Protesters hold a candlelight march against crimes against women in Assam. Photo: AFP

Watching the news has never been as traumatic. The Kathua incident is beyond gross and savage. An eight-year-old girl from the nomadic Muslim Bakerwal tribe, was kidnapped and kept hostage at a temple in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir, where she was repeatedly gang-raped and finally murdered according to the police chargesheet submitted in court.

The crime was committed in January but was covered up by local police and only surfaced much later. The meticulously planned and executed modus operandi of kidnapping an eight-year-old child, and the repeated gruesome sexual and physical attacks she endured, as evident from the spine-tingling details of the charge sheet, if condoned by anyone would undoubtedly indicate the death of humanity. Although I hardly believe that even animals under the most extreme situations could be half as brutal.

What pleasure and arousal can be expected from an eight-year-old, she too in a semi-conscious state? Rape, or to be precise forced sex, is not at all about pleasure but is about power and dominance. The power struggle that has not left any village, city or house untouched has been silently normalized, especially when it concerns women and children, the most vulnerable groups.

It’s difficult to ignore the extreme inequality that has been owned generation to generation, and has been manifested in various forms, from caste to gender, religion, region and other mushrooming socio-economic and cultural differentiations that have been given the shape of an identity to be feared.

The repeated torture of the Bakerwal girl and the case in Unnao, Uttar Pradesh, where a 16-year-old girl was allegedly raped by a member of the ruling party in India, are two sides of the same coin. These are attempts to endorse the power of the so-called privileged, either in terms of political clout or religious supremacy. It is even more heartbreaking to see men and women rallying in support of the culprits with pride.

These are attempts to endorse the power of the so-called privileged, either in terms of political clout or religious supremacy. It is even more heartbreaking to see men and women rallying in support of the culprits with pride

There is no shortage of instances the world over of commodifying women as trophies of war or during the expansion of kingdoms. Be it in the guise of marriage, slavery or part of wartime sexual crime, mankind has a history of using women against their will for political purposes.

The genesis of such acts rests in considering women as the keepers of the dignity and respect of the clan and house. Unless we stop burdening women under the weight of family honor, it will be difficult to come out of the medieval mindset of using women to settle personal or political scores.

A woman’s body is her own and no one’s pride, honor and dignity rest in her vagina. Coupled with the rotten patriarchal mindset and open bias against the lower castes, minorities and the economically weak, this has manifested even into an unforeseen precedent of brutality as witnessed in the repeated torture of the innocent eight-year-old.

The details on the confinement and victimization of the little girl in a temple raise serious questions not only about the human consciousness but on the way we perceive religion. It is appalling to see people gathering in support of culprits.

After the 2012 gang rape in Delhi of the woman who came to be known as Nirbhaya, I doubted humanity could stoop any lower, but I was proved wrong by this incident. Even God must be having second thoughts about his intent to create humans who have left humanity way behind.

While reading the news, and trying to hold back my tears, I myself felt ashamed. It is beyond doubt that we have failed miserably as a society in how we raise our children, especially our sons. While not all of our sons, brothers, husbands and fathers might be guilty of such heinous crimes, definitely in some form they have been active contributors, at varied magnitude, to this entire discourse of inequality and subordination of women.

Patriarchal politics has placed the control mechanism in the hands of men, and by seeking their approval and permission and submitting, women have endorsed, accepted and perpetuated the dominance of men.

None of us can shrug off our responsibility for sustaining this inequality and bias. There is an urgent need to re-look into our families, question the persistent sexism that appears so obvious and normal, and demand better character of our men, who have been up to now brought up with zero moral or social obligations.

The unequal parameters established within families and society need to be questioned. Religion that teaches discrimination must be reinvented and a social set-up that endorses downgrading a caste and community must be restructured.

Atiya Anis

Atiya Anis is a communication professional, exploring creative writing as a medium of self-expression and an attempt at inculcating the culture of inquisitiveness on events around us.

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