Journalist Tara Kaushal Is Out To Find Out ‘Why Indian Men Rape’
As a woman…no, as an Indian woman, what is your biggest fear? I’ll tell you mine. Stepping out of the house and getting attacked — sexually, physically, with acid…you name it. And I know that this is a legit fear many, many women around me feel.
In 2012, a young girl had gone out for a film with a friend in Delhi. What happened to her after that is common knowledge. Jyoti Singh Pandey, or Nirbhaya, as she is fondly called, was raped and brutalised on a moving bus by 4 depraved men. She fought them with all her might, fought for her life, but succumbed 10 days later.
This particular incident awakened the consciousness of an entire nation. Does this mean rapes and sexual violence did not occur before 2012? Far from it. But this case became a turning point for India, a point when people actually started acknowledging and talking about the reality of sexual violence against women in our country.
Continuing this conversation is journalist and activist Tara Kaushal, with her project on gender violence called Why Indian Men Rape. After completing her education specialising in feminism and gender studies, Tara spent much of her career talking about women’s rights — either from a journalistic perspective or by way of a first-person narrative.
“In 2013, I realised that I really wanted to discuss what led men to rape and inflict violence on women in the Indian sphere. So I started working on this project, Why Indian Men Rape, last year, which is a multimedia gender journalism and activism project, and will basically consist of 2 books and a documentary film, for which we have started a crowdfunding campaign,” says Tara.
The first book of this project will be out in September 2018 and the other one, along with the film, will be out in March 2019. These will be the result of an anthropological study that Tara intends to start this month, which will study the socio-cultural and etymological reasons behind why men rape.
“The only way to find a solution to a problem of this scale is first by accepting that it exists, and then by understanding it and finding the root cause for it. Which is what I’m trying to do with this project. And the only way to do qualitative research like this is with considerable funds, which is why I’m working on the Ketto campaign,” explains Tara.
For Why Indian Men Rape, Tara is putting together a team of advisors, anthropologists, and research resources, to deep dive into the issue and find the answers she’s looking for.
“You cannot just tell a man who has raped that what he has done is wrong and that he must change, especially if, all his life it has not been part of his cultural ethos. In some ways, I’m looking for prevention rather than cure. I want to know what it is within the family unit that causes this gender imbalance and toxic masculinity. What I’m hoping to gain from this project is a change in mindset, however small that may be,” says Tara.
But given how low the level of education is in our country, how effective will such a literature-heavy project be, I ask.
“I do realise that right now, this project is top down and will only reach an educated population, but I hope to be able to continue this project post 2019, subject to funds, to be able to hold workshops and educate people from the bottom up, and thereby start a revolution of change.”
Speaking on how this movement started, with the Nirbhaya case in 2012, Tara recognises both the advantages as well as the pitfalls of it.
“Even though Jyoti Singh Pandey’s case brought rape into the public domain as a real issue, it created a binary — people fighting for Indian culture and those fighting for women’s rights, which shouldn’t be mutually exclusive.
“The other binary it created was safety at home, as opposed to that on the streets, which is again untrue, because a number of rapes that happen in India, and even worldwide, are by family members and people known to the victims. Finally, this case made rape hugely dramatic, and the subtlety of sexual violence within the home and on the streets was lost.”
In a society and system that fails women on a regular basis, one in which even newborn babies are not spared from sexual violence, how optimistic is Tara about the success of her project?
“The idea is that once you humanise the female form, a change is bound to occur. Also, if the books and film from this project is consumed within a family unit, perhaps the children will be raised in a more sex positive environment and maybe, just maybe, generations down, boys will be more feminist than they otherwise would have been.
“This problem is quite pervasive, if you look at it. Even the language we use subtly promotes rape culture. Why does the phrase “I got fucked” translate into getting into trouble? We need to use language that is more sex positive, as well. There is so much space for feminist activism that every drop in the ocean counts.”
India, me included, recently celebrated the fact that Jyoti’s perpetrators received the death sentence for their crimes. The way I see it, the degree of brutality meted out in that crime was horrific, and even capital punishment is not enough. Tara, however, begs to differ.
“Capital punishment for rapists is something I’m intellectually against. As a country, we’re becoming used to dramatic instant gratification in such cases, and even though it was retribution of sorts for the masses, in the case of Jyoti Singh Pandey’s perpetrators, it’s not a long-term solution.
“What will happen now is that men who rape women will start murdering them as well — firstly, to silence them, and secondly because they will get the death penalty for either crimes, so they’d rather take their chances.
“Studies have shown that it’s not the extent of the punishment, but rather the guarantee and swiftness of it that deters criminal activity. Yes, since that case, the law has become swifter, with fast track courts taking on issues of gender violence, but there’s still a long way to go. Also how do you decide whose rapist gets the death sentence, what are the parameters? So no, I’m not convinced of capital punishment for sexual crimes.”
Hauterfly applauds and wholeheartedly supports Tara’s project and efforts to understand and thereby find a solution to a massive ongoing problem in our country. I may not be as hopeful as she is, but I stand by her project, Why Indian Men Rape, 100 percent.
Please support and donate to Tara’s Ketto campaign and help her make a change — however big or small that may be.