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Citizen Voices

Breaking The Silence Around Rape

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I made this artwork (below) in 2017 for a university assignment. It was meant as a mockery of our culturally held belief that girls somehow “provoke” men through their clothes, their personalities or simply by their existence into raping them. Back then I was naïve enough to think I need not add things like a child’s diaper or a deceased woman’s grave to my artwork. I could never have imagined that soon enough these would become noticeable omissions from this piece.

I sincerely hope there comes a time when I get to call my creation outdated, or at least merely the relic of a nightmarish past. Unfortunately, from the way things look, I don’t see it happening any time soon. Here we are in 2020, hearing about endless cases of rape and harassment. It seems all too clear, however, why this nightmare wouldn’t end: we don’t want to change who we are, we don’t hold our men accountable for their actions, our fathers tell our girls not to grow into the women they want and our mothers let our boys get away with everything because “boys will be boys”. How difficult is it to realize that there is not just one way “boys” can be; that, instead, it is us who instill those traits in them which make so many of them grow up to be monsters? Meanwhile, we raise our girls to feel worthless about themselves (at least at some point in their lives) by endlessly labeling, belittling, invalidating and abusing them.

Rapists weren’t born rapists. They turned into rapists when you let them take advantage of women at home, workplaces, institutes and mosques. They turned into rapists when you didn’t stop your friends from making petty remarks about them. They turned into rapists when parents treated their sons and daughters differently and taught them what their respective “roles” were in this society. They turned into rapists when questions about their bodies and feelings remained unanswered in the name of “shame”. They turned into rapists when they learned from unsupervised spaces what they should have learned in sex education classes. They turned into rapists when they were not taught about consent or told that they were not entitled to everything. They turned into rapists when you taught them to respect only the women at their homes (and sometimes not even them). They turned into rapists when you had a ready label for everyone who marched for their rights (“kaafir”, “behaya”, “agent”) while you were busy living your privileged lives. They turned into rapists when you taught your girls since the very beginning that they have to make compromises in every relationship and never the other way around. They turned into rapists when you told your girls that no matter what, once they got married, they had to put up with literally everything. They turned into rapists when you said that the society was never going to change, so why bother trying?

The recent motorway incident has triggered a wave of rage among us. But this is the same rage that feminists carry inside them every day. You label them, insult them and call them “angry”, but fighting all of the above-mentioned injustices is what they live for. You have to understand that you don’t always have to be the victim of something to begin to feel deeply about it. Many of us are currently feeling personally about the incident (“What if it was one of us”?), but let us not forget that this is not simply a personal matter; such a thing should not happen with anyone. I hope the fire this incident has lighted in our population does not dim down soon. I hope we never forget the pain that it brought us. I hope this time we can really take up the task to fight the rampant injustice all around us, and not just one aspect of it but in its entirety.

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