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'Rape is about male power which society confers'

Last updated on: April 25, 2013 17:09 IST

Presenting the edited chat transcript with Kavita Krishnan, secretary, All India Progressive Women's Association, who appeared on the Rediff Chat to discuss the rising incidence of rapes in the country

Rediff.com invited Kavita Krishnan, Secretary, All India Progressive Women's Association, to appear on the Rediff Chat on April 24, 2013, to discuss how to tackle the rising incidence of rapes across the country.

Ms Krishnan was invited to appear on the Rediff Chat as we believe her progressive and practical views on the subject need wider amplification in order to reach a national and international audience.

By all yardsticks, the Rediff Chat went off well, with Ms Krishnan offering refreshing viewpoints on widely held apprehensions. Here are a few:

To a question if banning pornography will make it any safer for women, Ms Krishnan said on the Rediff Chat: 'Banning porn is no solution. Because rape is not caused by porn! It is caused by patriarchy, and we cant ban patriarchy! WOmen also read/watch porn, for eg Fifty Shades of Grey, but they do not go around raping, do they? Blaming porn is one step away from blaming women for 'provoking' or 'inciting' rapists by wearing skimpy clothes. And that is something unacceptable.';

On a suggestion to have chemical castration, Ms Krishnan said: 'Many serial rapists in history including Jack the Riper are said to have been impotent. Castration for rape does not make any sense because it reinforces the wrong idea that rape is about sex, about having makle sexual organs. It is not. It's about male power which society confers.'

To a question if anti-rape laws may be misused, Ms Krishnan said: 'All laws are 'misused' are they not? Are there not cases of people being wrongly accused of murder or theft? Does that mean we dont have laws for murder and theft?! Why a different standard for rape then? Moreover, the IPC already has provisions - Section 211 and 182 - to seek punishment for someone who has filed a false complaint against anyone.'

Unfortunately, a chatter from Denmark brought down the level of discussion -- and there were hundreds of serious questions -- by making a few offensive posts, for which we apologise to Ms Krishnan.

We are posting the transcript of the chat with Ms Krishnan. As is our editorial practice, this transcript has been edited to remove all offensive posts and unanswered questions.


Kavita Krishnan says, Hi I'm Kavita Krishnan, I'm here to answer your questions about the ongoing movement against rape...


sou asked, hi why do u feel rape is occuring?

Kavita Krishnan answers, Rape, and other forms of sexual violence, happen because of patriarchal society. Our society is patriarchal, and that's why women face violence, including rape. Rape is a way of reminding women of their subordinate status, and warning them to 'stay within limits' by instilling fear in them.


sou asked, hi why do u feel rape is occuring?
Kavita Krishnan answers, Rape is a kind of 'terror campaign' against women, I feel. We are wrong to think that rape happens because of sexual desire. Women too feel desire equally to men, but they do not rape, do they? Not all men who feel desire, rape. Rape is an act of power, not of desire.


princess asked, Hello madam, more than changing laws, I am keen to know how society's mindset can be changed. What are your thoughts please?
Kavita Krishnan answers, Changing laws is also important - especially when the laws reflect society's patriarchal mindset! For eg, our rape laws continue to refer to sexual violence as 'outraging modesty' - thereby implying that only 'modest' women face sexual violence. We need to change these. Changing social mindset is something the women's movement does all the time - come join the women's movement and be part of the change!


mamu asked, will banning pornography make it any safer for women?
Kavita Krishnan answers, Banning porn is no solution. Because rape is not caused by porn! It is caused by patriarchy, and we cant ban patriarchy! WOmen also read/watch porn, for eg Fifty Shades of Grey, but they do not go around raping, do they? Blaming porn is one step away from blaming women for 'provoking' or 'inciting' rapists by wearing skimpy clothes. And that is something unacceptable.


sou asked, what should be done to intimidate those brutes?
Kavita Krishnan answers, We should ask for timnely trials, sure punishment, life imprisonment. Death penalty is no solution because it will only lead to a lower rate of conviction because courts will be more reluctant to give a sentence if it means sentencing to death. Plus death sentence will be an incentive to rapists to kill the victim. Moreover death penalty is no guarantee of fewer rapes - as the evidence of the countries of the world that have death penalty for rape shows.


princess asked, Thank you ma'm for the invitation to be part of the movement, but with due respect, does one need to be part of a movement to set off anything? Doesn't change start with the individual, to paraphrase what the original Gandhi had said?
Kavita Krishnan answers, Well, individuals alone can't change society. When an individual feels the will to change, we need to join with other indivs and experience our collective strength - learn from each other, and then we can truly be a force for change.


Satish asked, He may have been arrogant while saying it but there is some truth in what the Delhi Commissioner has said. There really isn't anything the police could have done to prevent this case. Would you agree?
Kavita Krishnan answers, Nothing farther from the truth. In this case, had the Delhi POlice filed the FIR on time, and had they searched for the girl, they could have found her in the neighbour's house and rescued her before she was raped. So, their delay was a crime that exposed her to this brutality. When cops break the law and fail to file FIR,m why should FIRs under Section 166A not be filed against them?


princess asked, Ma'm, is rape a common occurrence in other countries as well? Or is it peculiar to India/South Asia/Asia etc?
Kavita Krishnan answers, Rape is not peculiar to any country, it's common all over the world. Only in some indigenous communities that are less touched by 'modern' civilisation and private property, there is evidence that their language does not have a word for rape'. Clearly, sexual violence is in many ways a product of a hierarchical society that is divided on the lines of class, caste, gender, race.


ncp asked, Do you feel the availability of pornography encourages rape or is a good outlet for the frustrated and can prevent rape
Kavita Krishnan answers, Sorry, frusrtation doesnt cause rape! WOmen are most sexually repressed, forcibly prevented from emjoying sexual freedom, but their 'frustration' doesnt lead them to rape anyone does it?


ramesh asked, One of the arguments against women is that they draw unwanted attention by wearing revealing clothes. At the same time, we also say 'when in rome do as the romans'. Which side of the argument are you on, madam?
Kavita Krishnan answers, WI am not sure I understand you - but I am saying loud and clear that the argument that women 'incite' rape by revealing clothes is a disgusting and wrong argument.I have said that the argument that porn leads to rape is a similar argument to the one that blames women, and so we should reject that argument.


swati asked, mam what could be the deadliest punishment in these cases of rape expecially with little childern?
Kavita Krishnan answers, Swati, most rapisst of little children tare their own dads, uncles, cousins etc. Will their family even file a complaint if it may mean death sentence for the family member? It's more important that they file a complaint and seek punishment - rather than us making the punishment so severe that the family avoids asking for justice at all.


Sheetal asked, My boyfriend did not gift me a diamond necklace on my birthday. Can I file a rape case on him and put him behind bars?
Kavita Krishnan answers, You are obviously a man masquerading as 'Sheetal'...


nirbhaya asked, Start having Chemical Castration!!
Kavita Krishnan answers, Many serial rapists in history including Jack the Riper are said to have been impotent. Castration for rape does not make any sense because it reinforces the wrong idea that rape is about sex, about having makle sexual organs. It is not. It's about male power which society confers.


arnob asked, India should try to look more into giving Gun Licence (with limited bullets)to any women above 18 who requests a petition for the same as a special regulation act. Only this can save women from being attacked and raped in India.
Kavita Krishnan answers, More guns does not make women safer. Look at the USA - they are among the most unsafe societies because of gun culture. We should demand that the govt do a whole lot more to stand by women's freedom and rights, which they currently do not - instead of gun licences which makes safety the indiv responsibility of the women. Govt should punish cops who refuse to file FIRs and display gender bias or apathy.


Harkesh asked, Maximum rape accused are not educated ones...So with more education, Can we can minimise these type of cases ??
Kavita Krishnan answers, Sorry - not true. The maximum ones that the media talks about may be poor - but rape is not class specific. Plenty of poor people rape, plenty of upper caste people, MPs, MLAs, Army men and cops etc rape - but they are not caught and punished because they are powerful


police asked, I think repressive thinking on sexuality is the major reason for rapes. It is infact the reason for most of the problems today... Repressed sexual energyy....
Kavita Krishnan answers, No - if repression led to rape, women would be the greatest rapists. To say repression leads to rape is to justify rape.


amitabh asked, Madam, you say 'Changing social mindset is something the women's movement does all the time'. But won't you agree that women's movement in India has been splintered to say the least? If changing social mindset is what it did 'all the time' we wouldn't be here having this conversation. Your opinion please.
Kavita Krishnan answers, Where's all this splintering?? The women's movemnt has been remarkably united in its core demands...


ari asked, rape laws also may get misused by girls,we need look into that point also
Kavita Krishnan answers, Ari, all laws are 'misused' are they not? Are there not cases of people being wrongly accused of murder or theft? Does that mean we dont have laws for murder and theft?! Why a different standard for rape then? Moreover, the IPC already has provisions - Section 211 and 182 - to seek punishment for someone who has filed a false complaint against anyone.


swati asked, but if we put this thing on one side that family values comes first now where is the humanity ?
Kavita Krishnan answers, Well, 'family values' are usually the source of much violence faced by women. Because in the name of 'family', women are told to be silent about domestic violence, marital rape, child rape within the family... this is worldwide. The family in India is an institution where women are often imprisoned and even killed in order to prevent them from marrying outside caste or community. These killings are commited in the name of 'family honour'... 'Family' is also a source of strength in some cases, true, but we need to change family and democratise family as much as the rest of society and the state.


sankar_2603 asked, Will death punishment stop these acts?even in this case the accused tried to strangulate the girl fearing that they will be identified?What we need is a collective effort and ban on media,movies showing objectionable scenes,alcohol ?
Kavita Krishnan answers, Banning all these is no solution. I see no difference between movies that sexualise women's bodies and serials that celebrate women's traditional roles.Both encourage women's subordination - and subordination is encouraged by schools, families, political leaders etc... What all can we ban? We should challenge them, reject them as a society, demand change, not 'bans'.


Kabeer asked, Dear Ms.Kavita, Crime is a class problem; statistics all over the world proved it, including those in the USA. Many thought that Blacks are crime prone in the US and in India Muslims are crime porn; but the truth is poor are crime prone. Because they are constantly under high pressure. Moreover, there is virtually no difference for them whether they are in jail or they are free. Both were equal hells for them; It is this factor that makes them crime prone
Kavita Krishnan answers, You are way way wrong Kabeer. The poor are not crime prone - the legal and police system is biased against them. And your idea that blacks (or in our case dalits?) are more crime prone is downright racist. Racism, casteism and class bias wont help us fight sexism and sexual violence.


Mesum asked, My friend Pawan why do you think about legalising prostitution in India? Why cant you think that to avoid these unnatural occurences, people should get married early. This way, they would be able to do all sort of experimentation with their better halves.
Kavita Krishnan answers, Legalising prostitution is no solution to rape. Because rape is not a problem of 'demand/supply' of sex. That said, sex workers should be guaranteed dignity and the fullest rights, not be stigmatised. However, we should also be careful - sex work exists because patriarchy exists, it is undountedly exploitative, and the goal, even when ensuring that sex workers are not criminalised, should be to ensure that eventually, women are not having to 'opt' for sex work because of poverty and because other forms of work are ill-paid and exploitative.


fgfg asked, We have to make stringent laws like Saudi Arabia has
Kavita Krishnan answers, No way! Women enjoy no freedom in Saudi Arabia!! We women dont want India to be Saudi Arabia!


MAURYA asked, Most of the rape is occurred where a person is in close acquaintance with the Women otherwise the rape is occurred whenever a women is out at night or in a deserted place. What uou think about it Madamjee?
Kavita Krishnan answers, True. That's why fighting rape is so difficult and death penalty is no solution. But this does not mean that police have no role here. Actually police discourage women from filing FIRs against their family members also - police bias against women shows when they stand in favour of the 'family' when it comes to 'honour' crimes and rapes within the family...


Ashwini asked, Hi Kavita - don't you feel that commercials, movies etc which show women in low light or even show them as objects, add to the problem specially when we have such large majority of people who are not literate. Everyday we see ads in which it is shown that owning a particular bike or using a particular perfume will make the women drool.
Kavita Krishnan answers, Ads and so on are a problem - but not because they make men 'drool' for women. Some ads that show noskin are even worse than those that show women's skin. Take the Tata Sky ad that shows a brother 'allowing' his friend to take his sister out to dinner... The 'humour' in that ad rests on the potential for that brother to erupt in violence - in the possibiity of an honour crime/killing. Who is a brother to decide who his sister goes out with? But why do we not find this ad as objectionable than, say, an item number song? To my mind it is far more objectionable. So, the solution is not to keep demanding bans, but to collectively campaign against these kinds of cultural expression that demean women.


Kabeer asked, Kavita, Am saddened at you comprehensive power or the lack of it to be precise. I didnt state any racist remarks; on the contrary am opposing the theory of Blacks and Muslims or even Dalits are crime prone; the common factor among them is that they are poor and are constantly under severe pressures with broken families. It is their poverty that makes them crime prone where as the society likes to see them as Blacks are crime prone or Muslims are crime prone or Dalits are crime prone. I am not judging; am only stating the statistical facts
Kavita Krishnan answers, Sorry - but same argument again! To say 'poverty' makes anyone crime prone is way way wrong and biased. POWER and a sense of impunity makes people crime prone - gender power, caste power, class power... So, when poor men rape, they are not 'powerless' - as men, they do, in SOME circumstances, (like on an empty bus) have power AS MEN over women who may be poor or may happen to be richer than them. The point is not their poverty - but the gender of their victim. In other cases, along with the gender, the caste or comunity of th victim (im,e dalit or Muslim minority) may be a factor making her vulnerable to rape...


atanu asked, every rapist should be handed over to public and Public give punishment otherwise Rapist not feeling fear 

Kavita Krishnan answers, I would, as a woman, feel fear of such a 'public' - beacuse such a mob may turn on me and kill me if it thinks I am breaking its patratrchal or caste laws! That's how Khairlanji happened. That's how 'honour' killings happen.


Ramya asked, If all teenage boys get married at the age of 15 years, will it keep them happy and hence reduce rapes in the future?

Kavita Krishnan answers, Why?? Do widows prevented by family from having sexual relationships go around raping? 'Providing' men with sex does not reduce rape...