Forget the Kamasutra, buy a book on self-defence
There are several souvenir shops at Indira Gandhi International Airport in New Delhi where tourists can buy books and models of the Taj Mahal and autorickshaws as souvenirs of their trip to the subcontinent. The Kamasutra, the ancient Sanskrit guide to sexual behavior, used to be one such book which a lot of foreign tourists liked to take back home from India. Now, after the brutal rapes the country has witnessed, everyone seems to be asking the same question: how could such horrific acts of sexual violence occur in a country where the Kamasutra was written?
Why do men violate and mutilate the bodies of women? This is a difficult question to answer. The recent rape and murder of the two young women in Badaun in the North Indian state of Uttar Pradesh is a good example of how rape could be used as a tool for demonstrating power. The girls were from the Dalit caste, also known as the untouchables. They have been oppressed for centuries and are not even considered a part of the caste system. The girls’ murderers were men from the Yadav caste, which happens to be the same as that of the Chief Minister of the state, Akhilesh Yadav.
The men were perhaps trying to prove their dominance which is why they not only raped the girls repeatedly, but also hanged them from a tree to show the Dalits their almost sub-human status in society. Ever since civilization began, rape has been a common method of establishing hegemony over other peoples and to show that the conqueror has now seized the rights to their women’s wombs.
In his book, “The origin of family, private property and the state,” Friedrich Engels postulates that in order to secure rights to private property, women have to be subjugated so that the man can be convinced that his offspring will inherit the rights to his wealth. Using this logic, one way to completely demoralize and strip a community of its self-respect is to claim its women, in other words, to rape them.
The rapists of Badaun probably had dominance and demonstration of power at the back of their minds; maybe all rapists do, at some level. As far as the Badaun girls were concerned, they were singled out because of their gender and because they belonged to an untouchable community.
The Indian government is also responsible for the rapes to some extent. Maybe development programmes were not implemented in Dalit localities precisely because of their lower status- decision-making bureaucrats are human beings too and belong to the same society. Probably that is why the Dalits did not have any toilets and the girls had to go to the fields to defecate. And consider this: How sick would one have to be to feel a sexual urge while watching women defecate? Against the backdrop of this barbaric crime, the Kamasutra, which was written to enhance physical love is likely to be replaced on the bookshelves with a self-defence manual for women.
Author: Manasi Gopalakrishnan
Editor: Grahame Lucas
Date03.06.2014 | 14:34