[An unpublished article I had written in July 2014. I am uploading it as part of my exercise to upload many of my old articles on subjects on which I feel or felt strongly, however unconnected they may be with each other]
There should be a proper definition of rape, full and speedy justice, and very stringent punishment against the criminal in every case (the genuine rapist, whether or not a minor, or the false accuser, as the individual case may be). And mischief mongering politicians and activists should not be allowed to interfere in the process of exposing the Truth or to succeed in derailing the wheels of Justice.
The subject, being debated publicly (on television) by a panel of six persons (including the anchor), is this: should a certain particular category of rapists (and other committers of similar heinous crimes) be given the punishment normally due to other categories of rapists (and other committers of similar heinous crimes)? The panel consists of three men (including the anchor of the channel) and three women; the six are evenly divided, the men on one side and the women on the other; the debate becomes heated, with the women panelists glaring indignantly at the men panelists, asserting themselves furiously, and standing their ground through thick and thin with flashing eyes and rising voices.
Any guesses for who represents which side? Any guesses as to who are advocating stringent punishment for the rapists, and who are defending the rapists and advocating a lenient attitude?
If you did not see the Newshour Debate on Times Now channel at 9 p.m. on 14/7/2014, your guess will be wrong. It is the men panelists who were advocating stringent punishment for the rapists, and it is the women panelists who were frothing at the mouth in indignation at the very thought of the rapists being punished for their acts! The women panelists, Womens’ Rights and Child Rights activists one and all, were fully and militantly determined to protect and fight for the “human rights”, not of the raped women (minors et al) but of the rapist “minor” men.
It was a statement by Mrs Maneka Gandhi, the Union Minister for Women and Child Development, which was the trigger for this heated debate. Speaking at a function in Chennai, Mrs Gandhi expressed her firm determination that juveniles accused of heinous crimes like rape should be treated on par with adult offenders, and not be treated leniently on account of their age. This is what raised a storm of protests from “human rights activists” all over the country, of which this debate showcased a small sample.
This is not the first occasion that these “human rights” activists have come out in full strength to defend the human rights of the rapists. This time, on this debate, it was activists Vrinda Grover, Nina Nayak and Sudha Ramalingam on a crusade to protect the hapless “minor” or “juvenile” rapists; on the occasion of the “nirbhaya” case more than a year ago, we had other women “human rights activists” of the same genre, like Malvika Rajkotia, Flavia Agnes, and others, shouting vociferously in defence of the rights of the “child” who had been the most cold-blooded and ruthless, among the rapists, in torturing the victim in that case, by actually (among other things) inserting a long metal rod inside her body and destroying her internal organs!
All this raises several questions:
1. The first is the psychology of the so called human rights activists. In defending the minor or juvenile rapists, these activists frequently cite “psychological” factors in defence or condonation of their acts. Would it not be more appropriate to first examine the psychology of these women, to whom it seems to be almost a holy mission to defend such “children”? It is often alleged that women are the greatest enemies of women, and the missionary zeal of these women activists would seem to prove this maxim.
Is it the sadistic and vicarious joy of seeing other women raped and tortured in gruesome ways, and aversion or reluctance to allow anyone else to try to put an end to this joyful state of affairs, which makes these women position themselves as defenders of the “human rights” of the juvenile rapists, and makes them fight to let these juvenile rapists loose on other women after minimal punishments and armed with the comforting and encouraging assurance that such acts will be defended and condoned?
Is it a perverted male-oriented mother syndrome, in which, deep down in their motherly hearts, they prefer to view the issue from the prejudiced point of view of a mother whose minor son has committed such an offence, rather than from the point of view of a mother whose minor daughter has been subjected to this horror and terror?
Or is it merely the thrill of defending the indefensible – and fighting to win?
Exactly what kind of sadistic psychology is behind this “activism” which is passionately, aggressively and perpetually obsessed with the “human rights” of predator entities like terrorists and fundamentalists, powerful international missionary organizations, and rapists and heinous criminals, to the sharp detriment of the genuine human rights of the entities they prey on?
2. A second question arising from the above debate is the question of “left” versus “right”. Subramaniam Swamy, one of the male panelists on the program suddenly introduced this “left” versus “right” angle, as follows: “The question therefore today is entangled with the ideological aspects. Now there is the view taken on so many things which have now got entangled with ideology. Take for example the question of homosexuality, the same way in this also there is a left wing view of this, of promiscuousness: allow everybody freedom, be liberal; whereas we say: no, there has to be a punishment system and that punishment system has to be employed when the crime is heinous”.
It is perfectly possible, and even perfectly likely, that the women panelists on this debate, as well as in earlier debates, who so passionately advocated leniency and concern for the “human rights” of minor rapists, were leftists. But, is it really the standard view of outright leftist parties like the CPI, CPM or CPML (I ask because I genuinely do not know)? Most of these “leftist” human rights organizations, with their predilection for stout defence of the “human rights” of predator entities, are, more often than not, financed mainly by American sources linked with rightist “international” American foundations and organizations promoting rightist American agendas. So it can not basically be a “left” versus “right” issue.
Again, is the question of homosexuals on par with the question of rapists and heinous criminals? Earlier on in the debate, Subramaniam Swamy rightly pointed out: “when you commit rape, when you commit murder, it’s not like the stealing of a bicycle or running away with a pastry in a bakery shop”, and that in rape cases there are victims and “the victims have rights too”, and that the rapist “robs somebody else of his [/her] rights and therefore should be punished”. Is it then his contention that private consensual sexual activity between two adult individuals (who are born with that orientation, and probably are helpless to do nothing about it) is on par with rape and murder, and with robbing someone else of their rights, and therefore “should be punished”? Or that homosexual orientation is a “leftist” phenomenon?
The main question is not of “left” or “right”, but of the tendency to promote the pernicious philosophy of “liberalism and generosity at the expense of others”, which seems to be a persistent factor in every contentious discourse and debate. These women activists are safe in the knowledge that their own socio-economic and other circumstances preclude them, and their minor associates (sisters, daughters, nieces), from being at the receiving end of the childlike whims of the rapist “children” whose human rights they so passionately fight for. So they have no qualms in giving full rein to their generosity and liberalism, and their so human compassion, towards these “children”.
The category in which this kind of “compassion” falls can be illustrated, though this may seem a pedestrian illustration to many, by the following example from a literary work: In Agatha Christie’s well-known book “Mrs McGinty’s Dead”, a murder takes place in an English village as a result of an article appearing in a newspaper called “The Sunday Companion”. Under the heading “Women Victims of Bygone tragedies”, the article gives sob-story accounts of the “tragic” lives of four women tried for murder in the past, portraying them as tragic victims of their circumstances. One of these is a “child” of twelve, “little Lily Gamboll, tragic child product of our overcrowded age”:
“Lily Gamboll had, it seemed, been removed from her overcrowded home. An aunt had assumed responsibility for Lily's life. Lily had wanted to go to the pictures, Aunt had said ‘No.’ Lily Gamboll had picked up the meat chopper which was lying conveniently on the table and had aimed a blow at her aunt with it. The aunt, though autocratic, was small and frail. The blow killed her. Lily was a well-developed and muscular child for her twelve years. An approved school had opened its doors and Lily had disappeared from the everyday scene.
By now she is a woman, free again to take her place in our civilization. Her conduct, during her years of confinement and probation, is said to have been exemplary. Does not this show that it is not the child, but the system, that we must blame? Brought up in ignorance, in slum conditions, little Lily was the victim of her environment.
Now, having atoned for her tragic lapse, she lives somewhere, happily, we hope, a good citizen and a good wife and mother. Poor little Lily Gamboll.”
Christie’s Belgian detective Hercule Poirot, investigating the murder case, interviews the woman journalist writer of the article, a Miss Pamela Horsefall: “Miss Horsefall was tall, manly-looking, a hard drinker and smoker, and it would seem, looking at her, highly improbable that it was her pen which had dropped such treacly sentiment in the Sunday Companion. Nevertheless it was so”. The journalist makes no bones about the fact that the article was just a piece of insincere journalism not to be taken seriously. The following is their conversation on the subject:
“"My dear man. No point in accuracy. Whole thing was a romantic farrago from beginning to end. I just mugged up the facts a bit and then let fly with a lot of hou ha."
"What I am trying to say is that even the characters of your heroines are not, perhaps, quite as represented."
Pamela let out a neighing sound like a horse.
"Course they weren't. What do you think? I've no doubt that Eva Kane was a thorough little bitch, and not an injured innocent at all. And as for the Courtland woman, why did she suffer in silence for eight years with a sadistic pervert? Because he was rolling in money, and the romantic friend hadn't any."
"And the tragic child, Lily Gamboll?"
"I wouldn't care to have her gamboling about me with a meat chopper."”
The fact is that these hard-boiled “human rights” activists wouldn’t care to have the juvenile (“child”) rapist of the “nirbhaya” case, for example, gamboling around their own sisters, daughters or nieces with a metal rod. Nor would any of these women care to prove her sincere belief in her cause by letting the “child” in question loose in an isolated spot, with metal rods lying around all over the place, and with a couple of like-minded friends for company, with her (i.e. “human rights” activist’s) own minor sister, daughter or niece, after definitely assuring him (as these activists seem determined to assure all potential juvenile “child” rapists) that his actions will be treated as the actions of a “child”; and then defending him with as much vigour as she does now. But they have no compunctions in being generous at the expense of others, in letting these “children” loose on other hapless women in less protected environments, and in assuring them, and all other potential juvenile “children” of the same psyche, that they will be so defended.
But this philosophy of “generosity at the expense of others” is not restricted to the “left”. It is as well represented in the “right” and the “centre” as well. When, for example, poor villagers are forcibly displaced and ousted from areas inhabited by them (i.e. by their ancestors) since thousands of years, and their lands handed over to multi-billionaire industrialists for a penny, it is the “rightist” capitalist classes and their captive intellectuals who loudly justify this in the name of “development”, and it is common to hear even politically neutral people mindlessly but firmly echoing this point, and philosophically declaring that all this is necessary for development and that some people must sacrifice for the development of the nation as a whole and for the good of countless other people. Needless to say, these practical advocates of “sacrifice of a few for the good of the many” would have no doubts, deep in their hearts, about themselves personally deserving to belong, in every case and circumstance, to the category of the benefiting many rather than to that of the sacrificing few, and would exhibit a sharply different attitude if the positions were reversed. No-one cares until they are personally affected, and everyone is willing to be philosophically pragmatic and broad-minded when the victims are others than themselves. So must the residents of the Campa Cola society in Mumbai have philosophized when countless villagers were being ousted, so many times in the past, from their homes in the name of development; so must the residents of countless (more than 50,000 buildings, according to a very conservative estimate) “illegal” buildings in Mumbai (who remained unmoved and inactive while the Campa Cola residents fought for their homes) have philosophized when the Campa Cola residents were being singled out for ouster recently (their fate is still hanging in the air); and so will the residents of “legal” buildings philosophize if the residents of the countless other “illegal” buildings are similarly dishoused in future. Of course, the philosophical defence will shift from the righteous “illegal” to the more fashionable “development” for the residents of impregnable “legal” buildings, if the axe falls on residents of socio-economically or politically vulnerable “legal” buildings further on in time! There is no ethics, logic or honesty in the stands taken by advocates of the “left”, “right” or “centre” in any matter, there is only personal or political convenience: the positions of Dr Swamy and the human rights activists would be diametrically opposite to their present stands, but they would still be facing each other from opposite sides, if the discussion were about Asaram “Bapu” rather than about the cherubic “child” in the “nirbhaya” case.
When Morarji Desai was asked by a journalist about being a rightist, he quipped: “I am a rightist in the sense that I believe in supporting what is right and opposing what is wrong”, or words to that effect. Regardless of how true he was to his words, let us strive to support what is right against what is wrong, in every case, rather than thinking and fighting as representatives of the “right”, “centre” or “left”.
3. A third question, closely bound with the question of rape, is: what exactly constitutes rape? This is significant and important, because the fashionable definition of “rape” today fudges and obfuscates the definition to an extent which makes this question not only relevant but crucial to the issue.
Note: the point being made here is not about the potential misuse of any potential laws on punishment for rapists. That is, the question here is not about whether any particular accusation of rape would be true or false: that is a different issue, and the honest and logical conclusion would depend on an examination of the facts and evidence in each individual case separately. Any law can be misused, and fake accusations be made. For example, dalits – that is people belonging to castes which have traditionally been dominated, oppressed, exploited and discriminated against – are indeed still being dominated, oppressed, exploited and discriminated against in many or most parts of the country. But that does not mean that every “dalit” is being so treated, that every “dalit” grievance is genuine, or that every “dalit” accusation is true: there has been widespread blatant and unjustifiable misuse of laws, designed to punish discrimination against dalits, by “dalits” who are in powerful or safe positions and who seek to make hay while the sun shines and benefit through blackmail and extortion. Both these situations are equally real. But they do not negate each other: and discussion can not be about the principle as a whole, either way, but about the facts and evidence in each individual case. Likewise, while rape is a horrible reality, every accusation of rape need not necessarily be true: it could, in individual cases, be a case of malice or blackmail. That question can not be discussed here in the abstract, even while it can not be used to derail or sabotage stringent laws against genuine rape: the guilty person in each individual case, whether the genuinely accused or the fraudulent accuser, deserves the most stringent punishment imaginable.
The point being made here is: how do you define rape?
As Subramaniam Swamy pointed out in the above debate, you can not in any way compare a rapist, juvenile/minor or otherwise, to a bicycle thief or a person stealing a pastry from a bakery. That would be a monstrously gross insult to the rape-victim, and an extreme case of injustice.
In a similar manner, you can not compare a person, child or adult, who has really been raped, whether an individual rape or a group rape, to a woman who comes up and files a complaint of rape against a person on the ground that that person has been “raping” her on various occasions, or over a length of time, by promising marriage, whether or not after divorce from an already existing wife, or promising her a job, or a role in a film or serial, or some other monetary, financial or social benefit, and is now reneging on this promise. That would be an equally monstrously gross insult to the genuine rape victim and an equally extreme case of injustice. Obviously, leaving aside for a second the more valid rights of the wife if any in such a case, the woman making the accusation could genuinely be having a case, but it would be a case of fraud or of breach of contract, not of rape. In a male-dominated world where nature, society, religion, tradition and laws everywhere have conspired to make the lives of women a hell (and women themselves, as pointed out above in the discussion on the women “human rights activists”, have not lagged behind in contributing to this position where other women are concerned), any and every injustice against any woman requires full and urgent redressal. But not by calling a case of fraud or breach of contract a case of rape. That would be the biggest injustice to all rape victims.