Disclaimer: Most of this post is a summary of what has been reported and available on the internet and references have been provided wherever possible. Personal Opinion within the post has been marked as such.

Once in a while there is a cause everyone wants to take up arms for. Everyone needs to lend their voice, join hands, march, fight, support, understand, prevent, solve.
In this New Year, let us all have the patience to look at this problem that afflicts our society. Let us talk and make sense out of the million pieces of information thrown at us.

This post is about the broader issue of Rape in India and it obviously stems from the Delhi Gang Rape Case that has galvanized the Nation. With some Cognitive Dissonance thrown in.

As an Indian Man, I am ashamed.

The background of this particular case is listed in Wiki with all the references needed.

Rape and Rape Culture in our Society and Elsewhere

This isn't the first or the last Rape Case. All Rape Cases are horrendous but the apathy of the society towards treating it as an endemic issue within our country or society is appalling. It gets relegated to a corner. Regular News with Regular Coverage. We have a movement for a few months and everything gets to a standstill; till the next Jyoti Singh Pandey comes along. Does anybody remember Aruna Shanbaug? Please Google Her. That was India in 1973. And the perp is probably working in another hospital. Alive and well and not even charged with Rape to begin with. How did we end up here?

Within our society, in my opinion, we do not treat women fairly. At all.
There are routine news flashes about Acid Attacks, Honor Killings, Domestic Abuse, Incest, Rapes, Female Foeticides. Apparently, our democratic nation has also elected leaders that are currently standing trial as rapists or perpetrators of sexual violence and assault against women.
There is a perceived resistance against what is deemed as "western influence" on Indian Culture when ironically it is the British influence on, what I personally perceive was a sexually liberated India, that led us to being so prude in the first place. Such inaccurate descriptions often end up causing more hurt than helping victims. Archaic Laws still find a footing in India post Independence.

The statistics regarding Rape as well as other Crimes against Women are available through various agencies, government or otherwise. All in all, there is a marked rise in Crimes against Women. Recent Articles pounced on the Rape Statistics of Delhi post the Delhi Rape Case underlining the fact that there is only 1 conviction for the 600+ rape cases that Delhi encountered during the year 2012. This might be misleading. The actual statistic should be about the speed of justice. It should be about the average number of years to convict someone accused of rape.

Victimization or Social Rejection of Rape Victims does not augur well towards their willingness to report these heinous or violent crimes. Especially in cases of Incest. There is a mindset within the society about Rape that is, in my opinion, against common sense. The common misconceptions against Rape are many. Here are a few myths that have been campaigned against. Time after time.

  • She was drinking so she was reckless and partly responsible for it.
  • She was weary skimpy/inappropriate clothing, so she was asking for it.
  • She was sending mixed signals or was being intimate, so she was asking for it.
  • She was sexually promiscuous/immoral, so she was asking for it.
  • She was married to the guy who raped her, so it was consensual.
  • Rapes are always committed by strangers.
  • Only young women get raped.
  • Same Gender Rapes are not possible.
  • Men cannot be raped.
If we compare India with respect to other countries, developed or otherwise, it is clear to me that Rape is a problem against women everywhere. That India is not the highest on the Rape Chain is no cause for Celebration. We have a problem with treating our women fairly and equally. As long as we relegate them to almost second-class citizens; crimes against women will continue to face indifference from sections of the society.

Gender Discrimination and Sexual Harassment

There are multiple factors that have been listed as being the causes Sexual Harrasment.
There are so many multifaceted arguments towards what could be the possible reasons for Sexual Violence ranging from Poverty to Disasters to Social Norms, Laws and Policies.

Misogyny is deeply entrenched and misunderstood as "culture". There are several things that can be considered misogynist or sexist. We are a patriarchal society with a treatment of women that most men and even women, unfortunately, would consider acceptable. Like, the supposedly harmless tradition of taking the husband's name. What purpose does that serve? Rationality gives way to Dissonance when even Progressive men & women talk about it. How many men would consider taking their wife's name? Why would you look down on a woman who drinks versus a man? Why consider women going to pubs or wearing skirts immoral?

Skewed Sex Ratio due to Selective Abortions has resulted in the Three Million Girls Missing problem. Whether this relates to Rape is subject to debate. However that is blatant misogyny. The very phrase in Hindi for Rape (izzat lootna) signifies Shame or Lost Honor for the Victim, which is ironic given that the Rapist should be condoned for the shameless act. This is essentially a part of Secondary Victimization.

Eve-Teasing is a euphemism for Harassment of Women. A Reporter from Aaj Tak faced eve-teasing while she was reporting on the Rape. Eve Teasing is rampant, met with little or no punishment and is often left as-is. Eve-Teasing is a term that looks harmless innocuous or innocent but is actually sexual harassment.

Shabana Azmi brings out an interesting point in her interview with NDTV. She lists out the discrimination among women including Female Foeticide, Bias in Educating Woman, Bias in Growing Up, Dowry, Domestic Violence to Rape arguing that this basically creates a regressive mindset in the society when it comes to woman. This mindset has to change. Personally, I concur.

Popular Culture is also biased to an extent to inadvertently create this augmented reality of male domination as quoted here from wiki and noted by Swamy and Farhan Akhtar.
According to Check and Malamuth (1983), men are taught to take the initiative and persist in sexual encounters, while women are supposed to set the limits. This classical sexual script is often popularized through television shows, popular films and pornography, which depict the man making a sexual advance and the woman initially resisting, but then finally positively responding by falling in love with him or experiencing orgasm (Cowen, Lee, Levy, and Snyder, 1988; Malamuth and Check, 1981; Smith, 1976; Waggett, 1989). The implied message is that men should persist beyond a woman's protest and women should say "no" even if they desire sex (Muehlenhard and McCoy, 1991). The more traditional the society, the closer the adherence to this sexual script. For this reason, many men do not believe that a woman means "no" when she says "no", and they feel entitled to continue to pressure the woman, and ultimately coerce or force her into sex; consent often becomes confused with submission

Support and Solutions

Improvements in Judiciary

We should really re-examine our laws against Rape. Laws regarding minimum and maximum punishment for Rapists should be held at the same par, possibly, in my opinion, with murder. Stricter laws may not, some argue, lead to a solution. I agree although that's besides the point. Strict laws against murder do not prevent murders from happening now, do they?
Laws regarding Consent to Rape as well as History/Moral Character of the Rape Victim should be modified to international standards. Even where the victim of the Rape was a sex worker.
Laws regarding Crime against Women including Violent Crimes need to be revised or re-looked.
Laws regarding Eve Teasing should be made stricter. Community Service should be made mandatory for convicted youth. Laws against Sex Selection Should be made stronger. Shouldn't we consider promoting the girl child (monetarily etc.) in states with extremely skewed sex ratios?
The emphasis should be on the effective disposal of justice. Justice Delayed is rightfully Justice Denied. If one has to wait 6-10 years for justice, it reflects poorly on the state of the Judiciary in India.

Law Enforcement

Police Awareness needs to be at the forefront. Law Enforcement Officials must be provided guidelines on how to handle Rape Cases. There needs to be a provision to have more Rape-Centric Crisis Centres and Helplines. Care should be taken as to not victimize the victim for the Rape that has happened to her. There should be immediate collection of forensic evidence by specialists, when applicable, that would be crucial in building a case against the accused as well as to avoid tampering (intentional or unintentional). Effective night patrolling, zero tolerance to eve-teasing, using Technology to the maximum, Installation of CCTVs, using Predictive Analysis, having statistical analysis of crime, identifying high-crime areas are all beneficial in preventing crimes from happening. It is heartening to hear about programs like Parivartan that were genuinely targeted at preventing rape through scientific means. We need to bring back Parivartan.
Ensure that witnesses to the crime are treated as witnesses and not suspects. Over-handedness of the law is always going to be a problem, but genuine awareness of the law enforcement officials coupled with zero tolerance to transgressions may help in reducing the instances of law officials breaking the law themselves.

Good Samaritan Programs

Apathy is a sort of living oblivion (Horace).
The General Public in India does not believe in action. That seems to be the sum of everything that has been put out in the news. The usual belief is that the law enforcement officials will abuse them. They do not want to entangle themselves with a case that will take years to reach a verdict and will create considerable problems in their own lives.
We should encourage the general public to not be indifferent. This is a mindset that should change. It can be changed by bringing in swift and decisive modifications to the Law Enforcement and Judiciary.

Rape Advocacy Programs

We should provide support to Government/Non-Government Organizations that deal as Rape Crisis Centers or deal with Rape Advocacy Programs. These programs are succesful in helping Victims of Rape to survive the ordeal. They can be effective tool in helping the Victim from bceing victimized. They can provide Therapeutic Care, Psychological Support to the Victim. They could also aid the victim in proper reporting of the incident, in getting themselves acquainted with the Law and Clinical Procedures involved for Forensic Evidence.
They can also influence Education, be a source of Awareness Programs.
A grass-roots approach towards Rape Crisis Centers/Rape Advocacy Programs modeling our approach towards Polio Vaccination would help reduce this hate crime. If the Government of India took 34 years to eradicate Polio, I am at least assured that a grass root level approach towards awareness can help the next generation of Indians. Help alone. Not Eradicated. 

Rape Shield Laws

The Rape Shield Law should be strengthened to not allow the Victim's Sexual History or Background to be used against as defense against an accused in a Rape Trial. This should be recognized as Secondary Victimization and should be prohibited under the law. Our current rape shield does not allow the name of the Victim to be used unless it is made public by the Victim herself OR by her Parents if she dies. However, we still have instances where the deep-seated ignorance of Rape or Victimization plays against the victim in a Rape Trial or even Trials that are related to Domestic Violence.

Mandatory Rape Awareness Programs

Rape Awareness Programs are a necessity. We need to teach our infants what constitutes inappropriate touch. We need to teach our adolescents what is inappropriate contact. We need to make our youth aware of the problem of Sexual Violence and Sexual Harassment as well as the problem of Eve Teasing. Teach young men how NOT to behave with women. Teach Men how NOT to behave with women.
Just like Doctors and Nurses have mandatory internships, there should be an emphasize on Mandatory awareness of Sexual Violence or Rape. Doctors and Medical Staff should have a mandatory course on how to deal with Rape Victims. Banish repressive and unfounded medical tests such as the Two Finger Test. Have established guidelines towards collection of Evidence. Encourage and mandate use of Rape Kits. Prohibit Doctors from making statements about the alleged promiscuity of the victim or engaging in comments related to her sexual history that might be inadvertently used as defense.

Therapeutic Care

We must care about the Victims. 
Remove the Stigma attached to Rape. Provide them access to medical facilities and legal facilities as soon as we can.

Public Awareness Campaigns

We have had successful public awareness campaigns against a host of issues. Let us talk about this issue openly. Let there be no perceived shame about discussing Rape. Create public awareness campaigns.
At the same time, do not force women or put the onus on their behavior to prevent rape.
Put the onus on men. If anything definitive causes rape, it is the rapist, not the woman, man or child undergoing it. Prevent rape by educating the masses about respecting other people.

Chemical Castration

This seems to be one of the reactions to a horrific crime. 
It also, however, focuses on shaming the perpetrator by rendering him "useless". 
It can be argued to be a cruel punishment. As a society can we be judged by how we persecute the worst among us? In my opinion, a cruel treatment reflects on the society. On how we treat humans. Why not go the whole hog and rape the man who raped Jyoti? Would that satisfy the society? Can we descend to the same level of wretchedness that these people did? To what degree can we descend?

Chemical Castration is an established procedure in other countries though. 
It is only left to be seen whether, with our passion for justice and our outrage at the Delhi Rape, will we be blinded by the cruelty we inflict and the precedents we will set, however morally justified it seems to us today.

Death Penalty

A death penalty may not deter potential rapists. Critics have noted that a death penalty may cause a rapist to kill his victim in order to avoid prosecution. Acts like Death Penalty, or Stoning in Public or Lynching should NOT be favored as a way of prosecution.

Death has to be reserved for the "rarest-of-rare" crimes. 
In my personal opinion, I really want those involved in the rape of Jyoti to be hanged. I do not know if it is anger or a rational thought or whether I'd regret saying it; but I wish they are legally executed. They are not only rapists, they are violent men who committed an absolutely horrific murder.

Boycotting Defense

There was news recently about Lawyers boycotting the Defense of the Rapists. 
This again conflicts with our society's pledge for a fair trial. These are the very cases of deviant behavior and conscience-pricking guilt that we have to suffer to hold up the right to fair trial. We have a judiciary and a process of law that we should not leapfrog just because we are outraged. If a majority justifies something ethically wrong by claiming to be morally right, where will it stop? Morality is a vague aspect and it means different for different people. 
We risk setting up an extremely irresponsible precedence by playing into our fervent need for justice.

Cognitive Dissonance

Why attach Shame to the Victim of Rape? Why should the society deal with a Rape Victim as if it is the worst thing that could have happened to her and that there is nothing better left than to die? Rape is Traumatic and Rape does cause severe psychological disturbances, but why?
Why is it considered so devastating? Why is everything about the woman; her honor, her future, her life, her well being, her pride, her self-respect governed by this act of sexual violence? If we argue how no shame is lost for the victim and how she can continue with her life, unblemished, wouldn't that lessen the psychological impact on her? Wouldn't we as a society be able to accept her for who she is and not out of sympathy or pity for her lost "honor". Think about it hard. Did Jyoti Singh lose her honor?
A very powerful and moving extract (attributed to Germaine Greer) that I have read in this article by Charlotte Shane states
When we refuse to acknowledge the possibility that a rape could be anything less than a tsunami of emotional and mental destruction for a woman, we establish a fantasy of absolute male sexual power and absolute female vulnerability. We are, in essence, honoring the timeless belief that a woman’s worth, self-respect, and ability to function within society are dictated exclusively by the sexual use of her body.
Please bear in mind, what I have written above is not a personal opinion; although I agree with the Charlotte's article to the fullest. I am not belittling the effect of Rape on Women. I cannot even begin to imagine the pain and suffering they all have to go through. This is food for thought. An attempt at an honest discussion without prejudice.

Does Cognitive Dissonance explain denial in Rape? People still honestly believe that there is some fault that lies on the behalf of the victim. This thought is strong enough for a Cognitive Dissonance. You choose to believe the inherent misogyny within the society rather than look at the rational aspect of the conversation which, for me, is so simple to understand: 
No one asks to be rapedNot even if they are drunk. And naked. And passing mixed signals.

Personal Opinion
I have spent a great deal of time reading through a lot of news articles, wiki articles and poring over statistics, before I decided to write this post. I am an optimistic pessimist in the sense, I do not perceive any action in my lifetime to take place that will make this world a safer place for women. Yet I hope for it. It is cop out.

It is hard to discuss the misogyny, the sexism, the inequalities and the crimes against women that I have seen while growing up without getting too personal about it. It is easy to blame the Government, to blame the media, the judiciary or the law enforcement. However, the sad truth is that we are all to blame for this. This very post is an attempt to expunge this sense of hurt and shame that I feel against what has happened. Shame against reason. I have spent a whole night, I kid you not, writing.

While I look back at our society and its treatment of women, I find it disturbing that the distinction between a woman and a property you own is blurring. And I feel an overwhelming respect for all that a woman has to do. Dress decently because we have moral objections. Not have a boyfriend because we have moral objections. Don't use phones. Not marry outside the caste. Not venture out. Not have an education. Get Dowry. Change her name. Get Pregnant. Have a Baby. Have one more Baby. Have a Baby Boy. Kill the Baby Girl. Leave her Job. Be in the Kitchen. Wear a white sari when her husband dies. Be a widow forever. We expect them to still love us. Still Respect Us Men. Doesn't it feel like we systematically rape the identity of the very women we love?

Can we look at re-hauling the entire system? Can we cast aside our partisanship; our lack or agreement on issues, our politics, our race and religion to agree on some basic common sense principles of human safety? Can we work on this issue without being biased and without sacrificing the basic civility of the society that we live in? Can this issue be the catalyst for change? 

It may and it may not. I hope we hold our own and gain the respect of generations yet to arrive for having influenced a change in our society through our protest and our demand for justice. I hope to see my country becoming a safer place for women in my lifetime. I hope to see the world becoming a safer place for women.