When the religion of the perpetrators becomes more important than the crime of rape itself, then you know you are witnessing a civilisational breakdown.
To find evidence of the epidemic of violence against young girls and women gripping India, you have only to flick through your newspaper.
In the recent past: Two minor sisters, 13 and 15, gang-raped at gunpoint in Muzaffarnagar, Uttar Pradesh (UP). In Singrauli district, Madhya Pradesh, an eight-year-old gang-raped by two boys aged 15 and 16. Also in Madhya Pradesh, near Bhopal, a 10-year-old girl first murdered, then raped and sodomised.
These are a fraction of the horror stories in a country where, according to National Crime Records Bureau data for 2016, not updated since, 19,764 rape cases were registered — an 82% jump in rape cases from the preceding year, with the worst rise in UP where figures have trebled. These are, of course, reported cases in a country where, according to Mint, 99% of sexual assault goes unreported.
Continue reading “India’s child rape crisis”
I travelled to Nuh, Haryana, India’s most backward district, to meet the widows of Pehlu Khan and Rakbar Khan, men murdered by cow vigilantes. This story was published in The Hindu.
Lying on a string cot beneath a row of pale green prayer beads that hangs from the wall, Asmeena Khan holds up a frail hand and says softly, “Please pray for me.”
There is no electricity and Asmeena cannot summon the strength to wave away the flies that settle on her face. She has been bedridden since being in a car accident four months ago. Her brother says the doctors have said she is paralysed from the waist down, and will never walk again.
Asmeena is the widow of Rakbar Khan, the dairy farmer who was killed by cow vigilantes on the night of July 20, 2018. After the murder of 28-year-old Rakbar, Asmeena, who has never been to school and is unsure even of her age, was left to raise her seven children. The eldest, 14-year-old Saahila, dropped out of school to help her mother with household chores and add to the family income by working as a daily wage labourer; four younger children were enrolled at a residential school in Aligarh run by a charitable society. The youngest two, aged six and three, have stayed with their mother in Tapkan village in Haryana’s Nuh district.
When the accident happened. Asmeena was on her way to visit her children in Aligarh in a taxi. A truck collided with the car she was in. The driver and a 19-year-old niece accompanying Asmeena were killed. Asmeena was first taken to the medical college in Nuh and then referred to a hospital in New Delhi, as her injuries were serious.
Continue reading “Life after lynching: the widows of Nuh”
A new book by my friend and college room-mate Sohaila Abdulali explores the idea that victims of sexual violence are not broken beings. Awful as it is, rape is survivable, and those who have been raped are deserving and capable of happiness again.
I don’t remember the precise moment when my then college roommate, Sohaila Abdulali, told me about being gangraped when she was 17. It was just an incontestable fact of her life: she was from Mumbai, she loved to dance, her parents grew orchids, she had been raped.
This is not to imply that being raped was not a big deal. It was. If I remember correctly, this is how she explained it. “It’s like being run over by a bus and getting terribly hurt. You might never fully recover from your injuries. But you go on living. You can be happy again.”
In the three decades that Sohaila has remained my friend, she has never let that single event define her life, even though it is an inseparable part of who she is. Three years after being raped and while writing her undergraduate thesis on rape in India, she created a minor stir by writing about her own experience for Manushi. Nobody, at least not in India, had ever written about being raped. Nobody had run such an article with their photograph.
Continue reading “What we talk about when we talk about rape”
We can’t seem to stop talking about sexual violence from strangers, but cannot seem to start talking about it (or even acknowledge), about the violence many women face from within their own homes.
If a picture says a thousand words, then a graphic illustration of 137 figures — the number of women killed every day around the world by a partner or family member — doesn’t even begin to tell you the horror.
The statistics are part of a study released on November 25, International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. It finds that 58% of the 87,000 women killed around the world in 2017 died at the hands of an intimate partner or a family member. Every hour, somewhere in the world, six women are killed by people they know.
There’s the 16-year-old, legally a child, in rural Bangalore district, who rejects the amorous advances of a 28-year-old relative who’s been stalking her. On the day she confronts him near her school, he takes out a sickle and slashes her throat.
Continue reading “Home is the most dangerous place for many women”
Muzaffarpur is emblematic of the large-scale systemic abuse of institutionalized children that we choose not to see.
One fought with her stepmother and ran away from home. Another was sold into prostitution and rescued in a raid. And a third was brought in by her mother who was too poor to feed her.
The girls who end up at shelter homes are, very often, nobody’s children; society’s most vulnerable. They have no one to ask, are you okay?
Not even the State whose job it is to protect them.
While the scale of horror at the state-funded hell house shelter in Muzaffarpur run by the politically connected Brajesh Thakur is staggering — 29 of 42 minor girls reporting rape, torture and being drugged — it is not unprecedented. Continue reading “Hell house ‘shelter’ horror”
Now that we are making our child sexual offences law gender neutral, isn’t it time we started talking about adult male rape survivors?
Sohaila Abdulali is telling me about the time many years ago when a man called up a Rape Crisis Centre in the US. He had been raped by a teacher some years ago, he said. But men can’t possibly be raped, replied the people at the centre, and hung up.
This would be unthinkable today, says Abdulali whose book, What We Talk About When We Talk About Rape is out in October. The fact that men too are victims and survivors of sexual assault and rape is a no-brainer. “Rape is a horrible violation,” she says. “Why would it be any less for a man?” Continue reading “It’s time we recognised that men can get raped too”