-free while you are tarnished for life as "damaged goods" in our enlightened society.
Can any sane, right-thinking person really, really believe that most women deliberately incite rape or invent rape charges?
As it turns out, the online creeps are in good company – of the Delhi-NCR police. A Tehelka sting aimed at 23 police stations across the NCR reveals a level of misogyny that is not unexpected, but is shocking nevertheless. [Do check out the testimonies of these police officers in detail here. The Tehelka expose is unpleasant but required reading]
Now, I could skewer these attitudes as absurd, regressive, and just plain wrong. But having waded through the testimonies of these men – who are Station House Officers, not the average havaldar – I was left shaking with rage and fear. I realised that according to stringent criteria of the Delhi Police, almost all women deserve to be raped. And here's why:
One, she is not in a salwar kameez or sari, at all times
Most urban professional women wear a lot of skirts, jeans, blouses, and dresses. And they usually carefully calibrate what they wear according to where they will be: out on the street or at an upmarket bar/restaurant. But all this effort is pointless because as Satbir Singh, Additional SHO of Sector 31 Police Station, Faridabad, puts it: “Ladkiya jo hai unko yahan tak yahan tak (he gestures to mean that women should cover their entire body, then carries on speaking)... Skirt pehenti hai. Blouse dalti hai; poora nahi dalti hai. Dupatta nahi dalti. Apne aapko dikhawa karti hai. Baccha uske taraf akarshit hota hai." (Girls should be covered from here to here... They wear skirts, blouses, that don't cover them fully. Don't wear a dupatta. They display themselves. A kid will naturally be attracted to her.)
Sub-Inspector Arjun Singh, SHO of Surajpur Police Station, Greater Noida, clarifies the position further: “She is dressed in a manner that people get attracted to her. In fact, she wants them to do something to her.”
In other words, unless a woman is fully covered from head to toe – at all times – she wants men to rape her.
Two, if a woman is in a sexual relationship with one man, then she deserves to be raped by him and all his friends. Dharamveer Singh, Additional SHO at Indirapuram Police Station in Ghaziabad, tells Tehelka: "It’s very rare that a girl is forcefully picked up by 10 boys. A girl who gets into a car with boys is never innocent. If she does, she definitely has a relationship with at least one of them.”
Three, she keeps the company of drunk men. Is it bad judgement to drink with strangers in India? Yes. And many of us are far too cautious to slam back the vodka unless we are amongst good friends. But who cares since our men in uniform seem to think that alcohol and opportunity is sufficient – and just – cause for rape:
Roop Lal of Sector 40, Gurgaon, sought to find a rationale to the occurrence of gang-rape: “Jaise hum log baithe hai, zyaada daaru pee li. Chalte peeli. Behnchodh, phekh saala, phir to aise hi hoga. Raat bhar rakh li. Uska jawab kya degi wo apne gharwalon ko, ki jo ek ghante ke liye keh kar gayi hai, aur poori night main kahan gayi thi. To maa-baap to poochenge, bhai bhi poochega. Jinka samaaj hai woh to poochte hai (Say we are sitting and had one drink too many while on the move… it’s obvious that it’ll happen. Keep her for the entire night. What will she tell her parents? She was supposed to be away for an hour and has ended up being out the entire night. Parents will question, so will her brother. Society will ask questions.”)
So when a man drinks, he turns into a sex-crazed animal ready to rape the nearest woman. When a woman drinks, she is a slut looking to be raped. Ergo, women should not drink, nor should she place herself anywhere in the vicinity of men who do. (A rule that includes being in a bar late at night) And even if one of the men happens to be your boyfriend, it is no cause to let your guard down because: See reason #2.
Four, a girl deserves to be raped because her mother is a "slut." When all else fails, blame the mom. That seems to be the reasoning of the investigating officer in the Noida gang rape case which involved a Class X student. Here's Ram Malik's justification for the rape of a minor: “The girl’s mother is divorced. She’s living with another man from the Yadav community. She’s 48 whereas the man is 28. It’s inevitable the two daughters will be wayward, isn’t it?"
Five, a woman deserves to be raped because she belongs to the upper class – or the lower class. Upper class women don't know how to behave or dress modestly, which invites trouble. They are also either high class hookers, or alcohol and drug-addicted floozies. Their lower class peers, however, are just looking to make a quick buck.
In fact, according to 17 of the 30 policemen interviewed by Tehelka that "real" rape cases are rare: “There are cases but 70 percent involve consensual sex. Only if someone sees, or the money is denied, it gets turned into rape”
Sub-Inspector Manoj Rawat of Noida’s Sector 24 Police Station is far more skeptical: "Everything in NCR happens with mutual understanding. My personal view is that there are one or two percent rape cases in NCR."
And six, a woman deserves to be raped because she reported the rape. The most astounding revelation in the Tehelka expose is this: most rape complaints are false, motivated by either vindictiveness or monetary gain. It's an excellent example of circular logic:
Tehelka asked Yogender Singh Tomar, Additional SHO, Sector 39, Noida, if it was easy for a rape victim to approach the police. His answer left us shocked: “Aasaan nahi hota uske liye. Bezzati se sabhi darti hai. Akhbaar baazi se bhi darti hai. Asliyat main wahin aati hai jo dhande main lipt hoti hai (It’s never easy for the victim. Everyone is scared of humiliation. Everyone’s wary of media and society. In reality, the ones who complain are only those who have turned rape into a business).”
In other words, if you're "really" raped, you would never complain. If you complain, you were not "really" raped.
So here's the bottomline, ladies and gentleman. If we were to apply the this insane litmus test to all the women we know – friends, family members, distant relatives, colleagues, maids, or acquaintances – none of us would make the grade. According to the Delhi police, we all deserve to be raped.
[The smattering of quotes in this story don't do full justice to the original Tehelka story which deserves to be read in its entirety. I highly recommend you do so, if only to read these testimonies in Hindi to get the flavour of the language used by the cops.]