Horrifying Uri rape, murder
September 6, 2018
Sexual violence is not only about women safety, also about the deep-rooted prejudice and consequential practiced inequalities
The killing of a minor girl in Boniyar Uri and the chilling account of the investigators shedding light on the nature of the crime and the reasons it was committed for once again reveals not just the lack of safety for women and minor girls but also the rampant culture of using bodies of women as weapons of vengeance. The Uri incident is also an ugly manifestation of how some women become complicit in such crimes, even become the main plotters of such crimes. Such incidents shame the entire humanity and need to be not only condemned vociferously but there is need to explore ways in which such rampant crimes can be prevented. If the police version of the story has to be relied on, the fact that the nine year old girl was killed by her step-mother, due to family jealousies, after the latter plotted that she be raped before that by her minor step-brother, his friends and other accomplices is a sign of the depraved mind-set that is prevalent in the society. To mistake it for a new development in keeping with the increasing criminalization of society would be a flawed assessment. The objectification of bodies of young girls is an ages old practice across the world, more so in South Asia where it has been closeted for a long time cloaked as it is under layers and covers of the misplaced discourse of ‘honour’ and ‘pride’ associated with the purity of bodies. The problem is not the criminal bent of mind but the deep-rooted patriarchal mindset that reduces women to mere bodies on whom anybody can forcibly mark their ownership in various ways and for various ends. The skewed sex ratio and the enormously high number of female infanticide and foeticide is one indication how the female bodies are treated not just without respect but without scant regard of their existence as humans. For centuries the practice of sacrificing girls as part of cult practices and of exchanging them as properties to settle family and tribe feuds has been known. Female bodies are used by men out of pure lust as if they are their rightful owners. More shockingly, they are also used as sites of pure vendetta, whether it is about settling personal scores, family disputes or racial and communal hatred. The same mindset is at play and continues till this day, despite constitutional provisions of equality.
The Uri incident in many ways reveals the ugly nature of similar sexual abuse stemming from sexual bias. It is just one of the probably millions of unreported cases that reveals the ugly spectacle of incest that exists in every liberal and conservative society, more so the latter. It is less likely for cases of incest to be reported as they are not just associated with the honour of ‘pure women bodies’ but also with the family honour. It is also an eye-opening because it reveals that patriarchal mindset, endorsed both by men and women, attaches a sense of pride in people and communities by way of what is deemed as ‘defiling’ the bodies of their adversaries. The Uri incident also unfolds that women can be part of perpetuating these ugly mindsets and trends. The other horrifying reality it exposes is that a woman is asking or allowing her minor son to rape his step-sister. The similar chilling reality came to light in the recent Rassana case, which had communal overtones and thus made it easy to create binaries of us and them through denial of majority Hindus who discredited the police investigations asking ‘how can a father ask his son and nephew to rape a girl’. During partition, women and girls raped as a matter of ‘community pride’ and vengeance by those who did it. Many cases are well documented. It is time that the luxury of such denials is discarded lock, stock and barrel. Sexual abuse is linked to both lust and criminality but the basic reason that prompts lust and criminality to be exercised in tandem is the patriarchal mindset of treating women as inferior and objects, their bodies as sacred sites that must be violated or protected as per the patriarchal needs and desires of individuals. While law and order machinery needs to be refined to ensure fair probes, fair trials and speedy justice in each and every reported case, the larger fight is to alter the very gender prejudices that lie at the root of the issue. That is not an easy task but one that must be embarked on a war footing, first of all through recognition and adequate understanding of sexual violence.