Beyond media sensationalism and legal recourse, when it comes to violence against women, there is an underlying layer of human interaction that is much more sinister – apathy. The former can only get us to the point of grievance redressal on paper, and one particular case is taken care of and wrapped up at a time. A few but significant number of legal victories regarding violence against women and the media footage granted to them have not been able to make the rest of us care permanently and do something about this current predicament.
If that is not enough, insensitivity and openly disparaging violence against women are becoming a fashion trend for public personalities to sprout. It is with complete and utter confidence that Chief of RSS Mohan Bhagwat can make statements such as: “Crimes against women happening in urban India are shameful. It is a dangerous trend. But such crimes won’t happen in “Bharat” or the rural areas of the country. You go to villages and forests of the country and there will be no such incidents of gang-rape or sex crimes.” Or Salman Khan can dismissively compare himself to a rape victim in light of the extensive media footage attributed to violence against women.
There is no absolute way of knowing whether they actually meant statements like this or not. But what we can be sure of is that they can capitalise on their bad behaviour for public attention. To sum it up: apathy towards women gains them footage. Keeping in mind the pedestals persons such as Salman Khan occupy, they have a responsibility to advocate social betterment, as opposed to the mass production of callousness that they seem to be encouraging. Where Mohan Bhagwat is concerned, he never seems to have to ever worry about consequences.
Where this insensitivity is concerned, it is not just a ‘celebrity’ problem, this apathy exists in our own social circles as well. Social media is a thriving ground for misogyny. ‘Dank’ memes and their host pages churn out jokes after jokes about rape culture. The consequence for which are thousands of followers and ‘haha’ reactions. Humour at the cost of women’s dignity and safety can gather the average social media user vast amounts of virtual validation – it could be anything ranging from anti-feminist memes to victim blaming. Last year in Vishakhapatnam, a woman was sexually assaulted in public. Not only did the bystanders do nothing, they whipped out their phones and actually filmed the incident. The information highway, the internet, is utilised to encourage even more ignorance. Basically, apathy has a virality factor.
Besides a tendency to just not care, bystander behaviour and apathy are also motivated by a fear of speaking out and a possible violent repercussion. Or when they perceive the physical and virtual presence of other people, they shrug off the responsibility of preventive action to someone else. They assume that someone else is better positioned to handle the situation. There is no sense of accountability and agency. Yet these limitations do not prevent them from standing there and enjoying the ‘show’.
So what can be done as a bystander? The number of bystanders is always more than the perpetrator, they can stand in the way and prevent the attack from happening. Or afterwards, they can comfort the victim/survivor and get them the immediate help that they need. Bystanders can be pro-active witnesses when there is an investigation going on. It will help the path of justice and provide recourse to the victim/survivor. Inside the home, we can take initiatives such as mass-reporting pages and posts that take pleasure in misogyny. Have conversations at home, especially with children, as to why we should care about violence against women. Apathy can be broken only when the first person speaks up. It becomes everyone’s responsibility when the first person makes a move and creates an echo chamber.
Image used for representational purpose only. Featured image source: DZone