One can’t help but notice that the favourite defence of high-profile Indian men accused of sexual harassment or rape is simply to say: It was consensual/it was flirtatious. It’s a defence that is tailor-made for a society submerged in patriarchal stereotypes, especially when the accuser is a Western woman (aggressive, sexual predator) or a maid (extortionist).

Almost invariably, in the drama that plays out after, the wives of the accused—publicly at least—are their husbands’ biggest cheerleaders and seem to buy into the story of the spouse wronged/framed by an envious, less successful outsider. In 2003—a couple of years after her husband Phaneesh Murthy was first accused of sexual harassment and stalking by his assistant at Infosys Technologies, Reka MaximovitchJaya Murthy said in an interview to The Economic Times that “we’ve bonded more strongly as a family because of this episode". She had a lot to learn from her husband who was a role model, she added.

In 2004, Murthy settled another sexual harassment complaint and, earlier this week, he was sacked as CEO of iGATE for sexual misconduct. The company said it is investigating a sexual harassment complaint by employee Araceli Roiz. Murthy told a press conference that they had a relationship that lasted a few months but Roiz’s law firm Aiman-Smith & Marcy said he systematically took advantage of his position as CEO to engage in abusive and harassing actions for a period of two years. “When she tried to extricate herself from the relationship, he reduced her responsibilities, threatened her continued employment, and pressured her to continue the relationship."

The law firm also questioned whether iGATE, knowing what it did about Murthy, did enough to oversee him and to provide some method of redressal for female employees. Murthy’s consensual defence with its classic who-understands-women-yaar undertone won’t stand up to any legal scrutiny.

Of course, any keen observer of Indian men knows that most of them don’t know the first thing about interacting with women. How can they, when their idea of a pick-up line is Aati Kya Khandala and the only women they spend time with are inaccessible fantasies like Katrina Kaif. Most of them pay or get married to lose their virginity.

So many Western women who travel here complain that, often, when they address Indian men (of all castes and classes) politely, they can almost see the strobe lights going off in the gents’ heads: AVAILABLE. WANTS ME. Bollywood’s brutish portrayal of goris has been debated for decades.

There are enough damning statistics about our men. One survey by the US-based International Center for Research on Women a couple of years ago found that 24% of Indian men have committed sexual violence at some point in their lives; 20% forced their partners to have sex with them; 65% said they believe there are times women deserve to be beaten; 84% who had paid for sex suspected the sex worker was a minor.

So why do Indian women support spouses who abuse them or abuse other women? We see ourselves as powerless and helpless. We’ve been conditioned so beautifully we don’t think there’s anything amiss in his behaviour. Boys are always treated different. We don’t earn enough money to make it on our own. We have children. We were never brought up to think of alternatives. We could make it on our own but it would be hard—it’s so much easier to just live the comfortable life, right? Only 5% of women here reach the top layer in our profession versus a 20% global average (according to a just-out study by the Center for Talent Innovation). We don’t have the energy to fight our parents, or deal with the incessant questions that are bound to follow. So what if he hits us once in a while, we’ve seen that before, and our parents are still together. We think not letting him go is the best twisted punishment a wife could come up with.

Tell me boss, when will we start believing in ourselves?

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