CAMBRIDGE: Shiv Kumar Yadav, the Uber driver convicted for raping a passenger on 5th December last year, has been sentenced for life. Strictness, stringency and rigorousness of the judiciary in handling rape cases are undoubtedly initiators for deterring such heinous crimes from repeating. However, on this day, let us not forget another important aspect that needs remedy in order to successfully daunt such crimes against women – the deep rooted disturbing mentality that men are superior, with infinite unbounded control over women (that perpetuates into victim shaming), that exists in our patriarchal society.

“The girl was out late for dinner and slept in the car, so she got raped.” This was the bigoted rationale Shiv Kumar Yadav had given for the Uber rape case. Or, for that matter, the opinion along the lines of “a girl who goes out at night with an ‘unknown’ man deserves to be raped” stated (explicitly or otherwise) by rapist Mukesh Singh, and the defence lawyers ML Sharma and AP Singh of the 2012 Delhi gang-rape reiterated this mentality. However, what was extremely alarming was the fact that such statements not only came out of the mouths of such perpetrators, but also the general public and government officials who genuinely believe that women safety depends on a woman’s personality and demeanor (rather than a man’s sickening morals).

Every time I hear someone say this misogynistic statement (“she was out and was with a boy, so she got raped”) I feel like feel like getting violent and justifying my actions with a similar statement (“you have a bigoted mouth and you opened it, so I broke it”). But alas, how many faces can one break? After all, there are numerous people in our society who share similar (if not completely the same) opinions that embed gender inequality. I can tell you, at the expense of stereotyping, who exactly these people are.

It is that chauvinistic boy who got spoon-fed on a silver platter by his parents just because they spotted a ‘favourable’ reproductive organ when he was born. This is the same guy who saw his mom being subservient to his father, who objectified women all his life as either meal providers or sex providers. This is the same man in whom our society engrained the dangerous lie that men have the right to be as sexual as they want, in whatever capacity they want while women don’t – and the one’s that dare provoke deserve to be raped. This is the boy who drank, smoked, watched porn for the better half of his life, but judges any girl who does any of those activities. Might I add, these men are disseminated across all economic and educational backgrounds - so money or academic education has nothing to do with their blockading double standard (though given that areas of poor living conditions and low education levels can lead to a more criminalized perpetuation of such double standards). That double standard has resulted in many, if not all, of them either indulging in rape or domestic violence. But oh no, let’s not blame this boy, let’s blame the victim.

It is that “decent” girl who never stepped out after sunset because she either never had the permission to or she was too subservient to our society’s irrational norms. She sits there passing judgments on girls who take the “risky” path (of going to dinners or parties, having a drink, taking a cab back home after hours) in an almost evident attempt to validate herself in the society. She is the one who lives in a sordid world where we’re all a part of some who will get the most rishtas competition, so she feels the need to agree with the society’s unfounded, dogmatic and misogynistic opinions even though it goes against the betterment of her own gender. But oh no, let’s not blame this girl, let’s blame the victim.

It is that older uncle and aunty who raised their daughter to live carefully while simultaneously permitting their son all the freedom in the world. Sure, given there is nothing wrong with asking someone to be careful - but why not accompany that with certain regulations for your male offspring? After all, if you raise one section of the society with extreme directives and the other section with anarchist freedom what you will get is animalistic domination. It is the failure of right parental guidance that has made our society a man’s world – instead of removing deterring empowerment of women, parents need to remove the innate chauvinism ingrained in their male offspring. But oh no, let’s not blame uncle or aunty, let’s blame the victim.

So yes, coming back to my question – how many faces can I break in anger given that patriarchy is deeply entrenched along the whole spectrum of this society. Sure, not every chauvinistic person becomes a rapist, but it is this misogyny that eventually trickles down to form the foundation of gender inequality and offence against women in India.

I have spent the past 7 years in the UK. I know I can wear a dress, have a drink over dinner and take a cab or bus back home there without the degree of fear that I feel when I do the same in India. Why is the situation in our country such that a girl has to always lack independence and live under perpetual stress of safety (where I should/shouldn’t go, is my driver available to take me there, can I take a cab, if I go at this particular time will I reach back home safely, etc)? Is it because having a drink and taking a cab driven by a random man, or going for a movie with a guy friend in the evening some transcendental fault of ours in India? Or, more realistically, is it because our society is bigoted, troubled and bizarre?

Therefore, along with strict judicial actions against those intimidating and victimizing women, our society also requires a psychological revolution to gain long-term gender equality. Without such psychological restructuring, the women in our society will continue living under constant stress of safety and constant threat of misogyny.

(Jaskiran Bedi is a PhD Researcher at the University of Cambridge. Her research area focuses on Institutions in India and the Political Economy of Education).