On protesting Jaffna rapes

There is nothing useful in responding to rape and sexual violence against women with mindless outrage, or uninformed alarmism — there is certainly nothing useful, or feminist, in the demand for blood. Bloodlust — ‘HANG THE RAPIST’ — believe it or not, does little or nothing for women’s rights. In fact, it just does more harm than good.

Sri Lanka has been swept up by the recent incidents of rape in Jaffna and several varying, though mostly violent, responses to those rapes. As far as I can tell, due process has been followed, perpetrators arrested etc. The finer details and nuances of the actual rape, the latest one, remain shrouded in mystery — for example, is there an element of caste in this case? All we’ve seen is the wave of adamant and aggressive protests without a clear message or intent. It’s happening in Colombo too.

In India, we’ve seen this exact same trend. The discourse about women’s rights has become more and more wrought with the call for blood; becoming diluted and poisoned with what is actually, evidently patriarchal intent. It is evident in this specific kind of ‘mob’ response to violence against women: when mobs of men take to the streets to ‘avenge’ victimized women, or to shout about how ‘they’ should ‘protect their women’, go about rabble-rousing, asking for the death penalty. Pitchforks don’t do a damn bit of good.

Please be watchful about which protests you join, what the messages and demands of those protests are; WHAT they are actually protesting. Be sure you aren’t party to anything with underlying patriarchal intent, caste-politics, and most importantly, that you are NOT party to anything with any Tamil nationalist agenda. Be watchful for political machinations and for whose agenda you may unknowingly be plugging.

Protest sexual violence. Ask for equality and gender justice. Ask for gender-neutral rape laws, even! Use the opportunity productively; don’t throw it away for the mindless mob.

We lived under various tyrannies for many decades. We should be wiser to it now.

This note was posted on Facebook by Subha Wijesiriwardena. Please share if you feel useful. Subha blogs at blogsmw.wordpress.com