A woman does not need a man’s protection

Published: March 29, 2015
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We are all responsible for creating a society that human beings feel they have the right to violate another human being’s body in such a violent manner.

“Nobody is a monster that he is excluded from society. After all, any society that has these rapists has to take responsibility for them, and this is the first thing that these feminist callers that came before the Verma Committee said, that these are our people, these men are ours.”— Gopal Subramanium, senior advocate, Supreme Court India and co-author of the Verma Report

I am not a rapist. I cannot even possibly conceive how a person could rape, assault, murder or even harass. So why did I feel guilty being a man watching the documentary India’s Daughter?

This question has plagued my thoughts for the past week.

I am a man but am I Mukesh Singh, the 28-year-old driver of that bus? Am I ML Sharma or AP Singh, the defence lawyers for the rapists?

No, I am not.

I have been a vocal proponent against stereotyping and generalisations. I have written about how ridiculous the notion of collective Muslim guilt for Charlie Hebdo is but in this case, I feel all men are guilty of being complacent to the creation of rape culture.

A team dominates another team in a sports match and suddenly my Facebook newsfeed is littered with the word rape. We use the word so often that the magnitude, the horror and the violence of the act is lost on us.

All of us are not rapists – at least I hope not. But we are all guilty of not actively working against the creation of rape culture in our country. All of us. Both men and women. However, the sad reality is that we live in a highly patriarchal society in India and Pakistan. And being the main benefactors of that patriarchy, it is incumbent on us men to fight against this culture.

Women do not need our protection. The lawyer ML Sharma wants to protect women as his most prized possessions. We need to create a culture where a woman should not rely on a man for her protection. We are in this world together; the story of Jyoti breaks my heart as much as any other woman’s.

How can rape then be simply a woman’s issue?

It is not just women that need to fight against the culture of harassment and rape. We are all responsible for creating a society that human beings feel they have the right to violate another human being’s body in such a violent manner.

It is very easy to demonise the monsters but what separates these rapists from all the people who think that it is the woman’s fault, that women are inferior, that women should not leave the house, is only the incident. Other than that, all these monsters belong to the same mind-set, the same society – a society that we call ours.

Either we look the other way, pretend that these monsters are the exception and continue to brush off any responsibility from us or we take the collective responsibility towards allowing rape culture to exist in our societies and work towards changing that.

The first step is to stop using the word for anything other than the act itself. Rape is not a word that should be used lightly. There is no changing the world without changing yourself. If you hold any such archaic opinions as the rapists and the defence lawyers for the rapists, then think as to what is separating you from them?

You do not have the right to abuse another person’s body neither do you have the right to control another person’s body. No, you are not responsible for protecting the honour of the house. Neither are you responsible for protecting the honour of anyone else. Women are more than capable of taking their own decisions. If you do not believe that, you belong to the same mind-set as the rapists. The rapists wanted to teach the woman a lesson for venturing out of the house to watch a movie.

You are not a rapist, but have you ever judged a woman that you have seen out in public? Have you ever judged a woman for wearing what she felt like wearing? Have you ever judged a woman for being out late at night? If you have, then I do not see how you can judge the rapists. They are not monsters; they belong to a society that we have cultivated for centuries, which has created a culture for rape.

You have ex-musicians claiming women should not drive, you have parliamentarians and ministers accused of rape, how can you claim that these rapists do not belong to such a society?

If anything, these people are more reflective of the opinions of the masses in India and Pakistan than you or I. And this is what India’s Daughter shows us. And this is why it is crucial for all of us to see the documentary. To see ourselves in the eyes of a rapist, and see the horrific reflection of our society stare back at us.

To hear the words we have heard our family members, our friends and our leaders say,

“Taali do haath say bajti hai”

(It takes two to tango)

Humaray ghar ki larkiyan raat ko bahar nahi jaati”

(Our daughters do not go out at night)

“A man should protect a woman”

“A woman should not wear such clothes”

“A woman should not be out at night”

“A woman is less than a man”

“A woman belongs to a man”

These men are not the worst of us, we are the worst of us; all of us who have ever let these thoughts plague our mind are guilty.

It is about time we do not just say no to rape, but the entire society and culture that allows it to happen.

Say no to rape culture.

shehzad.ghias

Shehzad Ghias

A graduate from the LUMS Law School and is running his own theatre production company, Cogito Productions.He works as a theatre teacher at various schools. He tweets @Shehzad89 (twitter.com/Shehzad89)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Bisma Tirmizi

    Shehzad, Kudos my friend…….you inspire me……..the society is such because women are thought to be inferior not just by men but by women too….otherwise why
    would the women (specifically the women who happen to be the inlaws, treat the bhabi and bahu like it is her bloody job to be subservient, and I refer to the upper middle class, the upper echelon of society)….and the bloody husbands, and these are the good ones, live under guilt of the mother and the sister…..how come the girl’s brothers and father don’t make the life of the dammad a misery (generally speaking), because they are worried that their beti or behen will suffer…..it’s this very same culture that in its very twisted and perverse form allows the rape of a women! YES….it’s this same culture……women are to be blamed as much…..they revel in making their own genders life a misery…..`meray betay’…it’s always about empowering the betay…….why not the beti, or the bahu? All one hears is `chup kar jao’ each time a girl goes home to her husband, or her own family, with a miserable story of her poor treatment by the inlaws (and again I talk about the upper class), she is slapped with chup kar jao…..It’s this CHUP KAR JAO, that translates to rape…..its the same ideology in a much more heinous form……YES……you are I being writers understand the `between the lines’……and soon will be told, `CHUP KAR JAO’…..Anyways kudos on writing a great pieceRecommend

  • Hadi

    Good blogRecommend

  • Fahad Zia

    Society has a long way to go before “A woman does not need a man’s protection” is even slightly possible. Until then, they need it now more than they ever did. People are sexually frustrated even in sexually liberal societies like India, US, Europe etc. The other option being castrating every boy before he reaches puberty.Recommend

  • Ambergris

    Beautifully written! Yes you say it right. We as a collective society are responsible for this “rape” culture. It’s our responsibility to change the mindset. To create a society where a woman does not need to feel threatened just because she is a woman!Recommend

  • Jehanzeb Mahar

    I know you didn’t mean it when you said this castration thing. But, would you say a similar thing for women? Remember, men and woman are equal. So, both deserve the same respectRecommend

  • Parvez

    Serious stuff this…….and well said.
    The issue is one of inequality. Inequality at all levels and in all spheres in society. The task of removing the inequality that exists is impossible……and that’s reality. Managing it in small portions, to reduce its effect is happening….but it is hardly noticeable especially in underdeveloped countries.Recommend

  • Warda

    Excellent blog! Being a man in a society like ours and being able to say that one is not responsible for protecting the honour of women of the house or any woman at all requires guts! I wish more men were like you! I wish more people recognised that women are individuals in their own right. They don’t belong to anyone. They don’t need anyone’s careful watch! Recommend

  • goggi (Lahore)

    Rape in marriage is the most widespread and approved form of legal rape in Pakistan where marriages are mostly arranged from parents just like a cattle trade……………..child girls as young as 10 years of age are forcefully married with four or five times elder sex-obsessed Oldies! This is the most hideous and perverted crime which our society collectively commits against the sanctity of our children and women!

    The trauma of such rape victim in marriage is even more massive as of victims in the sexual victimization from strangers. The sense of security of the wife, especially when she is a child, is hit deep in the core. She does not feel at home invulnerable. She feels deeply scared, deeply humiliated and above all forced to live lifelong with her brutal rapist……a rapist who has the protection of a macho brainwashed society and impotent laws.Recommend

  • mshaiq

    Well done! This and you are the reason there is hope. Men and women need to act together to take responsibility for rape culture and stand against it because it is not just a women’s issue, it is a social issue. I truly hope that everyone shares this with everyone they know and so on, especially men. We cannot deny this anymore.Recommend

  • mshaiq

    I get where you’re going with your sentiments (minus the last sentence), but I think the realization that’s needed here are that women don’t need a man’s “protection”. Men should support women and fight against rape culture because it affects gender and society. Protection implies weakness. Support implies empowerment and alliance. Men need to support women in the fight against violence against women. A world of a difference and so essential to impact change.Recommend

  • Umair Nathani

    Kudos on writing this blog, its time to change our own mentality.Recommend

  • InsanityWithin

    That is quite some gross generalization. Just like there are bad people in a society there are good ones too. If you are going to be a pessimist then there is also an optimist………..So which one should we believe? The one whose argument comport with our per-conceived beliefs. RAPE happens to be a crime and not a “culture” just like there is MURDER, if we are going to label all heinous acts committed by individuals as “cultures” then Murder, robbery, corruption etc they all are world cultures. Because i doubt that there is any country in existence where these crimes don’t occur. So according to Mr author’s logic; All the humans are criminals, including women and CHILDREN because they also rape, murder, steal and do all the things that men do.Recommend

  • Uzair

    I think men should be wiped out of this world. I am sure women will definitely thrive without men oppressing them. #WipeoutthemenRecommend

  • anomaly

    India and US are far from being sexually liberal. Especially India, but U.S culture still remains very much patriarchal and its one of the most conservative country compared to other developed nations. Sexual frustration has very little to do with sexual assault though. It’s about dominance and control so a “man’s protection” doesn’t help reduce sexual assault, in fact, like the author explained, that kind of attitude is exactly what creates rape culture.Recommend

  • anomaly

    The victims of murder and other crimes are not blamed like rape victims are. Those crimes are not committed largely by one group of people(male) against another group of people(female). This kind of gendered violence against women is no different than any other hate crime, in which the victim would not be targeted if not for the victim’s race/religion/ethnicity. In majority of sexual assault cases, the victim would not been victimized if not for her gender/sex. If 90% of the time murder or physical assault occurred by perpetrators belonging to one class of people against a separate marginalized class then yes that would not be looked at as simple crime but as a cultural problem.Recommend