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Patriarchy and racism give birth to rape culture, not a drunk woman or her miniskirt

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The case of poor safety for women in India:

I am not disagreeing with the shameful low standard of safety for women in India. I was born in India and spent the first 25 years of my life there. I loved living there but I also went through the mental agony of walking the streets with cat calls and being leered at. Some men would do obscene gestures and some even flashed.

I was not the only one. Women my age, younger, older, we all just learned to live with it and ignore it. When it became a little out of control, we would create an occasional scene by yelling, and asking passers-by to intervene and help.

Normally, we all ignored it. We all knew if we made a bigger case, we’d blamed that we instigated it. We knew we’d be asked what we were doing there, or why we were wearing a skirt or in the case we were covered head to toe, we must have looked in a man’s direction and somehow “invited” him towards ourselves.

So we all kept quiet. But a brutal gang rape broke the silence. India rose in protest when a young medical student was brutally gang-raped on a moving bus and left to die on a street in Delhi in December last year. People, especially students came out on the streets demanding justice, tougher legislation, and better security for women. The government was forced to have discussions, debate and draft new legislation. But the whole process didn’t happen smoothly. It ironically put women in the examination box, cross-examined them and victimized them over and over again.

All debates centered on what women wear, why they roam around at night, why they drink, what they drink, why they date, everything and anything about a woman’s morality, character, her choices.

Not a word about a man’s choices. Not a word about a man’s morality. Not a word about his constructed superiority. Not a single word about patriarchy trying to stifle women.

Just like the Steubenville rape case, where the victim and her choices were the centre of the debate. She was victimized over and over, instead of the high school football players who were later found guilty of raping the girl. But sadly, even after the verdict, her victimization continues.

Curb the rape culture:

India marched to demand justice for its rape victim, who the media dubbed ‘Braveheart’. Countless candle light vigils were held in her memory, but we Canadians tend to gloss over what is happening to women in our own backyards, because we, like rest of the world, are entangled in a totally irrelevant framework of rape culture.

It is ironic that we have shunned the women of the very land we live on and conveniently call our own. We have forgotten that before immigration brought us here, before the settlers came, before the Europeans colonized and constructed a Canadian national identity, this sacred land belonged to the Aboriginals: we didn’t inherit it, we just came to live on it.

We, as a nation, have never marched for our countless Aboriginal Bravehearts just because their sexual assault and suffering doesn’t fit into our understanding of rape culture that happens only in third-world, poor countries like Congo or India. It is always the Aboriginal women themselves or a few other supporters who march to demand justice for their forgotten women.

We, as a nation, never debate the unethical choices men make when they decide to use women as sex toys, and rape a woman just because she had a drink too many. Rather we question the woman and her choices.

To curb the rape culture, we need to start a dialogue around the patriarchal order and how to uproot it, racism and how to curb it, post-colonial and residential school legacy, and how to overcome these, power imbalance and economic inequalities between a man and a woman, and how to balance these, instead of debating the hemline of a woman’s skirt.

Republished with author permission from Anupreet Sandhu Bhamra

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