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Nicholas Kristof, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist authored ‘Half the Sky’, arguing that oppression of women is as he wrote’ “the paramount moral challenge” of this century. More girls were killed in the last fifty years, for merely being born a girl than men in all the battles of the 20th century. More girls were killed in one decade for the same than people in all the genocides of the 20th century.

If you simply look at where you get leverage to bring about change in the world, be it to fight poverty or to reduce social conflict, it is by educating girls and bringing them into the formal labor force. In a country like Pakistan, Malala Yousafzai was shot by the Taliban, for they knew that a girl promoting education is more of a threat to extremists than any drone or army.

630 million women live in a place where domestic violence isn’t outlawed.

A structure of poverty and lack of education teaches women in our country to “accept their fate”. Patriarchal and misogynistic cultures create an environment where oppression is the norm. Gender, however, is not the best predictor of misogyny. Misogyny can be absorbed and transmitted by women that are a product of this culture, just as much as the men. For example, the best predictor of whether one thinks wife beating should be legal is not whether one is male, but instead how educated one is.

Under 6% of rapes are reported in India, even though almost 90% of victims know their rapists

Short skirts, revealing tops, smiling at boys, talking to boys, not talking to boys, walking with a boy and walking alone, seem completely justifiable reasons for rape to a staggering number of our population. As a recent report on Haryana’s rape culture mentioned, the most common justification is “Ek haat se taali nahi bajti.” But rape culture is more than just the perverted sycophant lurking around the corner. It is the animalistic belief that rape is not a violation, but instead a show of power. A girl that doesn’t “get in line” needs to be taught a lesson that she will never forget. Rapes occur not just to satisfy the rapist’s “urges”, but also to send a message to the girl’s family. This is the result of a culture that views women as less than, such that raping a woman is equivalent in their minds to vandalizing a car.

2.6 billion women live in a place where marital rape isn’t a crime.

What India lacks the most (besides more stringent laws), is an honest education on gender attitudes. A discussion on how men view and treat women. Instead, most of our discussions on women rights start and end only with regards to the definition of the word ‘feminism’. A mere criticism of rape culture, however, does not solve the problem and far too often only emboldens the guilty. There is a growing attitude in the world, where taking contrary positions just to chide your ideological opponents brings with it, a sense of joy and ecstasy. And sadly, as the last week proved even the most horrific rapes aren’t exempt from this practice.

For ultimately, boys will be boys. How could a girl just be raped? She must have done something wrong. The poor rapists are forced to violate 8-year-old girls and 80-year-old women alike. And who are these girls to disrupt our traffic and inconvenience our day? It’s an isolated incident and let’s all just move on. Move on and wait for the next case to take center-stage, and then in a loud and clear voice repeat, “She must have done something to deserve it.”

Written by- Ashutosh Sinha

Artwork by- Anjori Gupta

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