The Clothing of Rape

‘Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she smiles at the future.’ Bible: Pro 31:25. In a country where a female is raped every 20 minutes, strength and dignity make up very little of the Indian social fabric at present. The ‘Amanat’ rape case has not only exposed the Indian social fabric to the world but has also led to the catharsis of the Indian woman who wants the answers to the many uncomfortable questions that the misogynist society has covered her body with, for so many centuries.

Banning a certain kind of clothing is not the answer to rape and more importantly, neither wearing it is the incitement of rape. While a few politicians and Khap Panchayats (Rural administration councils) view clothing as the reason behind rape and think that rape in most cases is consensual, it should not come as a surprise.

The collective power of misogyny is just trying to protect itself and stands in unison.  The rape is not a rape if it is consensual, this however they fail to even realize.

Then what is the clothing of rape, one asks. According to a recent Washington Post story, in a 1996 survey of judges in India, 68 percent of the respondents said that provocative clothing is an invitation to rape. Rape in India is still largely perceived as an act that emerges when a woman dresses in a particular way.

Shehla Rashid, a social activist begs to differ. ‘According to the National Crime Records Bureau data 2011, the victim was known to the perpetrators in 94.2 percent of the cases, with neighbours accounting for 34.7 percent of the rapists. Most of the rapes took place inside the homes of the victims and hence this reiterates the point that it is more about the proximity and ease rather than clothing. If the politicians and Khap Panchayats are speaking from experiences they are speaking for themselves. Clothes don’t cause rape, rapists do.’

Rape is as much about convenience as it is about power play and oppression. In areas of conflict, it is the primary weapon used against women to oppress them. Rape is used systematically to strip women of their economic and political assets, says Meredeth Turshen in mapping the political economy of Rape.

‘The most provocatively dressed women in India are also the most privileged and powerful,’ The Indian army in Kashmir rapes the voice of women even though in a cold place like this, women are clothed in full-length Phirans, notes Shehla.

‘The issue with clothing is also about male entitlement that is so deep-rooted in our culture’, says  a social activist who did not wish to be named. ‘Sexuality has come to be understood only by power whereas it has got nothing to do with power.

We see women in the media portrayed these days as eroticized inequality. If we are to make a list of all the advices poured on women, we will notice that the blame lies on men and it is this blame that is circumvented into an advice.

The male gender is carefully protected and siphoned off any responsibility of their action this way. Victimizing the clothing of a woman is an easy and clever way to put the blame of the rape on a woman rather than oneself. ’ 

The basic freedom of expression and the right to live is countered by the dull argument of clothing and this kind of societal enforcement and moral policing is only lowering the bar for more rapes to take place in the country.

If clothing is the real issue then how is the rampant rape record of infants justified in the country. 53% of children in the country have faced sexual abuse of some form and in most cases; the Sexual abuse of children is a pre-planned insidious abuse of a relationship by an abuser over the child.

The society needs to come out of the shackles of shame and conservative outlook on clothes. It needs to ask some tough questions on the other dynamics that cause rape.  In the bizarre socialization and conditioning of the Indian society, clothing is given more priority than the actual issue.

‘It is interesting to note that the same Indians don’t rape abroad given to the bold clothing.The number of rapists convicted for their crimes in India is as low as 26%. The fearlessness of committing the crime is what has led to the increase in the rape cases in India.’ says Shehla.

The level of legislation needs to improve where the politicians do not hide under the guise of clothing as a reason for rape but demand for stronger legislative measures to stop this heinous crime from repeating itself systematically.

Author: Pari Trivedi