Most rapists are ordinary men. Many, like the politicians who have chargesheets against them, are men in positions of power and respect; or like the men who handed a woman around to be raped again and again in the Suryanelli case in Kerala, are “family men”. Perfectly ordinary. Perfectly respectable. Perfectly protected, because we don’t want to open up that can of worms; that comes too close to home.
Also: this violence has a cost. We’re not studying male violence enough, but how healthy do you think men can be if they inherit their fathers’ anger and pass it on to their sons? Perhaps this is why so many young men, in particular, are standing up and saying, Enough. Perhaps we need to hear from more men, young and old, about why they reject the rape culture around them, and why they have walked away from violence in their own lives, choosing other, better ways to live and love.
Some years ago, Sampath Pal, the founder of the Gulabi Gang, told me about how she had found the strength to start this movement of women who wore pink saris and beat up the men responsible for domestic violence. (They do broader work on a range of women’s rights issues now.) Her own passion was matched by her partner’s belief that she was right; he was ostracised by his village, and chose to support Sampath Pal rather than go back to his community.