The recent gangrape and beating of a 23 year old Indian woman in Delhi (and her subsequent tragic death) has shaken not only India but the world. It dominated the news in Australia, where I was visiting my family last month, along with the shocking statistic that a rape happens every 22 minutes in India. It’s a grave matter because India’s international reputation is now at stake and the situation has left the world waiting for answers and action to be taken.
I didn’t want to write anything about the rape for a couple of reasons. Firstly, it’s left me with a lot of negative feelings and I don’t want to dwell on them as it will make living in India disturbing for me. Secondly, as I’ve previously mentioned, I’ve reached a stage where I feel less inclined to want to write about contentious issues in India. I’ve gone through a phase of “locking horns” with India and questioning how the country functions. Now, I’ve reached a stage of resignation. It is what it is, and as I’m not a citizen of India, it’s not really my place to judge and criticise.
However, I’ve been asked to write something about the rape situation here in the hopes of igniting a constructive discussion, so I’ll briefly share my views about it.
The simple thing to do is to just blame the men for raping — after all they’re committing the act. Where’s their self control? It goes deeper than that though. The core of the matter is why men think that they can keep behaving in such a way. And, the reason is because Indian society and the legal system supports such behaviour.
Take an example such as Hitler. He was the perpetrator of many horrific acts. Yet, he would never have been able to carry them out if so many people didn’t support him.
In India, the rape of women is directly or indirectly supported by a range of factors including:
- the lesser status of women in society and the manner in which they are shunned if rape does happen to them.
- an ineffective legal system where women are discouraged from reporting rapes, and the rapists can get free through such means as offering bribes. India’s legal system is also notoriously inefficient and long winded, and conviction rates for rapes low.
- politicians who have cases of rape and sexual harassment against them being commonplace. Political parties support them and allow them to enter politics.
It’s the attitude of Indian society towards women and rape victims that’s particularly disturbing. A friend of mine wrote an excellent, well researched, blog post about it.
“I was sad to discover the “11% Truth” about rape in India – or what happens to a child or woman after being a victim of a rape or incest. I surveyed and asked If a girl or woman is raped in India, will she have the same chances in life as anyone else? (for example, to find a good husband, live a normal family life, etc…). A resounding 89% of Indians believe that she never will. That means that only 11% of victims will end up leading a happy ‘normal’ life if anyone were to find out that she’d been raped. In part, that explains very vividly the low number of reports filed following a rape. Keeping it a secret seems like the only chance some girls have to find a good husband later.”
She also reveals:
“When I asked If a girl is raped, does this bring shame – or embarrassment – onto the family of the victim? 50% of respondents answered YES. A large number of respondents left follow-up comments to that question like, “my personal answer is no, but the real answer in many Indian families would be yes.” I read countless stories of village girls and women thrown out and banned from their homes after being raped. This is done to minimise damage to the family’s status within the community and reduce the level of shame brought down upon them as much as possible.”
From this, it is clear that the fundamentals of Indian society need to change. I dearly want to believe that the girl’s death will be a catalyst for this much needed change. It’s a hope that I’m clinging to because I don’t want to accept the alternative — that her death will be in vain and forgotten about in years to come, and that the attitudes that support rapes and mistreatment of women will prevail.
Your thoughts on the matter?