Sunday, February 05, 2012

Punishment For Rape


Reacting to a statement by the chief of police in the state of Andhra Pradesh, who recently said that ‘fashionably dressed women’, including ‘women who wear salwar kameez in villages’ provoke and invite rape, as men are not able to control their ‘sexual jealousy’ and the ‘police are not able to control men’, writing in Kafila, Shuddhabrata Sengupta offers a modest proposal for the castration of male police officers:

“Incidentally, the last few years have shown a high incidence of custodial rape all over India, where police men and security forces personnel have raped women detained by them. According to some reports, these incidents are on the rise. In other words, police men are increasingly unable to control the men that they themselves are.

“Since it is unlikely that women will not be arrested and detained by policemen and security forces personnel in India in the forseeable future, the only way to prevent the offense of ‘custodial rape’, following from Shri Dinesh Reddy’s insight, would be to castrate all policemen, male police officers and security forces personnel (for their own good). At least this way, police men and other masculine custodians of law, order and national security will be prevented from being ‘provoked’ by the mere presence of ‘salwar kameez’ clad women, or otherwise ‘fashionably’ dressed members of the female sex.

“This way, our honorable men in uniform will be protected from their feelings of ‘sexual jealousy’ and the trap of being provoked into unwittingly having to rape the next woman who happens to be in their custody.”

Recently I attended a lecture by academic-author Dr R Raj Rao, on formulations of queer theory in India. According to Rao, queer theory is different from the so called “gay theory” and it demands complete subversion of what is “normal” or “normative,” more specifically, “heteronormativity.” Hetero-normative is what is given, like a man marrying a woman, and then killing her for dowry (okay, the killing part is not that normal, but you get the drift.)

Rao argues, quoting Eve Sedgwick and Michel Foucault, that the ultimate act of subversion from heteronormativity would be to disregard the penis, or at least the refusal to use it as it is expected to be used — for penetration, in a vagina. Rao argues that there are other uses of the male organ, the most useful of this is in the context of auto-eroticism. What he is essentially trying to say is that there is a need to dismantle the idea that penis is the centre of the structure (as argued by Sigmund Freud and his most famous and bitter disciple Jacques Lacan). If we can do that, it will enable use to view the dynamics of the male/female difference, as well as sexuality politics, in a new light.

In the decidedly queer Spanish filmmaker Pedro Almodovar’s latest non-queer, body horror, ‘Frankenstein with a scalpel’ melodrama, ‘The Skin I Live In’ (La Piel Que Habito, 2011), there is another answer to this question of rape, sexuality and the ubiquitous male organ.

A plastic surgeon of some repute, battling a series of person crises, one day finds that his mentally-unstable daughter has been “interfered” with by a reckless young man. The audience knows that the young man in question, Vincent, is innocent; he just wanted to have some fun. But the good doctor doesn’t know this. Now, the good doctor abducts the young man, holds him as a prisoner in his villa and sometimes later performs a vaginoplasty (actually more MTF sex reassignment surgery than vaginoplasty) on him. After a series of surgeries spanning three years, the doctor finally turns the young man Vincent into a beautiful young woman, Vera, who would later be rapped, in a delicious twist so integral to a Almodovar film.

Almodovar doesn’t suggest male to female sex reassignment surgery as a possible punishment for rape. But, the idea has serious possibilities. It is a tad better plan than castration. Castration makes you neither man nor woman; and one can always pose as either, or. MTF sex reassignment surgery makes the process complete. The rapist would get a chance to realise it is like to be on the other side of the equation.

The idea of castration as a remedy to save women from sexual violence is not new. It was much prevalent in medieval India, especially in the Mughal courts, where men were not allowed to enter the ladies quarters. So, who’d protect these women? Guards, off course. But the patriarchy cannot take risks with the guards. So, the deal is to “un-man” them first.

A Modest Proposal for the Castration of Male Police Officers in Kafila.
More on MTF sex reassignment surgery here.
More on Vaginoplasty here.

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