In her bid to decoding the Indian male psyche and examining sexual violence in India, Tara Kaushal, a media consultant in her early 30s, will engage audiences across the country over the next two years Kaushal’s anthropological research project christened as ‘Why Indian Men Rape’.
While Twitter trolls have already taken offense at the title, labeling her as anti-nationalist, Kaushal stands unfazed! Two books, one in 2018 and another in 2019, and a documentary are part of this project, which you can check out on Facebook, and, if you wish to fund, on Ketto.org.
Speaking about the so-called ‘provocative’ title, as trolled on social media platforms, Kaushal said, “I could have called it, ‘Why men rape’ and that truly is the subject of my study, but that way, I would end up with platitudes. The way you respond to things is culturally and is form of a learned behavior. You have to understand the Indian environment to understand what’s leading Indian men to behave in a certain way. There is a cultural slant to sexual violence.”
With that being said, she added: “I have never once proposed that it is only Indian men who rape, or that all Indian men rape, or it’s only men who rape.”
Talking about the research, Kaushal told TrickyScribe that Why Indian Men Rape is close to my heart (and, dare I say, important), and I’ve been working on it since 2013, but most actively since last year.
In India, the privileging of the man begins very early. The male child being fed first, or being told that he is a protector of his sister, challenge the notion of equality from early on. It becomes easy to dehumanize women because you don’t think they are equal, and then it becomes easy to rape. We need to humanize the female form again.
Countries in the Indian subcontinent do have a few similarities when it comes to this, but that would be painting with too broad a brush. Nepal and Sri Lanka are very different culturally.
WHAT IS WHY INDIAN MEN RAPE?
Why Indian Men Rape is a multimedia gender journalism and activism project that spans two books, a documentary and an active online presence, over several years. With it, the research team along with Kaushal will explore the gamut of unique ethnological reasons—social, cultural, traditional, legal, economic, geographic, religious, psychological, etc.—that cause sexual violence in the subcontinent.
Sexual violence, or the threat of it, is the basis of patriarchy. It defines and determines gender roles, relations and dynamics. It’s what keeps women, their sexuality and their agency in check. Fear and patriarchal morals of ‘honour’ and ‘shame’ force well-intentioned parents to impose curfews and hemlines; and women spend an inordinate amount of time preoccupied with safety—within and outside their homes.
It’s time to take onus away from the women and place it squarely where it belongs, with the perpetrators and causes of gender violence. And to solve a problem—of toxic masculinity and sexual violence, in this case—it is important to understand it first.
WHY INDIAN MEN?
Not for a moment, it’s been suggested that all Indian men rape, or that only Indian men rape, or that Indian men rape more or less than others, or even that only men rape.
Some Indian men, however, are, undoubtedly, perpetrators of sexual violence of varying degrees and contributors to the rape pandemic in the country. It is the motives of these men, and the ethnographic paradigms that allow them to thrive, that we are seeking to uncover.
There are many Indias: the term ‘Indian’ as a collective identity more than a specifically national one while being cognisant of its non-monolithic and non-homogenous character. If one agrees that societal paradigms are different across the world and that emotions and actions are culturally situated, it stands to reason, then, that ‘rape culture’, as it applies to India, is different from the way it applies elsewhere in the world.
While referencing global knowledge of masculinity and rape, it is important to narrow the field and contextualize the subject to investigate it deeply in a nuanced and relevant way.
Sample these ‘reasons’ and ‘solutions’:
“Boys are boys, they make mistakes.”— Mulayam Singh Yadav, SP Patriarch.
“The victim is as guilty as her rapists. She should have called the culprits brothers and begged before them to stop.”—Asaram Bapu, ‘spiritual’ leader and alleged rapist.
“Chowmein leads to hormonal imbalance evoking an urge to indulge in such acts.”
—Jitender Chhatar, a local leader from the infamous ‘khap panchayats’.
We seek a critical analysis of the reasons as they apply to the Indian subcontinent—beyond the painfully absurd, like “chowmein”; beyond the blame of the woman and her clothes; and also beyond the staple “because they can”, “for sex” or “because, power”.
Studying hundreds of textual sources like books, articles, studies, theories and historical records apart, several quantitative and qualitative research methodologies will be adopted to understand and analyze Indian gender norms.
“We will conduct carefully designed surveys, studies, and interviews of a weighted percentage of people across the country. We also have a long list of experts, survivors and perpetrators to interview, and case studies to peruse…. All this, before the phases of evaluation, synthesis and critical reflection, and even putting pen to paper,” said Kaushal.
This extensive research will contribute deep insights to the discourse on the sexual violence and rape in India—brought to the forefront since the infamous ‘Nirbhaya’ gang rape of 2012—as a step towards providing solutions to the problem.