Soft Light : Why Indian Men need to Protest against Rape

Dhrubaa Ghosh

Are you Indian and a man? Have you never felt up an unknown woman’s legs or accidentally ‘jostled’ her on the street? Are you a responsible father who loves his children? Are you a husband who has never beaten his wife? Are you a brother or son who doesn’t believe in ma-behen gaalis? In short, are you a man, potent, sexually capable, well-placed in life, having  perfectly normal relationships with women (mother/wife/friend/sister/daughter/colleague)?

If so, please speak up against rape. Because if you don’t, guess what, the world will think you don’t exist. With a little help from our politicians, their allied theoreticians, and a certain section of the friendly press, you will either be declared extinct, like the dodo, or be placed on the list of endangered species along with the Royal Bengal tiger. Poachers will come looking for you, there will be a Wikipedia page on you in past tense.

If you think I am over-reacting, look around you. Learned panelists on television are discussing the psyche of the Indian male in distant, clinical tones, though some of them are Indians and seem to be male. Editorials are blooming everyday in print and on the web, on how the patriarchal Indian male needs to re-examine his faulty mechanism. Bollywood superstars are Tweeting how ashamed they are to be men, and more importantly, Indian men. But no one is talking about the good Indian man. Probably because he is as dated as yesterday’s headlines.

What about the hordes of men who turned up to protest in Delhi? Who threw themselves in front of other men in uniform to protect women from savage lathi charge and kicking and groping? Oh but they were part of an amorphous body called ‘youth’. But there are so many men writing persuasively against rape, against molestation, in favor of legal change and political freedom – who are they? That’s the media my friend, and some mad professors who don’t want government grants. The average Indian man is not part of any of this.

Who is an average Indian man then? Let’s try to itemize him:

  • He is a MAN. He knows his place in life. He has duties to do, and that includes elevating a woman to the status of ‘wife’ by marrying her. He knows how to control her, he has seen how Father dealt with Mother when she talked or behaved foolishly.
  • He earns money. May be his wife does that too, but it’s not the same thing. When a man brings money home, he automatically gains total supremacy over all decisions made within that household.
  • He is steeped in our traditions. These traditions are not coded anywhere, and are a convenient mash-up of a little bit of everything from Manusamhita to Ekta Kapoor.
  • He can teach a girl a lesson, irrespective of her age, social or economic status, education and the rest of those unnecessary embellishments. As everyone knows, women never become adults. They are not capable of making important decisions. They need to be pampered, they can’t think seriously. A wife needs guidance on her career in office. A daughter needs to be told what to study.
  • He is morally upright, responsible, god-fearing, hard working. These qualities are defined by him, and may be different from what other people understand them to be. It’s morally justified to ogle at a skimpily dressed female. Punishing a daughter or sister’s unsuitable lover is the man’s responsibility. Putting in six hours at a desk job is hard enough work; it merits a hot meal, and post-meal entertainment from the wife at home.
  • Despite such hardihood, the Indian man is susceptible to even the slightest poisonous touch from Bollywood or porn sites or media. Once affected, he is justified if he acts in a supposedly immoral or even criminal way.
  • It has been proved beyond doubt that the immunity system of the Indian male is unable to cope with any evidence of ‘western influence’ in Indian females. It has an immediate negative effect on his nervous system and his brain might become partially defunct.

If you can’t stand the circus, the insult anymore, I am with you. I firmly believe that the individual has the power to step out of the defined, codified, stereotypes of ‘patriarchy’ or ‘womanhood’ thrust down their gullet. Many men have done it already, may be you are one too. I am a woman, and an Indian one. I am middle class, middle aged, and I have had the unbelievable good fortune to have some men in my life who are not remotely like the one described above. Friends, family, colleagues – all good men – all Indian. I respect them, and yes, they respect me.

If you are one of them, come forward now. Not just women’s, but men’s honor needs to be protected too. It will be a dishonor for us, as a nation, if the world feels we can live comfortably with increasing atrocities against women. And yes, high time we changed the category from ‘crime against women’ to ‘crime against humanity’. After all, they are indirectly damaging our men as well.