Chilling reason the Delhi gang-rapist blames his victim
NEW DELHI: By now, the
details of that horrible night are well known. A young woman, 23, had just
completed a four-year study programme and was about to begin an internship when
she ventured out one December night to see a movie at a local Delhi cineplex
with a male friend. Her family had high hopes for her.
Those dreams were
shattered that night of December 16, 2012. After leaving the movie theatre, she
and her male friend boarded a private bus, where they encountered a pack of
five drunk men on the lookout for sex.
The male friend put up
a struggle, but it was of no use. The men raped and beat the woman, tossing her
from the bus with injuries so devastating she died within weeks. The shocking
nature of the case convulsed India, ushering in death sentences for the
rapists, changes to Indian criminal law and a painful reckoning for a country
long bedevilled by gang rape.
But even years later,
questions have persisted. What could possibly have driven those men to do what
they did? What capacity for barbarity did they tap to commit so heinous an
attack? What kind of monsters do such a thing?
The answer, according
to a filmmaker who spent two years on the case, is in fact more chilling than
what she expected. The men, she said, weren’t monsters. They were ordinary,
unrepentant and illustrative of a misogynistic culture that entraps some young
“It would be easier to
process the heinous crime if the perpetrators were monsters, and just the rotten
apples in the barrel, aberrant in nature,” Leslee Udwin wrote for the BBC,
which will air her documentary on Sunday. “… For me the truth couldn’t be
further from this — and perhaps their hanging will even mask the real problem,
which is that these men are not the disease, they are the symptoms.”
And among the most
symptomatic was the driver of the bus, Mukesh Singh, one of the five convicted
of the crime, who granted a lengthy interview to Udwin from prison. He denies
that he took part in the rape, but nonetheless recalled it in granular detail.
In the 16-hour interview, he maintained the rape wasn’t his or the other
rapists’ fault — but the victim’s. She was out too late and was asking for
“A decent girl won’t
roam around at nine o’clock at night,” he told Udwin. “A girl is far more
responsible for rape than a boy. Housework and housekeeping is for girls, not
roaming in discos and bars at night doing wrong things, wearing wrong clothes.
About 20 per cent of girls are good.”
The woman’s mistake, he
said, she fought back. “When being raped, she shouldn’t fight back,” he said.
“She should just be silent and allow the rape. Then they’d have dropped her off
after ‘doing her’ and only hit the boy. … The death penalty will make things
even more dangerous for girls. Now when they rape, they won’t leave the girl
like we did. They will kill her. Before, they would rape and say, ‘Leave her,
she won’t tell anyone.’ Now when they rape, especially the criminal types, they
will just kill the girl. Death.”
The comments, while
deeply disturbing and misogynistic, are also representative of a pervasive
cultural problem. This culture of misogyny isn’t something that lurks in the
shadows, but is overt and open. It is present when state officials like Mulayam
Singh Yadav explain rape as “boys will be boys.” And it is present when other
politicians blame rape on cell phones and women going out at night.
Laws against rape have
been ineffective in the face of a patriarchal and misogynistic culture. It is a
culture that believes that the worst aspect of rape is the defilement of the
victim, who will no longer be able to find a man to marry her — and that the solution
is to marry the rapist.
Even when pressed on
those positions, Udwin found attorneys who defended the six rapists who
attacked the 23-year-old woman who wouldn’t back down. The woman, not the men,
were to blame for what happened that night.
“In our society, we never allow our girls to come out from the house
after 6:30 or 7:30 or 8:30 in the evening with any unknown person,” attorney ML
Sharma said. “You are talking about man and woman as friends. Sorry, that doesn’t
have any place in our society. We have the best culture. In our culture, there
is no place for a woman.”