In light of the horrible gang rape that took place last month in Delhi, it has inspired all of us to do some soul searching. How does this barbaric behavior still exist in this day and age? In a time when women are supposed to have equal rights with men, how is it possible that there are still individuals, both men and women, who believe and treat females to be the burden of society?
India has some serious explaining to do, and the government is clearly embarrassed about it. The gang rape of a physiotherapy student on a public bus is, unfortunately, nothing new, or rare for that matter. As for the pouring of outrage that swept the nation, it “helped” that she was considered to be a respectable girl with an education, and that she was accompanied by a respectable gentleman who tried to defend her. It “helped” that he was beaten badly in the process of trying to defend her, and it “helped” that, after they were dumped on the side of the road naked, nearly run over by their attackers, he publicly complained that it took nearly 45 minutes for the police to arrive, after which, the police wasted time arguing with each other over who’s jurisdiction the case was, all while the poor girl was dying. One has to wonder, how much media outcry there would have been, had she not been of middle class and accompanied by a male for protection?
Sunitha Krishnan, a self described anti-trafficking crusader, when asked her opinion on this case, wrote in her blog:
“My frustration was also on the sudden great interest in all the rape survivors…lets hound them…Did anybody make a single attempt to hound all the reported rapists in the country?”
And she’s right. Maybe we should be making rapists as famous ( or, in this case, infamous ) as celebrities.
There is still a mentality out there that people can be used as a throwaway commodity, regardless of race, gender, educational and financial background, or age. And it still persists to this day, even in more “civilized” cultures.
My ex boyfriend, who is now a Taoist monk living in Australia, once said to me that “if a man wants to pay to have sex with a woman, that’s his right.” My female cousin in Sydney, NSW once said “I don’t get these young girls who dress in skimpy dresses and then complain when they get raped. What did they expect?” Or another friend I met in Banff, Alberta who said that “when a girl sleeps with a lot of guys she’s a slut. It’s just different, because it’s easier for her to get laid than men.”
And then there is also a strong belief that these types of mentalities and violations only exist in 3rd world countries where backward, uneducated, “non-white” people live. My good friend here in Montreal recently said that “sexual slavery, luckily, does not exist in this city.”
Are you sure?
Violations will occur wherever people live.
So how can we change this? Now, I’m not saying that there aren’t wonderful men out there who will fight for gender equality, but we can’t expect men to fight for the prevention of violence against women, after all, it is not their problem. And who would bother to help a people who won’t even help themselves? This goes for gay rights, civil rights, women’s lib, the American civil war, the French revolution, victims of bullies. History has shown again and again that oppressors will only stop oppressing when the trodden on stand up together, demand respect and take it by force. Freedom, equality, and respect is simply not handed over. Case in point: after reading the article “Meghalaya, India: Where women rule, and men are suffragettes by Timothy Allen, I admit, I couldn’t help but consciously think that if the men in the village were so passive at the way they were being treated by the women, why should I bother to make a fuss about it: they certainly weren’t! See, even I’m guilty of this mindset.
Yes, we need men to behave better. Yes, we need men to change their attitudes towards women. Yes, men definitely SHOULD NOT rape women. But it’s women who have to change themselves, and the attitudes and beliefs that they have about themselves, in order to bring about real positive change. It’s women who have to be the first to take action and shout, “Enough is enough! Respect us, or there will be consequences.” It’s women who have to educate each other and their men as to what acceptable behavior is, and what is not. I once saw a video of 3 or 4 women take turns slapping a bus driver in the face, in broad daylight, yelling at him after he was caught “eve teasing” them. Now while I don’t condone all out violence that could put someone in hospital, you can probably be sure that that bus driver won’t ever be sexually harassing women again. You can also bet that the men who witnessed it would think twice before doing it themselves.
Now I am in no way suggesting that any person, man or woman, who has survived sexual assault did not do enough to prevent their attack. Sexual violations are an absolute abomination in our culture, and anyone on the receiving end of such crimes should never ever feel that they brought it on themselves. Sexual discrimination and violence are crimes against humanity. No blame should ever be put on the survivors.
What I am suggesting is that perhaps we, as a society, have simply sat back and accepted bad behavior of certain individuals to persist without consequences. Or, perhaps even at one point, encouraged it.
Oh, that’s just their culture. Oh, they’re just having fun. What do you expect me to do about it? It’s none of my business.
Here are a few suggestions we can implement to help girls take their power back. Feel free to add some of your own:
1. Set up a community watch system trained to detect corruption in police forces. Victims of sexual abuse are often afraid to go to the authorities, in fear of being victimized again by the very people who were trained to protect them. This is more than just a block watch: these individuals would need to be trained. If people aren’t shown what to do and how to do it, it won’t work. Regular meetings not only hold watchers accountable to be on the lookout, but also how to be on the lookout. Corruption can be deterred with something as simple as a hand held video camera. Anyone who has ever watched “Video Vigilante,” whether or not you agree with his practices, will have to admit that he effectively deters crime in his neighborhood. The same goes for holding the police accountable for their actions.
2. Get every girl in a school, and give incentives to parents to keep her there until college. Not a new idea in the west, but still a radical idea in many countries.
3. Teach girls self defense in schools, from kindergarten all the way up until college, and taught with as much respect and emphasis as reading and writing. Want to see what happens when a girl knows how to defend herself? Watch this video here.
4. Schools need to have a daily class on compassion, with role playing. There is such a thing as positive peer pressure, and the young are the most susceptible to it. Many of us are afraid to take a stand, since we’re afraid that we would be all alone in making that stand, and then possibly become a target ourselves. If we had been trained, from an early age, every day, on how to take a stand against a violation, it would become second nature. A hand shake is a learned behavior, one that we know will be met automatically by a similar gesture. Why not learning to yell “Stop it!” whenever we see someone being punched, knowing that everyone else has learned to automatically yell that too?
5. Legalizing prostitution, but criminalizing johns and pimps. Legalizing prostitution makes it easier for any victim of sexual slavery to go to authorities for help. There are many sex slaves who don’t go to the authorities for help because they are seen as criminals, rather than rape victims, in the eyes of the law. In a recent survey that compared 100 men who bought sex to 101 men who didn’t, when asked what would prevent the purchase of sex, a sex buyer advised, “You’d have to make more severe penalties. You’d have to make it a more severe crime than it actually is. Right now it’s not all that punishable, especially for the john it’s a slap on the wrist. It’s nothing, really, you pay a fine and they’ll let you go the next day. . . .[you need] longer incarceration. What scares people more than going to jail? I think it’s the largest deterrent. And maybe large fines, but very large fines.” Most systems re-victimize sex workers over and over again. Go after the johns, there will be less demand for paid sex, and less demand for human trafficking.
6. One of the best things that I did to protect myself when I went traveling alone around the world, and still use to this day, was to be aware of where my cell phone was, where my keys were, what street I was on, and to always check behind me. And, if there was someone nearby, to make sure that that person stayed 100 meters away from me at all times. Where did I learn this? Not in school. I had to read about it from a book I borrowed from my public library.
These are just a few ideas. What are your thoughts and suggestions to help women take back their power? Please feel free to comment below.