There is a plague that seems to have taken root amidst the Indian male. It baffles me as much as anyone else, be it sociologist, psychiatrist, the media, the law enforcement people, or the common men and women.
From the gentle creature, the spiritual compassionate soul that Western writers and film-makers celebrated once, he is now perceived to be a sexual predator. In fact, there is even that most horrid of thought lines spreading like a subterranean fire: Like Hansen’s disease and dengue, is sexual violence endemic to the Indian male?
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Whatever has happened to this man who was once the very epitome of orderliness? So much so that the Indian male was a cliche of sorts; he was the dutiful son, husband, and father, bound by the diktats of society… And yet today, it seems that the beast has turned.
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Would it be that we are sensationalising what are stray happenings? That a hungry-for-news media on the prowl will turn random incidents to make it seem like an everyday occurrence?
Perhaps there is some truth in it. For sexual violence that went largely unreported or even undisclosed in the name of family honour or societal disapproval, now makes newspaper headlines.
However, there can be no smoke without fire and what is tragically obvious is that there is a definite issue of escalating sexual violence in India.
Traditional privilege of Indian male
This raises the next question: Is this typical male behaviour in what is still a very patriarchal society? Or is there something more insidious, a rogue gene that is manifesting after all these years of suppression?
My gut instinct is to think that just like the contemporary Indian woman, the Indian man, too, is caught between the horns of tradition and technology.
Each time he [a man] offends or harasses a woman, she and her family refuse to retaliate because they fear societal disapproval. In time, he knows he can get away with anything including rape.
Where the woman has taken it in stride and reinvented herself to cope with what society and her own id demands of her, the Indian male is in that peculiar position that the dinosaur was just before it went extinct. It is clueless as to how to map its survival and regresses to its most bestial nature because that is its last available weapon.
All his life, even as a zygote, the Indian male is hallmarked by preferential treatment. In a country where female foeticide was routine until it was declared illegal, he knew that his survival was based merely on his gender.
Thereafter it is his maleness that fast tracks him through life – from the extra glass of milk to education on borrowed money to special treats in his home – he is the one who has the lion’s share of everything, even affection. He is the heir, the keeper of the family lineage and the one who is going to ease his father’s passage to heaven.
The girl has no place in the scheme of things. Instead, she is there to please and pander to him, serve and obey. No one tells him what is the correct code of conduct in dealings with women. That sex is the union of bodies and minds and is based on mutual respect and need is an alien concept to him.
Dominance as a symbol of manhood
How can you expect more from someone who is surrounded by the constant objectification of women everywhere, and archetypal images of how a woman must be.
Even the movies and television soaps from where he draws his inspiration offer a warped point of view: That male domination is something women seem to actually enjoy, is fed to him on a daily basis.
Sometimes I wonder if this bestial urge can be traced back to his almost unhealthy curiosity about sex and women’s bodies. Both being subjects of taboo, the Indian male’s only source of information is mostly the online sex videos of sometimes violent, brutal sex.
Once again it reinforces what he has been brought up to believe – that dominance is a symbol of manhood. That a woman may protest, but she is asking for it even when she is saying “no”. Technology that gives him train timings, movie tickets, holiday offers, cricket trivia and such cannot be wrong.
Each time he offends or harasses a woman, she and her family refuse to retaliate because they fear societal disapproval. In time, he knows he can get away with anything including rape.
In many ways this is a combination of societal, cultural and traditional mind-sets that have given the Indian male a sense of entitlement. This is a man who was born to be king, and king he will be till he is disproved of his birthright.
Anita Nair is a novelist, poet, children’s writer and columnist. Her books have been translated into over 30 languages around the world. She lives and writes in India.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial policy.