It was International Women’s Day on Sunday. Adding to the mix of thoughts on that is the debate surrounding ‘India’s Daughter’, a documentary made by an English woman about Jyoti Singh, or ‘Nirbhaya’ as she was dubbed in the press following her horrific gang-rape and eventual death some years ago. ‘Nirbhaya’ means ‘the fearless one’, and I cannot think of a moniker more tragically wrong for a young woman who was just trying to be herself—a medical school student, coming home on a bus after watching a movie with a friend. The fearless one implies someone out to break rules, flout conventions, brave and courageous as she flies through life, struggling against injustice and tyranny and emerging victorious. She wasn’t trying to do any of that. She was just a pretty, intelligent, middle class girl trying to make a better future for herself. She was coming home from a movie, and it was running late at night, and so a group of men decided she was fair game. Worse than that, in fact—in the documentary, Mukesh Singh, one of Jyoti’s rapists, is on tape saying any woman out after nine pm is asking for trouble. Why do they struggle, he asks, when they should clearly know that they themselves have put themselves in that situation? His complete lack of regret or shame about his actions is not only chilling and nauseating, but also deeply enraging.

At least it is enraging to me. I want to take a brick to this man’s head. I want to eviscerate him with the same rod he used to pull Jyoti Singh’s intestines out at the back of a bus in front of so many people, none of whom tried to stop him and his cohorts. I want him to pay for what he did. Nothing can ever bring back the girl to her broken parents. He and his fellow rapists should feel the pain they caused. But look at the narrative surrounding Mukesh Singh’s mindset. It is one that echoes across cultures: women who dress a certain way are asking for it. Women who stay out ‘late’ are asking for it. Women who drive are practically begging to be raped. No means yes. Yes, has no meaning because all women are there for the taking. How many times do we tell our own girls the same? Come home before dark. Put a dupatta on. Don’t talk to strangers. Don’t laugh too loudly. Don’t go places alone. Do we say these things because we are afraid for our girls, because of people like Mukesh Singh, or is it because we do, in some corner of our minds, agree with them?

It’s usually a combination, and a vicious cycle. We try to curtail the movement and behaviour of our girls because we let our men run amok. Every common cultural and religious narrative we are surrounded with privileges men and the male gaze, the emphasis being that men will be men, that their desires and needs are paramount and that they just cannot help themselves. The net of control is so neatly cast that the men don’t even realize that they are being reduced to beasts—uncontrollable, base, wild creatures that have no sense of restraint or decency. How unjust, and how untrue! The women don’t stand a chance from day one, and thus the onus of self-preservation falls entirely on them. If something bad happens to you, it’s your fault because no beast-man can be held accountable for his actions. We can quote hadith about the Prophet (PBUH) lowering his leering cousin’s gaze till the cows come home but in reality women are leered at all the time by men who have never been told not to.

It boils down to the obvious and yet so difficult to grasp concept of teaching our boys not to rape. Instead of shuttling our girls back home at dusk and dressing them in whatever we think is modest attire, we have to start educating our boys and our men to not rape. That women are people in their own right, and that they have the same right to safety and freedom as any man. It isn’t because they are someone’s sister and daughter and mother, it is because they are human beings. And before we get onto our smug high horse about the uncivilized Indians who can’t keep their pants on, let us not forget that rape is an ugly reality here in Pakistan too. We may not be able to relate to Jyoti Singh, taking the bus back home, but don’t let that for a minute lull you into thinking rape only happens to poor people. It does not.

Every rapist is born of a woman. Let that be food for some serious thought here. This is a narrative that women have the power to change by raising their sons right. This is a world that is rapidly becoming more and more hostile to women, and rape is becoming a tool of oppression being used far too frequently. We need to stop celebrating one foolish little day as some great celebration of the leaps women’s empowerment has made if every single other day is spent in apathy and wringing one’s hands at how mad and bad and sad the world is. We have got to step up. As Fatima Bhutto ironically tweeted, that there’s no need to get so excited about International Women’s Day—after all, every other day on the calendar is International Men’s Day.