Following up on a set of observations by my colleagues and friends on twitter, here are a few thoughts on rape in India:
Marriage in India largely happens between families rather than individuals. The social compatibility of families often matters a lot more than that of the bride and groom. Caste is the principal determinant of that, but it goes beyond that to class, social connections, wealth and more. The bride ends up marrying the groom’s household, for all practical purposes.
As Karthik Shashidhar observes, people often think of rape in India as a problem that results in a ‘loss of marriageability’, rather than what it really is: the assault of an individual. This also explains the rather mind-warping suggestions heard again and again: let the rape victim marry the rapist, and all will be okay.
The loss of marriageability is of the family, but the physical and mental trauma is that of the woman alone. It should be of little surprise to anyone that the latter goes unaddressed most of the time. Worse, the woman ends up getting blamed for getting into a position where the family honour gets lost.
Reporting cases of rape, seeking help and receiving support is difficult even in far more liberal societies. But as long as marriage remains the primary aim and raison d’être of a woman in society, rape will be an extremely difficult problem to address.
The Indian extended family can act as either a champion of individual liberties or an anchor that drags it down.
PS. Do read my colleague Priya Ravichandran on ‘Let’s talk about rape.’