Friday, April 26, 2013

Can We Change the Mindset of People Who Condone Rape?

My post is limited in scope. It asks if we can change the mindset of people who condone rape.  Here, right at the outset are a couple of well thought out, well researched and informed articles on rape in reputable newspapers - Tehelka and The Hindu.

"How Do We Stop Rapes and Challenging India's Rape Culture. 

Going back to  our ability to change people's mindset, according to ehow, "To change a mindset you first need to know that your mindset needs changing. 

  • Many people don't know that they need to change their mindset. 
  • Then there are those who are in denial, which means they know, but are too scared to make the changes. 
  • Finally, there are those who know and do. 
Take the rapists. Whatever their justification they certainly don't acknowledge that their mindset needs changing. According to Ruchira Gupta in one of the articles mentioned above the rapists might feel it is gungho, macho "masculine" to rape. Where does that notion come from? Ruchira feels it is promoted by their role models in politics, business and the media. 

Who else won't acknowledge their mindset needs changing

The ones who have grown up believing males will be males and females ought to be more careful if they don't want to be raped have that mindset. They might not be rapists themselves but they hold that firm belief. We've heard such comments from our politicians and the police - the "influencers" - a term used by Angela in her post about rape in India.

People who are in denial: We can safely say the rapist's family is in denial. They don't want the perpetrator to be punished. Some male police and politicians are in denial. This category knows rape is the perpetrator's fault and the victim isn't to blame. They are either intimidated by their peers, are apathetic or lack the courage to work for change. Best to stay out of controversy and play it safe. Many of us - both male and female, fall into this category too.

As for the ones who feel it is time this mindset changed - (the rest of us), we are only just learning to make our voices heard. We've been subdued over time by the indifference, ruthlessness and corruption of individuals in our government and bureaucracy. Yet we are angered beyond belief by the brutality of the recent rapes. How exactly can we, who find rape abhorrent, change this mindset in India so that they

  • are forced to care about the safety of women in India
  • scrupulously register cases of rape without question? (I've always wondered why the police have this reluctance to register rape cases. One reason is that some of them are male chauvinists. What are the other reasons? Diktats from individuals in government with threats of transfer if they don't do as they are told? Will someone please table ALL possible reasons so we can understand their reluctance?) And
  • mete out swift justice to both, the perpetrator and the victim?

Keeping in mind what we can (not what they should) do:

 We could stop accepting and giving dowries. Isn't giving our precious daughter away enough? Or is she so worthless some of us feel compelled to offer a little(!) compensation to sweeten the rotten deal they are getting? How long are we going to keep stoking the myth that men are vastly superior to women? How long will marriage remain a deal between unequals rather than a rewarding partnership between two human beings?

The economically backward won't change that mindset because money from any source is welcome. But the well off? (My instinctive belief is that the more they demand the worse they'll treat your daughter as nothing will be enough for them. Is that the kind of miserable family you are willing to give her into?)

Legally dowries are abolished but mindsets still haven't changed. 

As G. Pandrang Rao said in a comment in Angela's post, it is ridiculous that some people in India don't rejoice at the birth of a baby girl

The poor certainly don't. How can they? All they see is financial ruin and the heavy yoke of debt for life after her marriage.

Protest marches? People's enthusiasm wanes after some time and the government knows they just have to wait it out till people's energies and resources start wearing thin before they are back in "business" - carrying on with other "important" matters. And now, the police have started slapping protestors as we found out recently. Ugh. Without speculating we've got to find out from the horse's mouth what they think their job really is.

Even if our marches aren’t that successful – after all many of us are new to public protests - an expose makes the perpetrators, the police and the government embarrassed. It hurts their image. We cannot afford to give up on protest marches. 

Office culture: We could change it if everyone decides on zero tolerance for sexual harassment, be it from the boss or the peon. It doesn't depend on the government nor does it depend on the police. It depends on us, the so-called educated and the enlightened. Having said that I hope "zero tolerance" doesn't go to the other extreme. Decent men shouldn't be afraid to be within 6 feet of women nor should their every joke be misconstrued as sexual harassment. We don't want a partition or a purdah nor do we want to kill light hearted fun - that would be a tragedy - we just want sexual harassment in offices to stop and we want decent men on our side.

Making the laws of our land work: Here's what young Bharati said in Never Mind Yaar "The common umbrella we all share is that of our humanity, guided by the laws of our city. This helps provide order, peace and justice through which we share our city's resources. This umbrella covers all of us in our diversity; all of us have to obey its dictates to be able to live and prosper together, under its shade."

"Our humanity and the laws of the country!" Unfortunately, today we have to conclude that the humanity of people in power is questionable. The safety of women on the streets isn't on their minds. The laws of our country? We have to acknowledge they haven't helped most victims of rape. They are ineffective because the "influencers" either ignore them or bend them at will. They are not afraid of the consequences of doing so. With so much power in their pocket why would they even want to change their mindset about raping or condoning rape?

And so, the moot question is,

How do we ensure people in power feel afraid of the consequences of ignoring or bending the law? 

To my mind there is an easy way. But first here's what Singapore did to spruce up their government - to make it honest and transparent. They made a concerted effort to eradicate corruption. This is a UN report compiled by a member of the Singapore "Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau" (CPIB). To give you a slight taste -  

In 1959, when Singapore attained self-government, ..... enforcement action was difficult against the corrupt because of:
a. weak laws: the offence was non-seizable and the powers provided to the officers of the CPIB were inadequate to enable them to carry out their duties effectively;
b. gathering of evidence was difficult because of the weak anti-corruption law and this had resulted in many corrupt public officers getting away with their crime;
c. the people generally were less educated and did not know their rights. They were submissive in their dealings with public officers in authority and were accustomed to unfair treatment by them;
d. public officers were not adequately paid compared with those in the private sector. Many of them became indebted through lavish lifestyle. Integrity in the public service was therefore lacking and some of the public officers resorted to
corruption to make ends meet;
e. CPIB officers then were drawn from the Singapore Police Force on short secondment. They were not fully committed to combating corruption especially when it involved their fellow police officers. Furthermore, the short secondment was disruptive as before an investigation could be completed, they were already due for posting. After independence the political leaders amended the laws to give more powers to the CPIB officers. To win public trust and confidence, the leaders took it upon themselves to set good examples for public officers to follow. They created a climate of honesty and integrity. Some of the examples set were:
a. they divested themselves from any involvement in financial or commercial ties;
b. they reported for work earlier than their subordinates


It is a nine page report and worth a read. Do you see any similarities between Singapore in 1959 and us today - 50 years later? Knowing so many members of our government and the major opposition have been accused of corruption and that they hold India to ransom, knowing they aren't interested in changing the status quo or knowing they believe they are so powerful they can cut down anything or anyone who stands in their way without any respect for life, property or the laws of our land, knowing they have either raped, condoned rape or ignored it or even allowed rape to teach a whole (minority) community a lesson, how we vote in the coming election could make all the difference.

That, to my mind, is the easiest way to change their mindset.

Let us not be afraid to vote out the looters, the corrupt, the arrogant, the indifferent; the ones who have fed off kickbacks as a result of which they've make decisions that don't necessarily benefit India or Indians; the ones who've cheated farmers out of the land they were tilling, who haven't declare their assets right at the outset and are billionaires now. Let us especially vote out the ones who've condoned rape (by their actions or inactions) and are rapists themselves. Let us not be fooled by them mouthing platitudes to win our votes. 

Let them not put fear in our minds about voting them out. It isn't the consequences of our actions that we should be afraid of. It is the consequences of theirs that they should be afraid of. 

Fear of punishment is the only thing that will make all our politicians accountable to India and Indians. It is the only thing that will force them to take swift action against rape (and corruption); to make our laws against rape effective. Nothing else will change their mindset. 




 

18 comments:

  1. Yes, fear always work.
    Fear of God. Fear of punishment. Fear of death.
    Most of the people are programmed to be in denial. Also, all those people who don't feel the need to change suddenly shift their stand when someone from their own family is assaulted.

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    1. I guess most of us are aware that mindsets need changing. But many of us are scared to take effective actions against the mindsets of some of the people in power. Their mindset won't change and they will keep bending or breaking laws to suit that mindset. Voting the right people in is one of the safest opportunities Indians have to break that mould. It is a rare opportunity and I hope it isn't wasted.

      BTW I've shared your post about the 5 yr old girl raped by her immoral, monstrous, criminal neighbour in the top lh corner of my blog. Heartbreaking.

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  2. No protest marches, no leaders, nothing... will attain it- One person with convictions will achieve far more than any system !

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    1. In this case I agree with you, TM.

      Systems do work if there is input from all sides from the start. The majority of us, the ordinary Indians, have not participated actively and are only just beginning to. We're still wary, still self conscious, still skittish about looking foolish but have had a few modest successes in making politicians and bureaucrats sit up and take notice.

      To give it a jump start we'll have to vote for the party that has set high standards for others and themselves, whose leader is knowledgeable, courageous enough to stand up to diktats from "higher ups", with a superb memory and a logical mind and who has the best interest of India at heart and not self interest to the exclusion of everything and everyone else.

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  3. Yes, You have put it correctly, what is needed is a change in the mindset of people, to condemn those who condone rape and to accomplish actions to achieve equality.
    And it happens.
    But if it needs to happen at a reasonable rate, the government has to have a vision for equality of all kinds. The Indian politicians in their mindset to take advantage of the divide among people would never do that; that is the irony!!

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    1. We do have candidates for the 2014 elections who defy that mould of a corrupt, immoral, power driven and self-interested-to-the-exclusion-of-every-principle-or-concern individual

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  4. Ha! Mindset to change is perhaps the most difficult thing!

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  5. And especially not if it means having to respect the rights of others when you are used to ignoring them. Wonder how people with such mindsets have the guts to face women or decent men in their constituencies.

    Before voting for someone this time I hope we all find out (from their history, not their high falutin' words) what their opinions are on rape.

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  6. Very practically analyzed article! I agree with you, have these issues ever been discussed/promised during election campaigns? We must have to commit out fault especially when we see such rapists are inside the parliament.

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    1. We do need to find out everything possible about the candidates in our constituencies and throw out rapists or people who condone rape. Thanks for visiting, S. Anupam.

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  7. The willingness to change has to be the precursor for reforms. Unfortunately, we see no signs of it!

    Till then it's up to us to be stronger and show zero tolerance for harassment. Keeping quiet makes it worse.

    A wonderfully well-researched write-up, Kay! Loved it.

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  8. Thanks, Purba. The fear of punishment for not changing will, hopefully, make them willing to change. You are so right about keeping quiet making it worse.

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  9. Well You had me hooked when you mentioned the 3 reasons (according to ehow)to change people's mindset. Well, its true. We need more people to be made aware, educated and then taught the necessary lesson in order to change.And we need all this, all around, not just in the cities or the villages or the towns. :)

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    1. Thanks, Fizz. Yes, we shouldn't discount educating people so they change their mindset - a good long-term plan. It is the ones who won't change their minds and continue believing rape is the victim's fault who need to be divested of their ability to influence India's reaction to rape. The Indian constitution clearly says rape is a punishable offence and is the rapist's fault.

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  10. Very thought-provoking and well written article. You hit it on the head, especially about those who are in denial. The willingness and courage to change and push the envelope needs to be there in order for things to move forward.

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    1. Why I wrote this post, DK, was because the ones who might lack the time or enthusiasm to carry out a sustained campaign have that once in five year opportunity to get rid of the rabble from politics. Hopefully they won't vote for candidates who've condoned rape in one form or another so that people are safe on our streets.

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