Reading the newspapers is becoming like a never-ending horror story. Every day the headlines have some new statistics about a damaging or negative aspect of life in India. The most recent and possibly most concerning ones regard crimes against women. Here, Vasundhra Singh discusses her experience as an Indian at an English University.
I have answered a lot of questions about home. No, I didn’t ride an elephant to school. Yes, there are cows on the road. No, ‘Hindu’ isn’t a language. I usually have a witty reply to most questions but there is one that totally threw me: “Why do Indian men rape?”
Rape cases in Delhi have doubled since 2012, 706 cases were reported in 2012 year while 1,330 were reported in 2013. The year of 2013 witnessed child rapes in Karnataka double, while the highest number of rape cases in 2009-20011 was recorded in Madhya Pradesh at the sky-high number of 9,539. The most horrifying of all is the total number of rape cases reported and recorded in 2009-2011, which was 68,000 – while the conviction rate was a mere 16,000. While the large cities are becoming increasingly associated with rapes, it is time to realize that just because most rape cases in rural areas are not reported does not mean they do not occur. Rape is not a citywide, but a countrywide phenomenon.
Why are political leaders in India unwilling to express such concern or take action?
On the issue of increasing sexual violence in cities, Ramsewal Paikra (Chahattisgarh’s home minister) went on record to say, “No one commits rape intentionally” while Abu Azmi (President of the Maharashtra branch of the the Samajwadi Party) said, “even the women are guilty”. These are a few of the many comments made by our democratically elected leaders. How can we question the state of the nation when the very people we elect to be our voice have such absurd opinions?
It’s easy to point fingers at politicians who make these comments but we need to realize that when Mulayam Singh says “boys will be boys…they make mistakes”, he is not just putting forth his view on the matter but that of the people and in doing so reinforces this attitude. But is it possible to change the attitudes of society?
The attitude of men in India plays a major role in the second-hand citizen treatment of women in India but the entire community needs to change. Member of Maharashtra State Women’s Commision, Asha Mirje’s comment about Nirbhaya (December 2012, Rape Case) being responsible for her own rape clearly demonstrates that this problem is pan-gender. Asha Mirje suggested that women invite rape through the way they dress and behave and therefore should share the blame for these incidents. Every time a woman in a position of power makes comments like these it discredits the entire cause of women empowerment.
Since media coverage over the past few years concerning high crime rates against women, the attention given to these crimes in the government has increased as well. And the measures taken, effective or ineffective, to fight this problem has taken a turn for the better.
My friend said, “some stare a little, some stare a lot, but everyone stares”, my mom said, “you can’t spend the night there, it’s always the people you least expect”, dad said, “take the jacket, take it off later, it’s better to be safe then sorry”.
Every time we tell our daughters or sisters to cover up while leaving the house, or ask our daughters to ‘behave and be safe’ and our son’s to ‘have fun’ while going to out we unconsciously enable this suppressive culture. It’s time we realized that if we told our son’s to behave our daughters would be safe.
As a citizen of a country let down by the people meant to lead us, as a citizen let down by the culture we hold so dear and as citizen let down by the country that boasts to be the next leading nation of the world. India has many things to offer to the world of tradition, culture, technology, sports and science. I can talk politics at the dinner table. I can play cricket with a passion only seen in the streets of Delhi. I can write poetry and appreciate art. What I can’t do is explain. I can’t explain why my country, once known for flavorful food, classical dance, various forms of art and Bollywood, is now known for Rape and doesn’t seem to be making a concerted effort to change this.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of Development in Action.
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