Blaming Sunny Leone: When politicians give green signals to rape

Published September 7, 2015
No amount of perceived or deliberate provocation from a woman can absolve a man for a breach of consent in the act of rape. None. Ever.
No amount of perceived or deliberate provocation from a woman can absolve a man for a breach of consent in the act of rape. None. Ever.

On a TV show discussing if child marriages are kosher, I realised I should not have been there in the first place. It was like discussing if waterboarding, maiming or beheadings were a laudable method of bringing societal change.

There can be no discussion when one party justifies violence of any kind using any stretch of excuses or beliefs; child marriages are violence.

Things quickly got worse, as they inevitably do on talk shows. A political party representative, a man, brought up Pakistani film actor Meera, and said he didn’t want a country where women like Meera defined standards of morality.

The speed at which men of politics mudsling women in the entertainment industry on any topic easily beats the time between food announcements at Pakistani weddings and what happens to the trays of korma and biryani nanoseconds later.

This is an increasingly recurring phenomenon in South Asia. One that recently resonated in the statement of a Communist Party of India (CPI) leader, who has blamed a Bollywood actor, Sunny Leone and her new contraceptives advertisement for the rising rape cases in India.

This is also a kind of devouring, an indulgence; the repercussions of which are dire for women everywhere.

For a country with massive overpopulation and under-poverty line existence problem for millions, it could possibly not be the condom ad he wanted an end to. For Atul Kumar Anjan, the target was Sunny Leone. Let us examine why.

Also read: Pemra takes controversial contraceptives commercial off air

Women who have complete command over their sexuality horrify men who make it their business to govern the general construct of society. Where men call the shots, make decisions on political and familial scales that have no input from women.

A sexually liberated woman is the embodiment of a vulnerable heterosexual male – it undoes false machismo, masculinity and above all, power. In his attempt to keep a second-to-none facade, his empire tends to crumble at the sight of her. It becomes a threat to the concept of a state and its social order.

Rape signifies a mala fide attack on the very concept of women’s sexuality; a putting in place so to speak. A tool used by men over centuries to settle feuds, wars, disputes and petty grievances.

Also read: 'Rape the girl, blame the girl'

It is criminal, if not absurd, to say that with advertisements like the one Sunny Leone appeared in, there is no bar on how many rapes happen as a consequence. This is like blaming the gas pedal for head-on collisions.

This downright refusal to acknowledge that there is a space between a stimulus and a reaction is the very basis on which civilisation after civilisation has built bloody empires.

This war on women needs to stop. This attempt to single out a woman, be it Meera or Sunny Leone, needs to be rejected in its entirety.

It is the very essence of a woman’s choice that is under attack, today it is sexuality and tomorrow, under its garb, it will be child marriage, divorce, inheritance, education and mobility.

Oppression is oppression under any new or shortened name. Tempting as it is to strike at the softest target, it is not measured, only disgraceful.

Even more so because the horror of the Delhi bus rape case has not washed off our memory. Nor have we forgotten the sexism it exposed in South Asian society when victim-blaming poured in about how she was asking for it for staying out late.

One would think the brutality of that rape would unfreeze any putrid rot of sexism from society, instead it only refined it, through politicians who tell people how to think.

No amount of perceived or deliberate provocation from a woman can absolve a man for a breach of consent in the act of rape. None. Ever.

Also read: The trivialisation of rape in Pakistan

This concept is difficult for many in South Asia to wrap their heads around but we can and should start by calling out politicians that deliberately flame the rape culture and glorify the crime itself by shifting the blame from the perpetrator to the victim.

It is the very passivity against these reckless statements that trivialises the dehumanisation of women.

Every girl child is coached to slouch, hide under covers, ignore gropes and eve-teasers and beware of the passions of men, who will after all, be men.

Well, it is time to expect men to be more than just invertebrates. Let us demand those that are not, to grow a spine.

Opinion

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