“De-mythifying Rape”: An Analysis of Gender-Based Sexual Violence in the Ramayana and the Mahabharata

My thesis explores aspects of two major Hindu epics, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, and the effect they have on the prevalence and propagation of rape and rape culture in Indian society. I attempted to analyse the deep-rooted connection between mythology, cultural traditions and the acceptance of rape as a normal phenomenon within my own society. My analysis included both aspects of mythology that contribute on the one hand to victim blaming and a lack of justice for rape victims and could be used on the other hand to deter rape and create a more inclusive and gender friendly society. This analysis included not only the negative treatment of women, but also a distrust and victimisation of the ‘feminine’.

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Writing this thesis has been an extremely meaningful experience for me. I grew up being told that, as a woman, I was responsible for my own safety and that, if anything were to happen to me, I would be the one to blame for not taking appropriate precautions. This attitude has always angered and distressed me and I hoped to touch briefly upon the ways in which they could be transformed in my own society. The thesis has been for me a way to examine my own inner conflicts around religion, Hindu mythology, Indian culture and my own personal belief systems. I hope that this thesis will encourage all individuals to examine rape culture within their own cultures and address what I believe is a global problem not unique to my society.

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