Meet Madhumita Pandey, Who interviewed 100 convicted rapists in India

Rape is no more a strange term in India, not a single newspaper in India published without a rape story. Currently, a CBSE topper in Haryana, who had been awarded by India’s President for her excellent performance was drugged and gang-raped. The accused have been arrested including a serving army man. Why a rapist in India often go unpunished? Why the cries of rape victims fall in a deaf ear? At one hand Government is busy promoting women empowerment, ‘Beti Bachao Beti Padhao’, But, How will this be implemented in the ground?

What teaches us such kind of Incident? Would parents in villages send their daughters to school after hearing the news of CBSE topper was raped when she was on her way to tuition class? It is not the only incident that sparked controversy around the country, there are many, but not a single incident came to light in which rapist was hanged to death.

In this article, we will be talking about a woman Madhumita Pandey, who interviewed 100 convicted rapist in India. When Madhumita Pandey was 22-year-old, she first visited Tihar Jail in India’s capital, Delhi to meet and interview of the convicted rapist in India for her doctoral thesis at the criminology department of Anglia Ruskin University in the United Kingdom. Matka Man: Alagarathanam Natarajan Runs Thirst-Quenching Mission in Delhi

Madhumita Pandey started it in 2013 as a pilot project, over the past three years, she has reportedly interviewed 100 convicted rapist in India. The year she started her study, the gangrape and brutal murder of a student, Nirbhaya had shaken the country. Nirbhaya’s murder made Indian citizen to take the street to condemns the attack and sought strict punishment for the perpetrators. Nirbhaya was on her way back to a home along with her friend after watching the movie “Life of Pi”.

If the data of the National Crime Records Bureau is believed, 34,651 women were reportedly raped in the year 2015. Following the Nirbhaya case, gender specialists had ranked India the worst place among G-20 countries to be a woman.

“Everyone was thinking the same thing,” Madhumita Pandey told Washington Post, who at the time was on the other side of the world, in England, finishing off her master’s. “Why do these men do what they do? We think of them as monsters, we think no human being could do something like that.”

Protest that emerged after Nirbhaya’s murder forced the country to talk about a taboo topic, which carries a social stigma in India. Pandey who has grown up in New Delhi saw how Delhi has changed after that. Pandey said: “I thought, what prompts these men? What are the circumstances which produce men like this? I thought, ask the source.”

Madhumita Pandey had spent humongous time with the convicted rapist in Delhi’s Tihar Jail, most of them she met were illiterate. only a few of them had gone to high schools. Several were third or fourth-grade dropouts. “When I went to research, I was convinced these men are monsters. But when you talk to them, you realize these are not extraordinary men, they are really ordinary. What they’ve done is because of upbringing and thought process,” Pandey quoted by Washington Post as saying.

While talking about India’s rituals and traditional roles, and social stigma attached to Indian society she has pointed out several things. Pandey said, “In Indian households, even in more educated families, women are often bound to traditional roles.”

Many women won’t even use their husbands’ first names. “As an experiment, I phoned a few friends and asked: what does your mom call your dad? The answers I got were things like ‘are you listening,’ ‘listen,’ or ‘father of Ronak’ (the child’s name).’” Pandey added.

Rapist are also part of own society, they do not come from another planet, everyone thinks the rapist has something inherently wrong but not.  she said, “Men are learning to have false ideas about masculinity, and women are also learning to be submissive. It is happening in the same household.

After hearing ordeal of some of the rapists, she was reminded of most common beliefs that were often parroted even in her own household. “After you speak to [the rapists], it shocks you — these men have the power to make you feel sorry for them. As a woman that’s not how you expect to feel. I would almost forget that these men have been convicted of raping a woman. In my experience, a lot of these men don’t realize that what they’ve done is rape. They don’t understand what consent is.”

“Then you ask yourself, is it just these men? Or is the vast majority of men?” she said. While speaking about the lack of education related to sex, having a fear that these topics could lead to “corrupt” youth and offend their traditional values. “Parents won’t even say the words like penis, vagina, rape or sex. If they can’t get over that, how can they educate young boys?” Pandey asked.

While meeting and interviewing 100 convicted rapists in India, several men have denied committing the crime, while some made excuses or gave justification for their alleged crime. Many denied rape happened at all. “There were only three or four who said we are repenting. Others had found a way to put their actions into some justification, neutralize, or blame action onto the victim.”

One case, in particular, participant 49, sent Pandey on an unexpected journey. He expressed remorse for raping a 5-year-old girl. “He said ‘yes I feel bad, I ruined her life.’ Now she is no longer a virgin, no one would marry her. Then he said, ‘I would accept her, I will marry her when I come out of jail.’”

One response shocked the interviewer in which she forced to find out the victim’s whereabouts after the rapist revealed the information in the interview. When Pandey found the girl’s mother, she got to know that the family had not even been told that their daughter’s rapist has been in jail.

Pandey hopes to publish her research in the coming months but said she faces hostility for her work. “They think, here comes another feminist. They assume a woman doing research like this will misrepresent men’s ideas. Where do you begin with someone like that?” she said.

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