Bollywood superstar Salman Khan makes casual remark about rape, while a Rajasthan official clicks selfies with rape survivor. This is gut-wrenching
Rahul Dass | July 1, 2016
It is outrageous that rape and rape survivors are being taken so lightly. It is as if rape has been turned into some kind of a flippant drawing room conversation and we have stooped so low as to dehumanise women whose lives have been ravaged.
This is how beefy actor Salman Khan described his experience in filming wrestling scenes in his next film ‘Sultan’: "When I used to walk out of the ring, after the shoot, I used to feel like a raped woman. I couldn't walk straight."
Salman, who has a legion of fans and whose movies are blockbusters, could not have chosen an analogy worse than this. Does he even know how a raped woman feels?
Let me cite an example. This happened over two decades back. For a crime story, I had gone to meet a rape survivor at a government hospital in Delhi. The young woman, in her late teens, was curled up on the bed, with her eyes shut. Her mother, whose eyes were puffed from weeping continuously, was sitting next to her and gently caressing her forehead.
The young woman opened her eyes when she saw me and then recalled the horror. Before that I had read about rape victims, but never met one. This was my first interaction and I was left aghast. The rape survivor said in a matter-of-fact tone: “Main marr jana chahati hoon (I just want to die).”
She said that she had been brutalised by a young man and the savagery had not stopped despite her repeated pleadings. The rape had left her lacerated from within. Her body and her soul had been violated. The rapist had been caught and was later punished, but the damage had been done – permanently.
Salman’s insensitive rape remark was followed days later by another incident that just shows how we treat rape victims. A member of the rajasthan state commission for women clicked a ‘selfie’ with a rape survivor, triggering outrage. What was Somya Gurjar thinking? She is supposed to be in a position of authority and should have been more sensitive. But she wasn’t.
Gurjar put in her papers, and she reportedly said: “I have not done anything wrong but tendered my resignation on moral grounds if my action has hurt anybody’s feelings.” Really! She thinks she has not done anything wrong. She has the temerity to take such a serious issue lightly and expects to get away with it.
Gurjar’s and Salman’s remarks are an indicator of a deeper malaise of people in positions of power having a casual attitude towards rape and rape survivors.
In 2014, Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav said at a rally in Moradabad, “Rape accused should not be hanged. Men make mistakes.” This man is a former chief minister of Uttar Pradesh and wields considerable influence. His party rules the sprawling state and he has the audacity to say that “men make mistakes”.
He doesn’t realise that real men will never violate a woman. Real men will always be respectful and will treat women with dignity. That is in their upbringing. This is what sets real men apart from low-lifers who are lecherous and who turn into sexual predators.
Mulayam Singh is not the only politician who dashes all hopes of rape survivors being treated with sensitivity.
Madhya Pradesh home minister Babulal Gaur said in 2014: "This is a social crime which depends on men and women. Sometimes it's right, sometimes it's wrong." This politician is responsible for law and order in the state and he thinks “sometimes it’s right…”. Politicians like him decide policies and there is precious little one can hope from them.
Now do you realise Salman that rape is not being human?
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This piece is based on a previous article by the authors published in Geoforum [Elsevier] in May 2019: available online: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/ S0016718519300764?via%3Dihub
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