A TRADITION OF RAPE
So what is sex by consent in India? The majority of women, rather girls, are married “off” by their parents or families to boys they hardly know. Even in the more “progressive” cases where the boy and girl are allowed to get to know each other, the decision is taken not by the girl or boy. This, I think, has some very important implications.
First, that sex with a person who is almost a stranger is not uncommon and is implicitly accepted. It is not the person but the context that makes the person sex-worthy. I will not have sex with a stranger, but make him wear a connubial turban (or whatever local wedding gear), take the seven rounds around the sacred fire and sex between us is sanctioned! Therefore, when families, or even the police, encourage a girl to marry her rapist it has a cultural basis and endorsement – don’t view him as a rapist but your husband, and voila the defilement is deified, the ruin transformed into respect, and both the lives are sorted out.
Second – this is a point that intrigues me, sometimes humorously, but usually with sadness – what if the girl doesn’t want to have sex, or what if the boy doesn’t? But, there they are, from the very first celebrated “suhaag raat” (the nuptial night), both forced into consummation, eagerly awaited by both the families, with questions of pregnancy starting from almost the first week. There is very little space for the girl to say, “no…please, not tonight, not like this, not again”.
Third, if the girl is unhappy, doesn’t enjoy the sex they are having, or is being forced, who does she tell? Usually – no one. Her parents and family have invested a lot in this liaison. She would feel guilty to jeopardise that, as well as her family’s and her own “respect” in society. Her gentle hints, hesitant murmurs of concern, complaint, to her mother, aunt, in-laws will usually be soothed by, “It’ll be ok, have a child and it’ll be fine”. So, what would be considered rape in many societies is accepted as a “normal” course of filial events.
Unless there is a major shift away from this arranged marriage by the family, unless this very important social, religious and cultural tradition is challenged and overhauled, we cannot expect meaningful debates on rape in India. Women need first to reclaim their bodies and establish their power and choice over them. This is particularly important among the educated, economically independent women of India. They need to realise that there is a direct connection between women abdicating their power of consent for sex to their parents, and men perceiving women as powerless, at the mercy of the man – to do as he likes with her.
I was led to the above article from somewhere on this board. Apologies if this was posted earlier. It is a perfect example of how a deracinated mind can take a very well established tradition, a tradition which has helped build an institution, holding society together and instead of focusing on instances of abuse in the system ends up attacking that very institution and its associated traditions under the influences of the ideas of "individual choice". The author makes aspersions and links beyond the understanding of the author. Just like the AAP makes noises about the system without understanding how to manage the reform process, these social anarchists do the same on our traditions and institutions. Underlying all of this is the matter of individual choice and freedom, taken to its extremes is the direct opposite of Dharma, which seeks to bind individuals, families and the larger society into an interweaving web, making a nation.
We do have some real issues of women's security in the public place, especially in some parts of the country and abuses within the institution of marriage to deal with, but is this the way to go about them with contempt and derision?