Sunday, 13 July 2014

Rape and its Politics : 'Linguistic Constructions' of Gender Discourses

Nirbhaya Gang rape incident has completed one year. It has been a remarkable year for the journey of gender discourses in India. In recent past, we have rarely seen such a diversified debate on various aspects and issues of sexual violence against women. Main stream media and other alternative public spheres have also enthusiastically and overwhelmingly participated in these discussions and debates and one has to admit that on several occasions, these spheres gave decisive directions to the discourse of sexual violence. With that, importance of last year also resides in the fact that different connotations of these debates have constructed and developed a certain kind of language, evaluation of which is largely ignored. This 'linguistic construction' is so important that many relevant conclusions on the politics of gender discourses can be drawn from it.

Undoubtedly, spontaneous emergence of people's movement and heavy mobilization in various parts of country including capital Delhi,  in the aftermath of 16th December rape incident has to be credited for this new era of gender discourses and debates. It was after this incident, various aspects of sexual violence against women were discussed intensely among scholars and activists. Parallel to this, many sections of main stream media were competing with each other to cover every incidence of sexual violence. However their fast and instantaneous coverage was clearly lacking required sensitivity and sincerity in its presentation, but that is not an issue of discussion here.

The real issue is- why this particular incident was seen and treated so abnormally and termed as 'most barbaric' and 'rare'? Undoubtedly, this incidence of rape was shocking, but certainly that was not first incidence of this kind. National crime bureau's record book says that fifty cases of rape are registered every day in India. So objectively saying, an incidence of rape is rather normal in India!

In fact, incidences of rape and sexual violence against women are a historical reality, not only in India but in every part of the world. But whenever such incidences are termed 'abnormal'- social, economic and political aspects and causes are ignored, discourse progresses in a very narrow sphere and is conditioned by some popular demands. In this case, aggressiveness with which reactionary demands of strict 'law and order' was raised and entire discourse was reduced in 'law and order' narrative, was a clear example of this tendency.        

However, there was as such nothing wrong in these demands, but causes of rape and other forms of sexual violence are far more complicated, accordingly, solution of these problems require deeper understanding of society and its development. In the cacophony and aggressiveness of 'law and order' demands, very often, ruling class and representative of state find suitable oppournity for the implementation of regressive laws. Is it mere coincidence that government is all set to punish adolescent victims with normal procedure of Indian penal code after exact one year of Nirbhaya incidence? 

A tendency of terming rape as a problem of specific 'region' was also reflected in different streams of discourses. Later on, as a result of this tendency, Delhi was termed as 'rape capital'. Constructions like 'rape-capital' perpetually lead to a kind of 'regionalization'. This tendency also ultimately assumes and declares some places 'more secure and safe' than others. Not to forget, this 'safe-unsafe' narrative was debated intensely in recently happened Mumbai Photojournalist rape incident. However, normally perceived and projected as 'safe and secure' by main stream media, cases of rape registered every year in Mumbai very well expose reality of this 'perceived' notion. For a matter of fact, 237 cases of rape and 8 cases of gang-rape have been registered last year in Mumbai.  Clearly, Mumbai was not an exception and was as vulnerable as other metropolitan cities, but this contradiction was blurred because of 'perceived notion' of media. With that, this regionalization also results in a certain kind of selectivity. As a result of this selectivity, particular cases are termed more dangerous than others. Not to mention, this selective approach again reflects same social-political prejudices because of which cases of marginalized section and dalit communities rarely find mention in main stream media.

In reality, Rape is the ultimate result of sexual violence that must have commenced erstwhile, This 'process' makes a consensus among various section of societies for different kind of biased codes and constructions by terming them  'light' and 'acceptable' form of entertainment.

Discourses and discussions have also tried to characterize convicts of rape incidences on the basis of the 'class' they belong from. As it was evident, after 16th December rape incidence, class character of convicts was targeted continuously by Main stream media. These attacks dangerously concluded and generalized that all rape victims were from backward and marginalized communities. Coincidently, at present, few cases are in headlines which expose the reality of above assumption. First case is of self-acclaimed spiritual guru Asaram Bapu who celebrates sound moral legitimacy in upper hindu class. A case of rape has been registered against him last week in Kamla Market police station, New Delhi. Tarun Tejpal, editor of 'Tahalka' magzine has also been alleged with charges of rape of his colleague and has been arrested by Goa police. Tejpal also enjoys a sound moral legitimacy in society. Character of Ashok.K.Ganguli, former judge of Supreme Court has also been termed 'questionable' by a panel of   apex court. More so, Tarun Tejpal and Ashok K Ganguli belong to a well educated class of society, often termed as intellectuals!! All these cases suggest that characterizing rape convicts on the basis of their 'class' is also a result of false understanding and social prejudice.
The scaffoldings of gender debates structured by the main stream media if keenly unfolded makes it conspicuous that in last one year these debates have actually invented a language that'll have an unraveling consequence in long run, not only on entire discourse but on mere question of 'existence of women'. Above evaluation also suggests that discourses fabricated around Nirbhaya Rape incidence, incidence of rape committed with 5 year old girl in Delhi, well known case of Soni Soori, and incidence of a girl stabbed in JNU by her classmate were clearly lacking a definite vision. 

Largely, discourses of main stream media are responsible for this. But again, it was for alternative public spheres to expose the reality of these discourses. Unfortunately, on many occasions, main stream media has very successfully established regressive discourses. As a result, entire discourse on sexual violence and its different forms has become sensational, but has lost meaning and right direction.

...Article translated by : 
Abhinava Srivastava

Click here for Hindi version of article/हिन्दी में मौजूद मूल पाठ देखने के लिए क्लिक करें. 

Also available on P
atrakar Praxis 

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