Thursday, January 3, 2013

The 'Indian' gang rape

Looking east in disgust: Delhi rape through eyes of the west

An interesting read. It has been, frankly, very upsetting to read the chauvinistic comments coming from writers in the West, as though gang rape is a peculiarly Indian problem. I am especially irritated to read the comment, "I am ashamed to be an Indian", by a number of Indians, happily watching the drama from their armchairs overseas.

This article should restore some sort of balance. Turns out the incidence of rape, the percentage of rapists that get arrested or convicted, the victim-shaming, and even the percentage of "leering men", are not really that much different between India and the 'civilized' West.

So please, let us stop the 'India bashing', and superficial, unhelpful commentary, and instead celebrate the democracy that permits us to express our disgust and anger at this horrific crime, the sense of ownership that makes us long to see our country become a safer place for women, the fairness of our legal system that protects even the worst criminals from being lynched but instead gives them a fair trial, and the sense of community that makes Us feel wronged and shamed and unsafe and angry and guilty and sorry, and causes us to stand shoulder to shoulder with our women, expressing our unity and solidarity.


  1. This post continues to get a lot of traffic 3 weeks after I wrote it, and so I am copying some of the discussion from my Facebook page to add more to what I wrote here.

  2. Juliana Abraham wrote: You are absolutely right, Pradeep! Rape and violence toward women is a world-wide problem, it's prevalent everywhere. And, it's not a woman's issue, it's an everyone issue. I wish we could stop dividing the world into east and west though. We in the 'west' do it and those in the 'east' do it. It's just hurtful and unfair for all and causes further divides and animosity, when really we all want the same things and we are all human.

  3. Sneha Chandy wrote: Thanks Pradeep, have shared the link.

  4. Bijoy Varughese wrote: Well said Sir..

  5. Shwetha Mabel wrote: I beg to differ with you Pradeep. I am definitely ashamed to be an Indian when it comes to women's place in our society. As an Indian who has lived abroad, I can say for sure that I feel much safer and more secure in the US than on the streets of Hyd. I do not walk on the road where my parents live. I'm always in a car or in an auto. Eve-teasers abound. Even jeans are a sign of 'loose' morals. I got hit by guys in bikes many times while walking on the road as a student. auto drivers make stupid comments. Buses are a haven for the perverts. I was terrified after my first bus ride. I used to take a 'ladies' bus to college. As a child, I lived in an area where a boys college was situated. No woman from our neighbourhood would venture out on the street during the closing hours of the college. We managed our schedule to suit the college s working hours ! I felt like I was in heaven when I came to Bangalore to study for 2 yrs. it is relatively a much better place for women. Yes, Hyd has changed a lot and is trying to become more Cosmo and metro and whatever....but the old parts of the city are still not kind to women. Many of my college friends were married off against their will and never studied beyond graduation. My best friend did her masters in math and had to limit herself to teaching in a girls college because her parents said she cannot work in a place where there are men. I live in a so-called good area of the city but in the appartment above mine, there is a Marwadi family that confines the women of their household to a tiny room when they are having their period. What kind of society does this?

  6. Anita Segar wrote: Thought-provoking, you have to admit though that the statistics reveal a rather serious and grim situation in India as it relates to crimes against women, that is more deeply rooted in tradition, culture, faith etc. Back to your post, I have seen some of these anti-east comments as well, I don't think they're as mean-minded as you may think, they are more a reaction to the horrific, brutal nature of the assault on a random defenseless girl in a country that is proudly rising and evolving on so many fronts. There's more sorrow and pain/grief than anything else. This incident has opened up a stinking can of worms and it could be that, in the wake of this tragedy, open declaration of belonging to India is somewhat of an embarrassment for some. Of course, distancing ourselves from this situation no matter how bad, is not the solution. Also, with the absence of familiarity between attacker and victim, it has somehow placed all women in a vulnerable position, very scary. That could well be us, our daughters, mothers, sisters in that situation. I do agree with you when you imply that folks out west shouldn't bash India per se because it's interesting how so-called "westernized" "educated" Indians continue to perpetuate the underlying themes of gender inequality in the way they prefer male offspring to female, speak down to and treat their women poorly and even abuse their wives, all the while judging "Indians in India". It's hypocritical at best. As for the rounding up of the attackers and promise for speedy justice, I think it's a great example of how public participation and political will can actually create efficiency in India.

  7. Shwetha Mabel wrote:
    India is not on the top of this list but it is on the list. I love my country and I go out of my way to defend my country against condescending remarks from the West but I keep silent when they start talking about how we treat our women.

  8. Pradipta Ghosh wrote: Pradeep, I had never known you to be someone who writes off of their cuffs without thinking (in fact, I always valued to be a thoughtful writer and speaker). Your comments are not right, and are downright offensive, which, if you knew how some of us women overseas felt, should take back. Most NRI women who (according to you said they are ashamed to be an indian woman and engaged in "INdia-Bashing") agree that rapes happen...everywhere...but law enforcement here will never allow that rapist to go scott free. There are special victims units that deals rapidly with all sexual assault cases. The names of the perpetrators are entered into sex-offender registry and they, frankly are the subjects of shame all the remaining life...banned from living in school areas, where normal people live. Here, no elected official will win an election if there is slightest rumor about a rape. A large number (~20%) of Indian MPs have pending Rape allegations about them. So, yes, unfortunately rapes happen. The response to it got to be better, faster, stronger, without making the process shameful for the victim, i.e., the women. Now, let's talk about your response to the responses from "women who are bashing India from armchair oversees and watching drama"....look at yourself...what koolaid have you drunk? Your trigger happy writing, pointing out to data that frankly goes like "mommy, i got a D, but look, others got an F". As for me, I have never written a status update....but felt compelled to write one because this felt real pain. I have spoken to many others here and nobody talked with "india-bashing in mind"...just disillusionment that when the attitude is like you have penned down, nothing will and can change. Or can it?

  9. Pramod Simon wrote: Pradeep - As pointed out in a couple of comments above, the issue is only partly around the rape statistics (and even there, the numbers are much more alarming than the article seems to indicate). There is a more fundamental problem with the way India treats its women, and a look at the data cannot leave anyone feeling good about the state of our country versus the rest of the world:
    - In India, a woman is raped every 20 minutes. Less than 10% of rape cases are believed to be reported.
    - The last 40 years have seen a nearly 800% increase in the incidence of rape in India.
    - There are nearly 100,000 pending rape cases nationwide.
    - 80% of Delhi women who use public transport admit to having been sexually harassed.
    - India ranks 134th of 187 countries in terms of women's welfare (UN Index 2011).
    - India was ranked the worst G20 country in which to be a woman.
    - India ranks third from the bottom in terms of sex ratios at birth.
    - India ranks as the deadliest country in the world in terms of female children infanticide.
    - 228000 of the 256000 violent crimes reported in India in 2011 had women as victims.
    - India and China eliminate more female infants than the number of girls born in the US each year.
    - More than 2 million women in India go missing in a given year.
    - 40% of the world's child marriages take place in India.
    - An ICRW study found Indian men the least supportive of equitable relationships and roles between men and women.
    - 65% of Indian men surveyed believe that there are times when women deserve to be beaten.
    - 260 candidates currently fielded by our political parties have rape charges against them.
    Of course, the data is just indicative of real social problems that exist. The reactions of several of our political leaders to the rape of this young woman show us how deeply ingrained these wrong ways of thinking are, and frankly, are not very encouraging in terms of expecting real change anytime soon.

  10. Renu John wrote: what are each one of us going to do about this? specifically.. little can we support those who come across our paths? we can only start with ourselves.. or has Damini died in vain?

  11. Pradeep Ninan wrote: Wow! I really seem to have waded into a storm! I don't know if my profile has ever seen so much action before!

  12. Pradeep Ninan wrote: Mabel, Anita, Pradipta and Pramod: believe me, I am not in the least claiming that all is well in India, and that women are being treated fairly and with respect. I completely agree with you that the statistics are dismal, the situation is desperate and horrible, and I join you in hoping that this incident and the subsequent outrage will result in societal transformation, better laws, and better enforcement, and a better India to leave behind for our daughters.

  13. Pradeep Ninan wrote: I think you will agree that this is probably the opinion of Sandip Roy, too (the journalist who has written the article I have linked to).

  14. Pradeep Ninan wrote: I was trying to make the point that violence towards women is a world-wide problem. A few years ago, I got a diploma from the World Bank for an e-course I did on 'Gender, Health and Poverty', and one of the things that really struck me was that gender prejudices, discrimination and violence are widely prevalent across cultures and societies all around the world. Again, I am merely stating a fact. I am in no way condoning this.

  15. Pradeep Ninan wrote: Renu, I think you have absolutely hit the nail on the head. I think it is easier to be concerned about women in Delhi than about the women in our own house! That is the danger of mass movements. It is easy to express outrage, and protest outside Rashtrapathi Bhavan, and then go back home and abuse one's wife, or the maid in the house, and continue personal acts of discrimination and violence against women.
    I was in Delhi during the Anna Hazare movement, and depressed to see the same crowds wearing Anna caps, and shouting Anna slogans, continue in corrupt personal lifestyles.
    I agree with you that change must begin with us. We must become the change we wish to see, as Gandhiji said.

  16. Pradeep Ninan wrote: At the risk of sounding professorial, let me also talk a little about statistics. In order to really understand the significance of a fact, we need to know not just the numerator, but also the denominator.
    We have been hearing a lot of numerator figures, but it is only when we understand the denominator that we will really get a true picture.
    For example, let me take the first statistic that Pramod mentioned:
    "In India, a woman is raped every 20 minutes."
    That is a numerator figure, and a good statistician will immediately ask a denominator question...What is the population of India? ...1,241,491,960 (I just did a google search)
    Google also informs me that a rape takes place every 34 minutes in the UK. So, is the UK better than India? What is the denominator? The population of the UK is 62,641,000.
    Now that doesn't sound so good.......
    So what is the point I am making? Simply this. This terrible abuse of women is a world-wide phenomenon that we must feel strongly about and agitate against. I will continue to fight for the rights of women wherever I work. Can we, however, stop pandering to this flawed Western worldview that keeps trying to propagate the illusion that it is superior in some way or the other to the East?

  17. Pradeep Ninan wrote: Please do read this article that turned up in my Google search. It is written by a Western scholar, film-maker and human rights consultant, and expresses some of my concerns in a better way.

  18. Pradipta Ghosh wrote: Pradeep, Rape is not the problem....rapists are not the is the reaction of the corrupt politicians and law enforcement corrupt cops who are the problem. and that is a harder problem to wish that it will go away.

  19. Deepak Mithran wrote: Well , I have lived in the west and in India, the problem is not with statistics, its with the attitude.

  20. Deepak Mithran wrote: Sorry have to continue from where I left. Its not the statistics , its the attitude. I agree with pradeep about the the fuss created by people who live there, there are such crimes everywhere , its about how they deal with it and resolve it. I am not so sure about the justice system, is it really fair? I am afraid its not? Tell you why- here is an example , if something happened to you in India you go to the police and try and complain , it depends on who you are and who is involved in the crime, plus the police most likely will say this - lodge a FIR if you like and also be prepared to face the consequences of that [ goonda threat to you and your family] we cant help you with that. Where as in the west you call the police , they would come to your home in few mins however silly the complaint is and would reassure you that they are there to help you irrespective of who you are? This is what makes the difference, statistics matter but its not as important as the attitude of the people in general & justice system, they value life more ..... So its not about who feels ashamed ? who gives a damn if someone sitting miles away is ashamed is that going to change anything in the real world? I just hope and pray the mind set changes after all this and our political class and the justice system delivers soon, and this incident would be the turning point. We have a lot to learn from the west , lets take the positives out of their system and leave the negatives for them to sort it out. Let me add , living in a protected campus environment is totally different from living in the outside world where the common man lives.

  21. Deepak Mithran wrote: If someone is feeling ashamed about being who they are/ we must be proud that so many young Indians are standing up against the crime in open in a very hostile environment. How many of us would dare to do this in open? which country in the world has stood out in the open , in the cold winter to openly challenge the system , it just shows there are people who care about this and want a change. Let me also say everyone has the right to voice their opinion about how they feel .... if they are ashamed so be it, it does not matter , just like we may be ashamed about them in many other ways , all of us have a lot to learn from each other. I am just happy to see people want a change and are fighting for that.