Madhumita Pandey, a student pursuing her doctoral thesis at the criminology department of Anglia Ruskin University in the United Kingdom was in for a complete shock of her lifetime when she first made it to New Delhi’s Tihar Jail to interview convicted rapists in India.
She was only 22 when she took up the project to interview 100 convicted rapists in India. It all began in the year 2013 just a few months after national outrage over the rape of ‘Nirbhaya’. ‘Nirbhaya’ or ‘Fearless One’ was a young student of physiology who was brutally gang raped in a moving bus and was thrown out of it while she was on her way back home with her male friend after watching a movie in a shopping mall.
According to the National Crime Records Bureau, the most recent statistics reveal that 34,651 women were reported to be raped in the year 2015. The Nirbhaya incident spread like wildfire throughout the nation and the common mass came out in thousands to protest against the prevailing rise in crimes against women in India.
Since the incident, Madhumita has spent a majority of her time speaking to rapists in Delhi’s Tihar Jail. Most of the convicts she met lacked education and just a handful of them had passed high school. Madhumita said, “When I met these convicts, I was convinced that they are monsters. But as I spoke to them, you realise that they too are just like a normal human being. The crime they have committed is because of their thought process and upbringing”.
In India, women are mostly bound to traditional roles and many of them won’t even call their husbands by their first names. Madumita added “Men are led to believe in false ideas about masculinity while women are learning to be submissive.”
Madhumita further said, “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.”
During her interview with the convicts, many of them made mere excuses or tried to justify their acts. Many even denied their crime. There were only a handful who repented their crime while most of them found a way to shove the blame on the victims and also tried justifying their actions.
The responses by the convicts shocked Madhumita and she hopes to publish her research work in the months to come.