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Vasundhara Sirnate

Vasundhara Sirnate is Chief Coordinator of Research at The Hindu Centre for Politics and Public Policy. She is also a Ph.D candidate in Political Science at the University of California, Berkeley.

vasundhara.sirnate@thehinducentre.com

GENDER VIOLENCE

Rediscoursing Rape: Tarun Tejpal’s ‘Drunken Banter’ Defence

Vasundhara Sirnate
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Sexual crimes committed by men tend to be explained away as ‘mistakes’ in India. This defence infantilises the actions of an adult perpetrator after a very adult crime has been committed. By doing so, the perpetrator is able to claim innocence. Vasundhara Sirnate argues that Tarun Tejpal, Founder Editor of Tehelka, has chosen to use such a defence by calling the sexual assault of a journalist by him as a case of "drunken banter" and later, casually indulging in victim blaming.

On two separate instances on 7th and 8th November 2013 a young female journalist with news organisation Tehelka, was allegedly sexually assaulted by Tarun Tejpal, the Editor-in-Chief of Tehelka, during an event held by the magazine in Goa. The details are frightening. In a copy of the email written by the female journalist to Shoma Chaudhury, Managing Editor of Tehelka, she describes being imprisoned in an elevator by Mr. Tejpal, being disrobed, groped, shoved, manhandled and forcibly assaulted. As she walks out of the elevator rattled and frightened during the first incident, Mr. Tejpal calls after her, “this is the easiest way for you to keep your job”.

In her seminal work The Beauty Myth, Naomi Wolf explores how notions of beauty have become an ideology of entrapment for women. She recounts how there are images of a sexy librarian or a nurse in a short dress that borders on impracticality, replete with high heels, a curvy figure and glasses to make one look intelligent. However, at one signal the buttons of dresses can be ripped off, hair neatly combed into a bun can be unfurled and the working professional woman can be disrobed and turned into a sluttier version of her.

This theme of the cool, professional working woman giving way to an unclad version of herself in silk stockings to impress a man (usually her boss), has been repeatedly explored in music videos, songs and has even made the less than rare theme of countless films in every culture. At the heart of this process – robing and disrobing – lies a woman who ought to be, as society dictates, comfortable in a conference room and also comfortable in the said conference room minus her clothing.

Naomi Wolf was not exaggerating. Similarly, Mad Men may be a show about Madison Avenue’s advertising honchos in the 1960s, but the styles of behaviour depicted in the show are traditions of male workplace behaviour that still entail in large parts of the world, especially when it comes to how female employees are treated. The penalty for non-compliance with bosses’ sexual advances is often losing one’s job.

Both Naomi Wolf and the Mad Men series talk about the sexually abusive backlash that working women have faced. In post-war U.S., many women had taken over low-paid manufacturing jobs when the men, who previously worked those jobs, were drafted into the war effort. Once the war was over, employers seemed reluctant to let labour that was cheaper than male labour, go. On their part, women refused to take their traditional places in the kitchen soaking their fingers in pastries and vegetable peels. While these tableaux were enacted out in the ’60s and ’70s in the U.S., we are only now coming to grips with issues that working women face in India.

Post liberalisation, as prices have risen, it has become imperative for many families in India to have two working people. Women have gradually filled in gaps in the unorganised and tertiary sectors. This process has not been pleasant for them. They still retain their roles as home-makers meaning that typically they work two jobs a day – one at home and one in the workplace. Not only are both work shifts underappreciated, but also the home shift is unpaid and not included in any national income accounting.

Why the Vishaka Guidelines Matter

The Tejpal incident is one reported instance out of countless unreported instances of sexual assault, abuse, and harassment that women face in the workplace. The situation in India is so severe that the Supreme Court issued a set of guidelines popularly known as the Vishaka guidelines (as part of a verdict) following a PIL filed after the gang rape of a social worker in Rajasthan in 1997. The guidelines craft a set of recommendations that could ensure a safe workplace for women. Today, most Indian women are either not aware of the mandated institutions that ought to exist to safeguard them in the workplace, or, they know the rules but work in organisations where these anti-sexual harassment bodies don’t exist. Even today, we do not know how many organisations and institutions in the country have followed the Vishaka guidelines. We do know that the implementation of such bodies and committees inside organisations was mandated but not forcibly implemented.

One rare university that had a student body that fought hard for the establishment of a committee to address sexual harassment is Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), New Delhi. Even then, to get it established, many disparate students groups forged a common coalition and pressured the administration to constitute a body made up of lawyers, activists and professors from the university along with two student representatives. The body was called GSCASH – Gender Sensitisation Committee Against Sexual Harassment – and has been an effective deterrent against sexual assault or harassment on campus.

This did not mean and does not mean that sexual harassment cases and crimes don’t occur. They do. But a body like GSCASH effectively reduces the number of such incidents simply because an aware student knows she has recourse to help from a higher, more powerful authority that can essentially suspend a student from campus and ensure he can’t come back to study for a long time, start proceedings in a criminal court if rape has been committed and provide back-up and psychological support for any victims. Knowing that acts of harassment done with impunity are likely to be punished harshly and may involve the loss of a college degree or a prison sentence (if the case goes to an open court), has severely reduced the number of incidents of harassment since likely perpetrators have had to think twice about their actions. Today, JNU is considered one of the safest campuses for women in India and even boasts of co-ed hostels.

The JNU story is one case in favour of establishing statutory bodies meant to provide safeguards for working women. I must caution, that the existence of such a body does not necessarily mean that all likely perpetrators will be equally deterred.

Can we imagine an alternative scenario where Tehelka had a body like GSCASH? Let’s work on this counterfactually. If such a body had been constituted at Tehelka when the organisation first started, doubtless it would have had lawyers, doctors, other senior journalists on board. These, we can assume, are people who would be able to know the difference between rape, attempted rape and harassment. These are also people who the young female journalist could have immediately turned to instead of turning to an inept feminist, Shoma Chaudhury, who didn’t know that as managing director, the Vishaka guidelines clearly state that if such an incident of assault is reported, it is the employer’s task to ensure that it goes to the courts of the land.

Specifically, the judgment says, “Where such conduct amounts to a specific offence under the Indian Penal Code or under any other law, the employer shall initiate appropriate action in accordance with law by making a complaint with the appropriate authority”. The existence of such a body would have set in place a procedure to be followed if someone was harassed or abused at work. The victim would have had no need to be indecisive about reporting it. She would have been aware that she could seek help and have a proper legal way of proceeding. That she did this anyway is worthy of applause. Basically, she wouldn’t have had to waste precious time by doubting herself and being made to doubt her own actions by some crafty text messages and re-discoursing of Mr. Tejpal's actions. Also, we can assume that having allowed such a body to exist in his organisation, Mr. Tejpal would himself have been aware of when a hook-up in his mind is actually sexual assault in the mind of the person he is busy assaulting.

More importantly, constituting such bodies is a strong deterrent against sexual behaviour in the workplace simply because it spells out consequences for a perpetrator’s actions. Some organisations may have such bodies, which are non-functioning. The best way to enforce the power of such a body is to a) make sure that each and every employee knows what sexual harassment and abuse is, b) is aware of a stipulated set of consequences that will follow if he/she indulges in such actions and c) should also be aware that such bodies will not side with the perpetrator even if he/she is at the highest post within the organisation.

Also, what Mr. Tejpal has essentially done is to create a hostile work environment. We do not widely recognise this as a workplace ethics concept in India. When an employee is unable to discharge his/her duties because she/he is terrorised, made uncomfortable, emotionally or physically abused at work, and threatened with being fired if the boss is not listened to, the perpetrator has created a hostile work environment. These are grounds for a lawsuit in the U.S. against the employee and the company, if the company does not take immediate steps to fire the abuser or find a way of resolving the matter. There needs to be legislation for this as well.

Attempted Rape as Drunken Banter

As someone who has been involved for a long time with cataloguing women’s issues and commenting on violence against women, and, occasionally helping abused women when needed, I was not very surprised to hear about this case. What got my attention was the new way in which attempted rape/rape was explained away. In his text messages to the journalist, Mr. Tejpal insisted that this was drunken banter. He assaulted a woman half his age and explained it away as an indiscretion caused by alcohol. He did not think about the psychological damage it may cause her and didn’t listen to her saying no. Most people, who commit sexual assault, when interviewed by psychologists, mention that he victim ‘wanted it’ and that ‘no actually means yes’.

Now Mr. Tejpal is a man we had learned to look up to for pioneering, uncompromising journalism. Under his leadership, Tehelka near perfected the sting operation – a series of set-ups, which caught leading political figures in wrongdoing of various sorts. Tehelka also wrote out repeatedly about violence against women. It conducted path-breaking inquiries into the mentality of people who rape and police attitudes towards rape victims and women in general. For all of these good reasons it was a news source that many in liberal India looked up to.

The attempted crime of rape and the crime of sexual assault – it cannot be thought of as anything else if one reads the details – of the young female journalist by Mr. Tejpal offers some correctives on how we think about those who commit offences against women. It also lays bare the hypocrisy within the media establishment where commentary on rapes of women is near constant these days, yet, some of these same organisations have no internal body, mandated by law after the Vishakha judgment, that can address matters of abuse, harassment and rape.

First, we assume that only people from lower-income backgrounds rape women because they have little sexual access to women. This is wrong. Rape is about power, not sex. It is about asserting power over someone who clearly doesn’t want to be in that position. Second, rape is a weapon of domination. It is meant to humiliate, injure, inflict pain and traumatise a person and is often seen in conflict zones as a method of subjugating populations. Third, rape is independent of a woman’s character, dress, words and actions. The onus lies solely and completely on the perpetrator of the action.

Up to 98 per cent of rapes in India are committed by acquaintances, or, people known to the victim. This is a staggering figure. It also demonstrates that women cannot be safe at home, in the workplace, while commuting to work and amongst their male friends and extended family. Repeatedly in India, women’s personal security is compromised by their colleagues and they are blamed for provocative dressing and creating disharmony in the workplace. Clerks, tea boys, bosses, managers, drivers and peons often stare after them as they walk and now with camera phones all sorts of male personnel in organisations have been reported taking clandestine pictures of their female colleagues, if not more openly harassing them. Terms of endearment like “sweetheart”, “darling”, and “sweetie” are still constantly used to address working women. Some of the words in Hindi and other languages are more crass but mean the same thing.

To throw the book at Mr. Tejpal is rather easy at this point. He can be booked for unlawful imprisonment, attempted rape or rape itself, attempting to disrobe or disrobing a woman. His defences of his actions have moved from self-indulgent to outright rejection of the claims made. First he tried to convince the journalist that what had transpired was “drunken banter”. The last time we checked drunken banter is verbal and does not involve attacking someone after trapping a person in an elevator. Second, he wrote a rather self-indulgent email to Shoma Chaudhury talking about lapses of judgment and unfortunate mistakes. He titled the email “atonement”, and said he would like to relieve himself of duty for six months to do some penance. Third, he wrote to the victim apologising for his “mistake”. He also made some noises about raising Tehelka as if being at the head of a news organisation can somehow grant him some leeway for his actions. After this, he claimed that he is being set-up and that the victim is not telling the truth. Finally, he now blames the victim by saying that she acted normal and was casual about everything after the incident and partied and stayed up late.

It is utterly disappointing and disheartening to see Mr. Tejpal, who initially even accepted his fault, resort to victim blaming to save his skin. His actions have hurt far more people than the victim. He has hurt his own family, his organisation and the various excellent journalists who have worked with him for various years. In an act of utter cowardice he even let his female Managing Director field hard questions about his behaviour and defend him. That she did so willingly initially is an even bigger mystery. In terms of organisational behaviour, this attempted rape/rape was sought to be brushed under the carpet.

Here is a man who championed women’s causes, then sexually assaulted a woman in his employ who was also the daughter of one of his friends and a friend of his own daughter, then he repeated the same behaviour in the span of 24 hours, after which he wrote an apology as if that could settle a criminal matter, and, finally he took recourse to the most commonly employed ploy by well-known people in India – this, he said, is politically motivated and a set-up. He followed that up by saying the whole thing was consensual. When your back is against a wall and the whole world is attacking you – blame the victim. Works every time!

At this point, a word of praise is necessary for the Goa police who initiated suo motu action against Tejpal and not only grabbed CCTV footage, which evidently corroborates the victim’s story, but also quizzed Shoma Chaudhury for over 9 hours in New Delhi after seizing materials from the Tehelka office. Now if only all police personnel in all states could take such action!

The re-discoursing of rape as something lesser, almost innocent and childish is a frustrating ploy that many men (and women) use in India. Colloquially many think of this as chhoti si bhool (a small error). Mothers will use it to protect their sons when neighbours come complaining. Politicians will use it to explain away their more callous statements and actions. Mr. Tejpal took this ploy and insisted that this was a mistake he made under the influence of alcohol.

What undergirds the chhoti si bhool defence is the idea that even as adults some men cannot and should not be held responsible for their actions. “They have made a mistake. They are not essentially bad people,” is what this defence argues. The problem is if we start using this defence it makes the law useless. Forgiveness is to be reserved for lesser crimes like perhaps the theft of a jalebi by a homeless boy; definitely not for sexual assault.

In our society men are allowed to make abusive mistakes repeatedly and do not get called out for their behaviour. Wives are asked to forgive their husbands for beating them up. Mothers-in-law will say, “Your husband didn’t really mean it”. What is really being said is, “you woman, have no right to complain about this. This is inconvenient for us to hear. So stop complaining and deal with it.” Similarly, some suggested laws in our country recommend that rapists marry the women they assault essentially doing away with the problem by not recognising that there is one. Marital rape is still to be recognised in India. And while we’re on this subject let me add that when sexually unpractised men and women are married, most men, especially in rural and semi-urban areas basically pounce on their new wives because they do not know how else to have intercourse. In this manner a woman is initiated into sexual awareness through an act of rape, mandated by marriage. She doesn’t even know that she can say no. In any case, even if she did, the law wouldn’t recognise it.

The Way Forward

The rediscoursing of sexual assault, harassment, abuse and rape in our country as childish errors that men commit is something that needs to change. This is a dangerous defence of sexual assault. It essentially treats men as children, who can be forgiven for an offence because they knew no better. It is this thinking that allowed the juvenile in the 2012 New Delhi gang rape to be tried in juvenile court even though he had inflicted the maximum injury on Nirbhaya. There was nothing childlike in his actions.

If this were the U.S., Mr. Tejpal would find his name on a list of sex offenders. An FBI database would inform any prospective employers about his background. He wouldn’t be able to sneeze without the shadow of being a sex offender crossing over him. For child sex offenders the US is even tougher. After serving a prison sentence an offender is registered as a child sex offender and has to inform his neighbours that he is one. It is then up to the neighbours to see how much social interaction they want with this man.

In the U.S., if a rape is committed, police use what is casually called a ‘rape kit’. In this kit are a set of items that allow doctors to collect forensic DNA evidence. It is recommended that a woman, if raped, should go straight to the police without cleaning herself since that can get rid of evidence faster than a crooked cop. Items of clothing, personal effects, scrapings from under fingernails, swabs are taken and fingerprints are lifted off the victim’s personal effects. Each scrape, bruise, scratch and bleeding cut is photographed and recorded. Uncomfortable as it sounds, this is the only way to build a foolproof case against a possible rapist. We need to start doing this in India immediately.

Valourising America’s fight to end violence against women is definitely not the point here. The main point is to borrow from institutions that work across the world keeping the goal in sight, which in this case, is ending women’s abuse and assault. Even the US is not perfect. As Nicolas Kristof reported a few years ago, many rape kits have not been processed properly and convictions are slow to come. Rape in the US still occurs. But what matters is that when abuse of any kind happens to a woman, she can run to the state and get help without judgment. There are severe consequences for indulging in sexual assault and rape.

Perhaps it is time that we start educating our women not only on how to avoid rape (which does not include some of the most baseless suggestions ever such as not stepping out the house), but also on how to respond when rape or an attempt to rape has been made. We need to tell them to report the crime and insist on a complete cataloguing of the forensic evidence. This is the only way to bring perpetrators to justice.

(Vasundhara Sirnate is Chief Coordinator of Research at The Hindu Centre for Politics and Public Policy. She is also a Ph.D candidate in Political Science at the University of California, Berkeley.)

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It is high time we learnt how to conduct ourselves in the workplace, public place and social gatherings, especially at parties involving alcohol. After some intake of alcohol, most people's emotions open up. They talk more easily, atmosphere becomes relaxed, sex jokes are cracked, rumours are spread, secrets come out, especially about liaisons, etc. It is at this stage that people become excessively friendly. Men should realise that real life is not reel life. You can't jump into bed at the drop of a hat. Every organization should have a printed rule book on how they expect their employees to behave, a general code of conduct especially on behaviour with members of the opposite sex at social gatherings. Most importantly, every man must realise that once a woman says no, it means no. So, when does a man know a woman wants to have sex with him ? Wait for her to say yes. Respect a woman's decision to say no and don't feel offended by it.

from:  Ramdas Naik
Posted on: Dec 3, 2013 at 11:13 IST

Dear Vasundhara, I think you have selectively read about the law in many countries. In many countries like US, UK and Canda there are no pro-women laws. Those laws are fair and just. Law is also delivered fairly and justly. Consider the case of former International Monetary Fund chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn. He was released by court within six weeks once the credibility of the alleged victim was in doubt. According to the recently amended law in India, there is no provision of this. I am glad now that since a retired supreme court judge and high profile Tarun Tejpal has come under public scrutiny, the misuse of rape law and measure to control it will be debated. Now all politicians, judges, bureaucrats and journalists head the row; they will amend this draconian anti-rape law. Tejpal is the victim of his own policies he has worked for all this life. I am sure police would not have showed negligence on his rape case as shown on the string operation of his journal Tehelka.

from:  VasundharaCritic
Posted on: Dec 1, 2013 at 02:24 IST

It's normal that the accused always tries to deny the wrong he's committed and put forward reasons, weak or strong, to defend himself. In this respect Tarun Tejpal is no exception.But what's very confusing is being the most successful sting operator himself that has shot him to fame he's put in different reasons at different times to exonerate himself. Initially, he confessed to what he had done and was in a mood to repent but later he underplays every thing he has done. However, ultimately if he's proven guilty, the law would award him the punishment that he deserves. Isn't it an irony of fate that a man who made daring sting operations and unfolded crimes of unbelievable magnitude that brought many high profile personalities to justice is himself put on the dock stung by libido?

from:  U.K.Pal
Posted on: Nov 30, 2013 at 15:00 IST

The author keeps repeating about "childish errors" but should know that the urge to rape springs from physical desire which is a basic instinct, unlike other crimes. The oft repeated "it's about power" defies logic. This is not to defend the indefensible but in India dressing "appropriately" can help avoid such crimes in most cases, though ardent feminists may pounce at this suggestion. Unlike his western counterparts the Indian male is a bundle of suppressed desire, mostly because of religion and "culture". The victim should have immediately rushed to the nearest police station and filed a complaint instead of waiting for days on end before going public, thereby creating room for doubts and motives. The suo moto action of the Goa police may have something to do with the ruling dispensation but is right by any yardstick. The exploits of Asaram Bapu should have found mention in this column as it was a more grave crime and he had indulged in it with protection from those in power.

from:  C. Balachander
Posted on: Nov 30, 2013 at 14:48 IST

Kudos to The Hindu Centre for producing a well-balanced article. Women should not be considered as sex objects. Where are we losing our moral standards?

from:  Srinath
Posted on: Nov 30, 2013 at 14:15 IST

As for the point about rural and semi-urban men and women, there is far lesser intermingling between the sexes in these areas than there is in urban areas. In my fieldwork, women recount horror stories of their first times and often have a severe anger with their partners, which makes marriages horrible. This is because both people have not been told anything about what intercourse is. The men take their cues from their friends and from movies (if they can get to a cinema), but women don't know much apart from old wives tales. The ignorance is staggering and very sad. But if someone forces themself on a woman and she is reluctant, unprepared, frightened and is resisting (even if the man is her husband), technically that is rape. Our laws don't recognise this. I am only hoping they will because no one, and I mean, no man or woman should be beholden to anyone (man or woman) when it comes to their bodies. They should be able to decide for themselves when to say yes and when to say no.

from:  Vasundhara Sirnate
Posted on: Nov 30, 2013 at 13:52 IST

Dear Raman: What happens in a marriage sexually is between husband and wife and so it is up to them to define the terms of relationships and sexuality. It is not up to us, me, you or society at large. Marital rape has been recognised legally as a violation of women and abuse and injury in many countries. Our country lacks a law about this. It needs to be recognised. If a woman says no, it means no, even if she is saying no to her husband. She cannot be forced, coerced or intimidated even by her husband. Now, nowhere have I written anything about "western, weird and experimental sex acts". I don't know how you read that into this piece, which is solely about rape and how we can bring about institutional change to bring perpetrators to justice. For this we have to first agree on all types of acts that can constitute rape. My only point is that in India we don't yet have a holistic understanding that marital rape is also rape.

from:  Vasundhara Sirnate
Posted on: Nov 30, 2013 at 13:47 IST

Very good article, applause. Would like to know more on prevention of heinous acts than on punishment for the perpetrators.

from:  Shiv
Posted on: Nov 30, 2013 at 12:30 IST

This is a good, balanced and insightful article. I wish it reaches the wider public in India and abroad.

from:  Prof. Oopali Operajita
Posted on: Nov 30, 2013 at 02:12 IST

Thearticle is biased towards women, It negates the other side of coin. The auther writes about "rape
mandated by marriage", excuse me,what do u mean by this term madam?, First of all u've blamed the
rural and semi urban population for this offense as if the urban population is too mannered in this case,
Better not speak in this regard. Is it right to part yourself from the blame by naming your weird and
western-culture-inspired sexual acts as fascinating and experimental? 2nd, sexually unpractised men
and women have been talked about, I'm unable to get the idea behind this statement. Meaning of
marriage is totally destroyed if you expect others to practise sex outside your marriage. Do you expect
people to join coaching classes for the same? It would have been better if sex education was talked
about. Moreover yes, The onus of rape lies on raper but wow you claimed it to be totally independent of
women's behavior,character,dress.Article's Title:-Jai Devi you can never b wrong.

from:  Raman Goyal
Posted on: Nov 29, 2013 at 17:24 IST

A good report about sexual crimes in India. I'm happy that at least some people still think that a crime is a crime no matter who is doing it and why. There is a strong need for a change in the mentality of Indian women too. Many women who call themselves civilised and educated still think about a victim of sexual assault in a conservative way and this is disheartening. Women also blame a woman for being a victim and sometimes they are equal partners in promoting crimes. Every girl in her home is advised to avoid little things and incidents of verbal harassment. Verbal harassment is also a big problem and i think this is the seed of all other sexual crimes. For myself, as a girl, I don't want to be treated with some special care for being a girl; I just want equal treatment as men, and above this, as a human being. No staring, no commenting, no assault, no rape, no abusing, just because I am a girl.

from:  Nidhi Umarav
Posted on: Nov 29, 2013 at 13:19 IST

The writer wrote "It is this thinking that allowed the juvenile in the 2012 New Delhi gang rape to be tried in juvenile court even though he had inflicted the maximum injury on Nirbhaya. There was nothing childlike in his actions." One way to right such wrongs would be to amend the law to allow the courts to exercise their discretion in cases involving serious crimes perpetrated by minors.

from:  Krishna
Posted on: Nov 29, 2013 at 11:51 IST

"Also, if a woman changes her mind and says no even in the middle of the act, you have to stop immediately"; Wow, I guess a man should keep a timer during sexual intercourse with a women and stop every 30 seconds and ask her permission if he can proceed or stop. What are you talking about? A women crying rape is rare in India! I guess you are not aware of a number of judgments by our Indian courts acquitting men from rape cases because a consensual sexual act for many years in a live in relationship (sometimes upto 5 years) then was reported as rape in the false pretext of marriage (In fact, this is the common reason for rape cases in India). How do you explain a women having sex with a man and then breaking the relationship saying that there was a false promise of marriage? You need to see the other side of the coin as well.

from:  Siva
Posted on: Nov 29, 2013 at 01:29 IST

Sex out of marriage will definitely affect a relationship even if it is consensual. When the partner/family knows the act, they will be outraged for sure. In most cases people are drunk, and lose control. Should we ban alcohol altogether to save some?

from:  Kumar
Posted on: Nov 28, 2013 at 16:14 IST

Very Insightful article, which every man as well as every woman must read.

from:  Pawan
Posted on: Nov 28, 2013 at 15:08 IST

I feel sad to hear the words Tejpal shouted at the victim: "this is the easiest way for you to keep your job". These kind of sexual assaults are so common in India, perpetrated by people at the helm. I request women to be aware of these things and never fall into such traps. One of the key steps towards this is to dress modestly,along with dignified manners, expressing loud your dignity and showing that under no such circumstances will you succumb to such sexual advances and crimes. I kindly request you to look into the practical side of this and not to take my comments as something against women's freedom.

from:  Subin
Posted on: Nov 28, 2013 at 14:25 IST

Well said. The path to justice in our country, or for that matter, everywhere, is filled with innumerable roadblocks. I feel that it is up to society to make sure that crimes such as these do not take place. Even if the victim gets justice (given our country's legal system, it will take years) how shall her suffering be justified? The fact that a married man calls this consensual and hence it cannot be a crime is the state to which values have sunk in this country which used to boast to all the west about its strong family values and ties. While we cannot turn back the clock, is there not anything we can do to recreate values such loyalty and fidelity?

from:  Bala N.
Posted on: Nov 28, 2013 at 13:41 IST

Excellent thinking and articulation. Thank you for saying it like it is, and so well said too.

from:  Madhavi
Posted on: Nov 28, 2013 at 12:51 IST

The basic thing is that women should be protected against any such kind of attacks whether in India or the US.The recommendation that the woman after raped should immediately report to the police to strengthen the evidence against the rapist is unreasonable since it is the post-traumatic period of the woman and she needs extreme medical prudence both physically and mentally. In fact,the act of rape is not a matter of personal vengeance. Society should fight for her rather than she herself, for the common cause, which may help her to bring confidence to overcome the situation; this is the primary responsibility of society and of course the perpetrators should be hunted out and punished in such a way that no one should even think about doing such actions in the future.

from:  Praseetha P.
Posted on: Nov 28, 2013 at 12:44 IST

Excellent piece. Well researched and parsed with a keen eye and sound arguments. This is a clear cut case of abuse of power in the most vile sense possible. What will eventually prevail in the court of law is tangible evidence. In most cases of this nature, it becomes a case of his words versus hers. You have clearly pointed out the inconsistencies in Tarun's responses to the changing events on the ground. I don't know if they will hold up in court. Also since a rape kit was not processed, unless there is damning CCTV footage available, we can only pray that the Indian justice system will come through for the victim. Hats off to the Goa police for doing their job as should be done. I think the timing is also playing a big role. If this incident would have happened before the Delhi gang rape, I think it would have been brushed aside. This "choti si bhool" syndrome has to end. Men must realise that there are real consequences to violating a woman inside and outside marriage.

from:  Anand Kamalakar
Posted on: Nov 28, 2013 at 12:42 IST

Very well written and hits at the point strongly. In our country we need laws that make it clear that no one is above the law. Most of these affluent and influential people often think that they can get away with whatever it is that they want. I think that victims of assault and rape must put their foot down and pursue their perpetrators like hounds until they are punished.

from:  Rohit S. Nair
Posted on: Nov 28, 2013 at 12:27 IST

The statement "It is this thinking that allowed the juvenile in the 2012 New Delhi gang rape to be tried in juvenile court even though he had inflicted the maximum injury on Nirbhaya. There was nothing childlike in his actions." seems to suggest that the juvenile in the Nirbhaya case should have been considered as an adult in determining the quantum of the punishment. But how can we do this? Can we then consider every juvenile who has committed a criminal offence as an adult because the offence wasn't exactly 'childlike'. I understand that in the Nirbhaya case, the minor was only 6 months short of 18 years. What if he was 14 years old and committed the same offences? What about a 10 year old who commits a murder? Should the minor be still considered an adult because the offence isn't 'child like'?

from:  Rajesh Rajamani
Posted on: Nov 27, 2013 at 23:59 IST

A well researched article by Vasundhara and thank you. However when it comes to marital rape, there is a lot of obfuscation these days. How do you establish marital rape? Recently the central government opined that marriage presupposes consent. In such cases only violence can be considered a crime and not the sexual act when a woman cries "stop!"; Second,(even in non-marital sex) there is always a possibility of the woman accusing the man of rape which was a consensual act. It is very difficult to document or prove the consent in such a situation and the man falls victim without even having to defend himself. Coming to stigma, the one attached to a proclaimed rapist is equally strong in society.

from:  Shivaram Nayak
Posted on: Nov 27, 2013 at 18:19 IST

Provides greater insight into the issue.

from:  Vaishnavi S.
Posted on: Nov 27, 2013 at 17:14 IST

In this I could really see the frustration of Indian woman. I guess every one of us, whether working or not, can relate to it. Definitely the government needs to make a safer place for woman in India. It's ironical that we consider our country as motherland, and are not capable of making a safe place for females in our society!

from:  Damini Bansal
Posted on: Nov 27, 2013 at 17:02 IST

A very good article, must be read by every man in India. The 'chhoti si bhool' point is of most concern in India in sexual assaults over women. Courts must work harder to make strict laws. And at the same time women must learn some self defense mechanisms.

from:  Ravi
Posted on: Nov 27, 2013 at 16:55 IST

Needless to say, men and everybody around need to exercise some restraint on behaviour in the workplace, especially with people in power. Excellent article to read.

from:  Shivaram
Posted on: Nov 27, 2013 at 15:50 IST

In response to readers' comments. First of all thank you all so much for reading this. It is your readership that allows people like me to keep on writing. 1. Banu Kulkarni: Accusing the BJP is just a method of deflecting the arrows that are coming Mr. Tejpal's way. He is clearly in the wrong. From what I hear no one is supporting his actions. 2. Abhishek: I am not suggesting sexual initiation of any kind. I am merely saying that when men and women don't know what intercourse is they take their cues from movies and porn which are not some of the best ways of learning. But we have an unwillingness to talk about sex. So for many women marriage comes with a lot of sexual trauma (not for all). In villages, women, when asked, don't want to ever have their husbands touch them. I'm constantly thinking about why this is. And one of the things is that they associate sex with a lot of trauma. 3. Holenarsipura: First of all never ever sleep with a drunk woman or an underage woman. The latter is statutory rape. Second, establish consent by asking, repeatedly if she is sure about what she is doing. Make sure the woman is not emotionally unstable, in an existing relationship or comes from a conservative family where there may be pressure on her to cry rape to protect herself. Women crying rape is very rare. When it does happen it can be because they feel manipulated or are too incapacitated to have made a coherent decision at the time of intercourse. But since you know you can be accused ensure that consent is clear and is repeatedly clear to both of you. You cannot coerce consent. That is attempted assault. Also, if a woman changes her mind and says no even in the middle of the act, you have to stop immediately.

from:  Vasundhara Sirnate
Posted on: Nov 27, 2013 at 13:05 IST

What is your opinion on Mr. Tejpal accusing the BJP? How can he and the Managing Editor defend this type of statement, which is out of context? Does he mean to say that if he had done this in Congress ruled states the law would be different for him? His statement has given fodder to the BJP, who are otherwise targeting him anyhow.

from:  Banu Kulkarni
Posted on: Nov 27, 2013 at 08:09 IST

Bravo. You have got to the heart of the matter. This should be required reading in schools, colleges and the workplace.

from:  Khushboo
Posted on: Nov 27, 2013 at 01:56 IST

Appreciate the detailed and methodical analysis of a critical issue. But one objection would be this, the author says, "Marital rape is still to be recognised in India. And while we're on this subject let me add that when sexually unpractised men and women are married, most men, especially in rural and semi-urban areas, basically pounce on their new wives because they do not know how else to have intercourse. In this manner a woman is initiated into sexual awareness through an act of rape, mandated by marriage." What is the author suggesting - that there should be "sexual initiation" before marriage? I most certainly hope not. Maybe sex education and sensitisation would help but is it feasible? Also, marital rape is contentious, maybe amending the domestic violence act,2005, to include sexual assault too, could be a solution.

from:  Abhishek
Posted on: Nov 27, 2013 at 01:00 IST

I am a man. How do I protect myself from a situation where consensual sex may turn in to an allegation of rape?

from:  Holenarsipura
Posted on: Nov 26, 2013 at 19:36 IST
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