Modern-day Draupadi: Indian Mythology and The Ever-existing Rape Culture
Right from childhood, irrespective of our community, creed, or religion, we’ve all grown up bathed in tales of Indian Mythology. From Lord Ram’s quest to free a kidnapped Sita, to Krishna’s lessons in the middle of a battlefield, our stories are rich with culture. However, let’s wander back into the childhood we left behind a few years ago and reminisce over these stories. For every step that Lord Ram took towards Ayodhya, you can’t help but imagine Sita’s despair; for every arrow that Arjun fired in the battlefield, you can’t help but remember the trails of tears that left Draupadi’s eyes in the court of Kauravas.
Before diving deeper into this Chakravyuh, let’s retrace our footsteps and start from the beginning. Draupadi, daughter of Drupad, the king of Panchal, married five Pandavas under dire circumstances. Upon the invitation of Kauravas, Pandavas walked into the trap of game of dice which was laid down by the former party to humiliate the latter by taking away their kingdom as well as their free will. Yudhishthir lost himself, his brothers, and his wife after he bet them on the game of dice. Draupadi was then dragged by her hair and thrown in the court of Kauravas. Duryodhana, the eldest of Kauravas, ordered for Draupadi to be disrobed in front of the entire court. When everyone seemed to have their hands tied by some excuse or another, she turned to divinity for help. It is said that Krishna intervened and even as the tyrants tried to disrobe her, an endless stream of cloth poured out of her Sari until it reduced them all to shock-struck disdain.
This prompts one to ask the question: What would become of a modern-day Draupadi? What about the ever-prominent rape culture of India?
Let’s crunch some numbers
According to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), 33,356 rape cases were recorded in 2018 with 33,977 victims. An average number of 89 rapes per day were documented. Moreover, every fourth rape victim across the country was a minor. The NCRB data also showed that in almost 94 out of every 100 cases, the victims were well known to the offenders.
Keep in mind that these are just the reported numbers. Now let’s factor in the superstitious beliefs, class discrimination, oppression, illiteracy, and other such obnoxious atrocities into the equation. And we haven’t even started talking about marital rape. This makes the unregistered number of rape cases in India a heavy concern.
Books that give a better understanding of the concept
Bitter chocolate by Pinki Virani is claimed to be a book that challenges our notions of family, fidelity, and honor. This book was one of the first ice breakers on the topic of childhood sexual abuse. The book opens with the author’s personal experience with abuse and then proceeds to the why, how, and the after-effects of it. It also addresses the unspoken abuse and provides a nationally coordinated helpline. An easy to read as well as a comprehensive guide to childhood sexual abuse, this book is an eye-opener to the topic and commands difference from the present approach to CSA.
Childhood Betrayed by Loveleen Kacker daringly talks about childhood trauma and abuse. It covers issues of female feticide, child marriage, and sexual abuse of minors. The Statistics of these cases are truly devastating. In India, every day millions of children are robbed of childhood while there’s a little hope of there being a remedy for this situation. A bold account of research by Loveleen Kacker makes this book a thought catalyst for change and revolution.
Aruna’s Story by Pinki Virani is a remarkable literary piece that recounts the gruesome life of Aruna Shanbaug. This nonfiction tale weaves an epic story of Aruna Shanbaug, the nurse who was attacked with a dog chain, brutally raped in the hospital she worked in, and then abandoned by her family thereafter. Brain-dead for sight, speech, and movement, she died of Pneumonia in 2015. Her rapist served a mere 7-year prison sentence after destroying 42 years from Aruna’s lifetime. A heartbreaking tale of abuse and loss, this book is definitely a must-read.
Abused Boys: The Neglected Victims of Sexual Abuse by Mic Hunter explores the realm of male victims of sexual abuse. It busts the myth of sexual abuse of male children being rare and the consequences of it being comparatively less serious. Hunter examines the physical and emotional backlash of sexual abuse in men. Overall, it points out the gravity of abuse in men and the culture that shames them for speaking out.
Searching for Krishna
Rape and abuse have been a common pattern of criminal behaviors in our society. Both men, as well as women, suffer from the consequences of this destructive pattern. So where do we find our savior? Who do we go to when some idiot in a dark alley yells out profanities like “What’s under those clothes”?
Change is the mother of all solutions to deadly adversities. So, what do we change- our belief system, our reaction, or the justice system? The answer to this can easily be a change in all three of them. It’s often believed that your god lives within you so you definitely have the strength to fight malevolence even if it hangs an inch above your head. But implementing that change is a different matter.
Change starts with me, with you, with all of us. Speak out your stories, don’t give your abusers power over you by holding on to shame. This is not just a fight; this is Mahabharata against an ancient evil that refuses to back down and we’re all warriors standing with dharma and against injustice.
“Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.”
- Robert F Kennedy
Author: Alefiya is currently a business student as well as a professional Content Writer and Copywriter. Her poetries have been published in several anthologies, one of them being "The Song of Peace", a noble initiative by The League of Poets. When she's not writing fearlessly unique pieces, she devotes her days to intensive reading. She can be reached at her Instagram @alefiya21 to discuss books, philosophy and whatever our souls are made of!