An interesting story in TOI is the subject of this post. On page 8 in TOI (Mumbai) are statistics of digital readership of the most popular stories of the year. These have been clubbed into different categories like entertainment, sports, business, India, world, technology, city and interestingly “specific to Delhi”. Several observations emerge:
Generally speaking, morbid stories attract the most readership in most categories. In the India category, the highest readership (9.6 lacs) was for a story “Massive earthquake strikes Indonesia”. The same story in the World category. In Entertainment, the highest story got 7.2 lac reads and was on “Rajesh Khanna passes away”. In “City”, the highest was 4.0 lacs for “Mumbai Police bust rave party”. And in “Specific to Delhi”, it was 2.5 lacs for “Husband mentally impotent, Virgin wife seeks annulment”. So gore and grime and tragedy sells. That’s why our media loves these subjects. Speaks volumes about our society, but more on that later.
The “Specific to Delhi” section is truly revealing; and shocking. A full 16 out of 18 topics that generated more than 1 lac reads relate to sex/murder. The titles of the stories show what kind of perverted mentality the city has got. The number 1 story was the one outlined in the previous para “Husband mentally….”. The others are “Bride dumps husband, flees with paramour”, “Aarushi Talwar murder case: necks slit just before death”, “Porn MMS goes viral in JNU, 3 suspended”, “Woman gang raped in South Delhi”, “Girl abducted, gang raped in moving car”, “Tutor rapes minor, makes MMS to blackmail her”, “Hemraj-Aarushi intimacy proved fatal: CBI”, “Woman gets a gift, husband kills her for two-timing”, “Sex ring busted: Former BPO executive was kingpin” and “Call centre staffer gang-raped, 2 held”. Do you see a pattern here. All of these stories relate to sexual crimes. Most stories are fancily titled, to stoke the sexual fantasies of readers and arouse the desired response (a read).
One of the good things about the digital world is that it measures response instantaneously. As soon as a story is put up, reactions in the form of “likes”, “scores”, “comments”, “shares”, “votes” etc come up and are visible for the whole world to see. We finally get to see what actually excites our people. In the old fashioned world of TV and newspapers, we never get any granular data. Digital data is thus precious and its analysis very important. It provides us with clues about society. Clues that can help us stop crimes.
Now to the subject of this post. Let’s be honest here. India is a very illiberal country when it comes to sex. Our culture actively suppresses sexual expressions in all forms. It starts early in life. In school, boys and girls are separated from each other. Even in co-ed schools, boys and girls are made to sit on separate benches. Brotherhoods and sisterhoods are encouraged over mixed groupings. What do you expect a bunch of boys to talk about in the absence of girls? Politics, technology, movies…..or sex???. There is no talk of sex right through schools, with most schools even giving basic sex education the go-by. When these kids enter college, and where mixing happens for the first time, they are underprepared. That’s also the time when their sexuality is starting to develop. Parents think they have trained their kids; but they haven’t in this vital subject.
Sex is a taboo word in India. We falsely believe that the Kamasutra and Khajuraho temples are proof that India is liberal. It’s not. Dating is actively discouraged. Holding hands is going way too far. Kissing on screens may be ok now, but in real life? Impossible. If young lads and lasses don’t interact with each other, what, except for fantasies, will they live by??? Sometimes these fantasies cross over into the world of sleaze and crime….and the results are there to see.
In the absence of any direct interactions with girls, boys find other ways of fulfilling their curiosity. They turn to the net, where porn is the hottest selling subject. Anyone who has seen porn on the net knows that it’s a fake, make-believe world where every woman is “available” and every man is the ultimate stud. For a young man who has not learnt to even say Hi to a girl, this is too much. He starts to fantasize about women; and dreams of having his time with the women. In short, the release only happens in an unnatural way. Lack of interactions also makes these men think weird things about the women. They think of women more as mere “bodies”, rather than as living, breathing and thinking humans. The women in the meanwhile know no better. They are taught to resist the overtures of men, be coy, cover themselves up, and when assaulted, keep mute, lest society thinks it was they who behaved inappropriately. Our society has created artificial barriers between men an women when none were designed by god to exist.
Has anyone noticed how men who regularly interact with women have a much more civilized attitude towards them? The crowds at Jantar Mantar and India Gate are mixed crowds. And by and large, their conduct with each other has been exemplary. In contrast, during the Anna struggle, the crowds were mostly males, and there were stories of the red light areas around Ram Lila grounds doing brisk business during the days of the protests. It’s obvious really why this happens.
The best news of the day is about gurudwaras in Delhi and Punjab discussing the Delhi rape during daily religious discourses, praising followers for taking up the issue of “our daughters” and demanding tough punishment for the rapists. This is a good beginning, for faith has the power to correct erring individuals. I would truly appreciate if religious leaders also asked (or rather, allowed) society to ease up a bit on our male-female relationships. Its natural for boys to seek out girls; let religion or culture not stop that please.
The reason crime against women is the max in the North is because society is the most conservative there. In Gujarat and Maharashtra, social functions like Navratri (garbas) and Ganapati actively create occasions for boys and girls to meet and dance together. In Mumbai and Pune, college kids hang out with each other with far lesser restrictions (the biggest stories are of rave parties and the like; not rapes). In many parts of the East, society is actually matriarchal, with women dominating men. In god-fearing South, religion forces men to be generally more decent towards women. Its only in the North that sexual machoism takes a firm grip. The cult of the MCP is headquartered in the North. As I write this post, a story is emerging of a BJP MLA in Rajasthan, Banwari Lal Singhal demanding that skirts be banned in schools. A couple of rapes have taken place in Delhi and Amritsar. The North is truly no place for women to be.
The real truth is that rape is a crime of opportunity. It can never be totally stopped. But it is also a crime accentuated by antiquated and illiberal social restraints; and pent-up frustration. By easing up on social norms, we can reduce the occurance of rape. And crimes against women. Its definitely worth a try.