Rape 101: Conversations on Rape with Teenage Daughter

Rape is in the air! Sad but true! The only good thing about Rape being in the air is that everyone is talking about it. Unlike multiple generations till now, it is not being silently brushed under the carpet or hidden inside dirty laundry never to be seen or cleaned again.

My daughter and I had our first conversation about rape, 4 years ago when the documentary on Nirbhaya was released. These days there are many more – Kathua, Unnao, Surat, Indore. The list seems endless. Each act more horrifying than the other. Each day, as my daughter reads about one more case, her faith in humanity diminishes a little. She questions these acts and asks Why? Why do girls get raped? Why are rapes increasing? Why do men behave like monsters? Is India unsafe now? Is a girl entitled to kill a man who is trying to rape her?

No matter how hard it is to think, much rather talk about these crimes; as a mother, I have a responsibility to share my point of view with my daughter. This is what I have to say.

Dear daughter, first of all, it is not only girls who get raped. Rapes happen to both men and women. Maybe the ratio of girls getting raped his higher, hence it is being talked about more. But believe me, girls are not the only victim. We together, girls, boys and transgenders are all getting victimized.

As far as I see, rapes are not increasing. The reporting of rapes in the news and discussion about rapes in social media is increasing, which gives us the impression that rapes are increasing. In fact, I think that  such crimes should be slowly coming down because so many parents are aware and educating their children about sexual assault. The only answer to addressing sexual assault is to talk about it and be ready for it rather than ignore it and believe that it will never happen to one of us.

Men who rape are not necessarily monsters. The way I see it, they are suffering from a disease. A disease which makes them lose control over themselves.  This condition is created due to multiple reasons –

  1. We live in a patriarchal society where men are made to think that they are superior to women. This makes men feel that they are right in using any girl/women to their advantage.
  2. Because of the affinity towards male children, generations have systematically killed female child. This has skewed the natural gender balance of nature, leaving more men than women. In some states of India, the proportion of boys to girls is significantly bad. When boys don’t find a partner to mate naturally, they tend to resort to crimes like this.
  3. There is so much objectification of women through magazines, movies, even music and other art forms. Such depictions of women often create the perception that the sole purpose of a girls life is to satisfy the physical needs of a man.

These reasons don’t justify rape, but should help you understand how this disease is caused and how it spreads. Men who rape are sick in their mind and need serious medical help. Unfortunately, no medical system recognizes this disease and hence no cure is being sought, as yet.

If you consider global statistics on rape India is at 94th place out of 119 countries. This statistic for rape is calculated as the proportion of rapes to the overall population of India. Even though the number of cases of rape are high in India, when you compare it to the overall population of India, it is still significantly less than most countries in the world. Even the so called developed countries like USA , UK and other European countries are ahead of us in the proportion of rapes. Sexual assault is a global problem and not really centric to a country, state, religion or gender. Those who try to pin it to a country or political party just don’t see the problem for what it is.

There is lot of fake news floating around about laws on rape. One of them relates to giving the right to kill to a girl is she is under threat of sexual assault. Such a law can never be passed because, no one can be allowed to take justice in their own hands. If such a law was passed, any woman could easily kill a man on the pretext that he was trying to rape her. It is for the law to establish guilt and pronounce the punishment. Even though it takes time, it is the only right way to do it.

In order to prevent rapes, we need to look at the problem for what it is. Creating tougher laws is a retrospective way of solving the problem. If we have to eradicate the problem from its root, we have to solve it at the lowest level in the society. We have to give equal respect to both genders at home. We have to create equal opportunities basis strengths and interests and not gender.  We have to stop depicting men and women as sex objects.

There is no quick fix to this problem because it is a mindset change for billions of people. But I do believe that this problem is on its way to being solved because there are many more people like you and me who are talking about it and agreeing that change is needed, not only in the laws of our country but more importantly in the law that governs each household.

With this, I kiss my daughter on the forehead and hold her hand. We sit silently together for a long time.

Sexual assault is a reality. Let the next generation be ready to deal with it. More importantly, let them be the drivers of the change that is needed in the mindset of the people.

P.S – Views expressed above are solely my views. If you disagree please share your point of view. If you agree, please share this Rape 101 with other parents. Lets talk about Rape with facts, not with emotions.

Staying Happy in the Big Bad World

For a long time now,  I have been debating in my mind whether I am pessimist or an optimist. I read only positive books. Given a choice, I only watch movies about love and joy (For my husbands record, I hate action movies). My blogs are, on the most part, positive and focus on the little things in life. Given all this, one could easily say that I am an Optimist.

But yet, when it comes to real life, I keep missing heart beats on the slightest of things. When children arrive two minutes late, I have already visualized a bus accident. When I do not receive a message/call from my husband for 3 straight hours, I  start to fear that he has been kidnapped (yeah! tell me about it). When I lock the home alone, I dread gas leakage or electrical short circuit. The list goes on. I know, people like me have little peace of mind. The way I see it, worrying does make me more planned and careful but it is definitely not easy and it definitely does not leave me happy. And I guess, it does make me a pessimist.

On top of being a pessimist, I am a strong believer in the little book called “The Secret”. This book is all about believing and visualizing in what you want in life. The stronger your belief, the stronger the urge of the universe to deliver it to you. Quoting Sharukh Khan, “Agar kisi cheez ko dil se chaaho to puri kayanat usey tumse milane ki koshish mein lag jaati hai.”

Come to think of it, if most part of the day I am worrying about short circuits and bus accidents, then what choice am I giving the universe?

Believe me, I have consciously tried to change the wiring of my mind. I counter each negative thought with two positive thoughts, every single time. I spend time in prayer and meditation. And of course I continue to write. Writing has been my biggest healing power.  But then, we do live in Kalyug where materialism, lust and power has taken over the good in people. We are not humans first, but Man/Woman, Hindu/Muslim, American/India, BJP/Congress and so on. No matter how hard I try, I cannot have my family be all the above. One day or the other, I fear we will fall on the other side of the line and I cannot help but worry for that day. I fear because I have a daughter. I fear because I have a son too.

If I fail to change the wiring of my brain and have little power in changing the laws of the Universe, how do I keep my family safe?

I found my answer today after a long fun filled holiday with my children. The day was a blur of activity. But no one activity stands out specifically in my mind. When I look back on the day, I remember the evening when we were laughing till our tummies hurt. I don’t even remember what the joke was. As I tucked the kids in bed, I silently thanked God for such a day. I prayed that we have many more days like this in our lives. As soon as I felt blessed and peaceful, my pessimist self showed up again. She started with, “But Shilpa, do you know what happened in Surat today???……”.  Perhaps for the first time in my life, I managed to silence her and said, “I know America bombed Syria. I know about Kathua, Unnao and Surat. I know about Infosys share price crash. I know death is waiting round the corner. But till it decides to knock my door, I choose to live like I lived today. I choose to laugh and be happy. While I will continue to double check gas knobs and electric switches, I choose to dream about a golden future for me and my family. I choose to see death when I am 80 years old. I choose to  see my children grow and prosper in front of my eyes. I choose to be an Optimist.”

After months of trying to rewire my brain, I finally accept both the pessimist and the optimist inside me. I acknowledge both of them and I admit I cannot get rid of either one of them. I accept that death and misfortune will meet us from time to time. But till such  time, I choose to make each day count positively for me and my family. For me, the biggest reason for making the most of today is the knowledge that there may not be a tomorrow.

If you are like me,  having more faith in the Big Bad World than in your own prayer, take my advice. Live each day like its the last. Use your worry and your pessimism to make sure you have even more fun in your life each day.

P.S – If you know more people like me who have taken the job for worrying for the rest of humanity, remember to use your optimism and share this post with them. Maybe together, we can rewire the laws of the universe.

What is Poor

We are riding on a scooter. Yog suddenly asks,”Why that girl has a tent?”. I immediately decide that this conversation is soon going to transform into, “Why don’t we have a tent in our house?” So I tried to act ignorant. “I didn’t see any tent. Which tent are you talking about?” This was true. I wondered how Yog managed to see a tent inside someone’s house while we were on the scooter.

But Yog insisted. “That tent on the road! You didn’t see?” (Implying- How can you drive without seeing??) It struck me then. There indeed was a make shift tent on the road. A lady lived there.

I felt guilty for doubting Yogs intention. This time I tried to explain in detail.

Me: Some people stay in tents because they are poor.

Yog: What is poor?

Me: Poor means when someone doesn’t have any money

Yog: They don’t even have cards? (Like credit cards)

Me (choking my laughter) : No, they don’t have cards also

Yog: Then how do they buy food to eat?

Me: They buy little food which is not expensive

Yog: Then we should give them food?

Me: Yes! We should

Yog: We should also give them money

Me ( in a dilemma) : no we shouldn’t give money. We should help them so that they can earn their money.

Yog: How do you have so many cards?

Me (explaining how banks work)

The conversation struck a chord and I wanted to record it to remind myself how quickly we adults jump to conclusions. I has mistakenly interpreted Yogs simple inquisition based on humanity as a selfish demand and tried to avoid it.

Moral of the Story – if only we hear what children have to say without interpretation, we will probably see the beauty in the world as they see it.