New Internationalist

Should we ‘Bobbitize’ the rapists?

Anti-rape protest in India [Related Image]
Protesters show their anger after a gang rape in Delhi, 2012. Ramesh Lalwani under a Creative Commons Licence

Confused, conflicted threads of thought. Irrational, often incoherent responses. Thank you, Glenn for Comment  6 on my Fighting Sexism blog. It resuscitated the blog and brought in fresh responses from Indian women who understand and empathize with my reaction, indeed, my rage, at alcohol-related domestic violence. It forced me to stop and think seriously about violence.

Glenn’s comment provoked several new responses to a blog which apparently confused many readers. And after much thought, after really intense analysis of my deepest feelings, I must confess that my gut reaction is vastly different from my self-professed philosophy of nonviolence. Let me explain.

Glenn wrote: ‘you, as presumably a good left-leaning, violence-abhorring person, advocated forming a “vigilante team to beat up drunken men who enter the village”. So, to be clear, that’s “other” men, not the man who beat his wife, but “any” other man, whose only “crime” was to get drunk. You think women should get together and violently beat men for doing nothing more than drinking? Because one man was violent when drunk, therefore others “might” be violent when drunk?’

First of all, Glenn, left-leaning does not imply violence-abhorring. History teaches us differently. But that’s another story.

Glenn’s comment came hot on the heels of a news report I read in The Times of India about a young girl, Sumitra*, who was raped by her uncle, a tantrik priest who had been called in to heal her. Most Indian readers could not believe that a teenage Bihari girl could fight back so fiercely – but in fact, the girl was raised outside India. On 1 July while in Bihar, Sumitra fell ill. Her mother, who thought that she was ill because of supernatural spells, called in the priest. Tantrik practioners are believed to have enormous skill in healing and hurting, in casting or cancelling spells – much like voodoo high priests. The man took the girl into a secluded room, away from the others, to exorcise the evil influence. He then gagged and raped her. He summoned her back the next day for a second  exorcism session.  Now here lies the twist in the tale.

The girl said nothing to anyone. But when she returned the next day, she recorded his conversation on her cell phone, then castrated him with a knife. Although local police and others tried to hush up the story, she went to a women’s police station and filed rape charges.

Now, according to my deeply held views on nonviolence, I should be horrified. Instead, I joined millions of people around the world who, after reading this story, reacted: ‘Good for you! Way to go, girl!’ We’ve had our fill of stories of rape and child abuse. Even the most rational people have begun to demand effective punishment to make our streets safer.

So there’s a wave of exultation, because one bastard, scum-bag rapist got a taste of his own medicine. For once, justice neither delayed nor denied. What’s not to cheer about? Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa. But I was jubilant, and cannot pretend otherwise.

I realized too, in my deepest core, that if I needed to, I could, with no compunction or remorse, hit, shoot, stab or do anything, however repugnantly violent, to defend women or children, or anyone defenceless, against a rapist or evil abuser.

And herein lies the difference. I cannot and will not support the perpetration of violence in any manner or form. But when women who have to face drunken, violent husbands or, in the case of Sumitra and thousands and thousands of other women who have been raped, defend themselves, then their actions cannot and must not be judged from the moral high ground of nonviolent principles. At this point of my life, I realize that, to use a cliché, life is complicated. And no amount of moral posturing or high-brow debate on the rights and wrongs of violence, is going to make life different for women like Sumitra, I understood  her feelings completely. And I empathized with her totally. So, I confess to celebrating her act of extreme violence. There I have said it!

Now I await your responses.

 *name changed

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