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The Saffron Book

Rape is dastardly; punishment should be castration. Prostitution shoud be legalised

7. Rape, Prostitution

Dear Vishwanath,
Hardly a day passes without a report that some girl or the other has been a victim of rape. To my way of thinking, that is the single blackest blot on our culture. Perhaps, for reasons of embarrassment even women leaders have not protested loudly enough against this crime. The word 'crime' is rather mild when one realises that rape does not exist in the animal or the beastly universe. In fact, sexual intercourse does not take place amongst animals except, as it were, at the invitation of the female. It is only when the female is in heat that she attracts the male.

Rape then is a crime beyond the beastly possibility. Yet, few countries have laws which prescribe a punishment commensurate with such a dastardly act. British law, however, is fairly strict. The law there considers rape to be a felony at common law and was a capital offence until the Offences Against the Person Act (1861) made it punishable with imprisonment for life. In the United States, the elements of the crime under statute are similar to those under common law. According to the Encyclopaedia Britannica, in psychological terms, rape is an act of anger and a pathological assertion of power. It is more an act of aggression.

Be that as it may, there is no doubt that the impact of rape on the victim is usually devastating and its effect on the mind is life long. How it can damage a present marriage or ruin future prospects is well known. It was not different millennia ago. Sri Ram distanced himself from his beloved Sita who in turn did not live much after managing to introduce their children, Lav and Kush to the father. I believe that punishment should be commensurate with the crime. It should also be such as to prevent a repetition of the crime by the criminal. In this context, any man convicted for rape should be castrated, an action which should also have a lifelong effect on him as well as preclude him from a repeat offence. Some individuals, who feel as strongly on the subject as I do, have suggested the imposition of a death penalty but with them I disagree.

I would also place the onus of evidence on the accused rather than on the complainant. As it is, very understandably, victims feel reluctant to complain and are embarrassed to give evidence in court. If the law is amended in these directions, false allegations could give a handle to unscrupulous women to make false allegations. If this be so, false allegations would only discourage extramarital or promiscuous relationships which are in any case being dissuaded through advertisements on account of the danger of contracting the AIDS disease.

Our attitude towards prostitutes is more abominable than our relative indifference to the seriousness of rape. Think of it, a grown up man with money in his pocket goes to a brothel and selects a girl. If the police chooses to intervene, it is the girl who is arrested. The man goes scat free. The double standard is unjustly weighed against the female. It is well known  that, by and large, women turn to or get trapped into prostitution due to their poverty. On the other hand, only men with money can take a prostitute. In other words, assuming that prostitution is a crime, the greater criminal is the man not the woman.

In my opinion, prostitution is neither a crime nor is it even socially undesirable. In fact, without it, the incidence of rape could well increase. In ancient India it was common for the royal rich to have courtesans. Several raj nartakis or court dancers have become legends. One name that comes to mind immediately is that of Amrapalli who was known as the Nagar Badbu or city wife of Vaisali, situated in Bihar. The other is Menaka, who seduced rishi Vishwamitra. Yet another name is that of Urvashi, a character, in the epic Mahabharat, who tried to seduce Arjuna when he had gone there to learn dancing in devlok or the universe of gods. No doubt, Menaka and Urvashi are mythological figures. Nevertheless their presence in the folklore establishes the legitimacy of courtesans.

Coming to more recent times, it was not uncommon for this royalty to have harems or for the less rich to keep mistresses. My  maternal grandfather, who was not frightfully rich but who belonged to the class of property rentiers, had a mistress. I have been told that she was quite a good classical singer. His richer second cousin called  Nathubhai had a similar friendship with Shrimati Kesarbai Kelkar who was recognised as the premier woman Hindustani classical singer in her time. Incidentally, the measure of a man in this kind of society in Mumbai at least until 60 yearsago was the distinction of his mistress.

The institution of the tawaif is well known since medieval days and I have heard of no mistress or tawaif being arrested for prostitution, although she could from time to time change her patron. To give a legal status to such a relationship a well known lawyer of Gujarat innovated what he called a maitree karaar or a contract of friendship whereby a man and a woman could live in sin but under the umbrella of a justiciable contract. There have also been time bound marriages amongst the rich in Gujarat. Say for three or five years at a time with the contract providing as to who would take care of the children, if any. In a man woman relationship an enormous range of impermanence or temporariness is possible. Many shades of grey with perhaps, so to say, only one white and one black. To the purist only a sacramental and therefore an indissoluble marriage was acceptable as sacred. Something that a devout Catholic would describe: marriage is a oneness, divine and indivisible until death do them apart.

Any marriage which is contractual, as distinct from sacramental, carries with it an implicit threat of termination, which in turn implies impermanence. In fact, any possibility of divorce implies the threat of an interruption and therefore of impermanence. Lately, living together has become an acceptable phenomenon. I have heard from several Europeans that marriage has remained customary only in the villages of say Germany. In the cities, up to 75 per cent of the young prefer to merely live together rather than marry. In our cities like Delhi and Mumbai, the phenomenon of  living together is no longer unheard of. What then is so immoral about prostitution? I therefore feel that the profession should be legalised and prostitutes should be given licences. It would then be possible to insist on a frequent checkup on the state of their health. Moreover, they would be freed from the harassment of the police and, exploitation by pimps.

The Saffron Book
Prafull Goradia
1. Awake and Unite!
2. Why The Saffron Book?

10. Small States
3. Vision
4. Economic Face
5. Abolish Casteism
6. Bride Burning, Divorce
7. Rape, Prostitution
8. Revolutionising Education
9. The Constitution

11. Nationalism
12. Pan-Islamism
13. Communism
14. Subnationalism
15. Casteism

16. Hindutva is Dialectical
17. Origin of Hinduism
18. Medieval Phase
19. Modern Resurgence
20. Not Fundamentalism
21. Not Fascism
22. Tolerance
23. Strengths
24. Weaknesses
25. Opportunities
26. Threats
27. Individual Brilliance

Hindu Paradoxes
42. Idolatry
43. Fatalism
44. Double Standards
45. Masochistic Fringe
46. Fifth Column
47. No Soul before Birth

48. Proselytising Unwelcome
49. Myth of Divide and Rule

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