- Posted January 8, 2013 by
san diego, California
Delhi rape: Bring change without labeling Indian males
Ever since the Delhi rape where a 23 year old girl was brutally raped and killed by six men, there’s been an uproar of enormous proportions, not just in the capital, but all over India. Indian law-enforcement, or the lack of it, has been rightfully lambasted; law-makers have been rightfully lambasted; and less rightfully, world media in particular has lambasted the ‘Indian male’ for their attitude towards rape. There have been calls to re-wire the mindset of the Indian male. There have been calls to teach Indian school-going boys how to respect women. Constructive ideas are good – but labeling all 600 million Indian men as being rape-minded because of the cruelty of six men is ridiculous. Yes, law-enforcement is inert in India. Yes, India is going through a cultural schism between eroding traditions and emerging modernity, a change brought about by globalization and the stepping out of its women from the cocoon of society – but calling for a re-wiring of Indian male mentality is a stretch.
What this labeling has done is make India look, in the eye of the world, like a country from the dark ages rather than the world’s largest democracy and an emerging economic power. Yes, there is eve-teasing on the streets. There’s groping in buses and crowded spaces. But going by Indian and western media, India is a place where the moment a woman steps out on the streets, she’s dragged aside and raped by mindless animalistic men that don’t care for women’s rights, nor dignity. Hello! Most of these labelers are people who have never been to India and are writing from labels created by paranoid Indian media people, who give the west what they like to read. It’s a vicious cycle. Yes, we need to take a hard look at sexual violence, not just in India, but all over the world (American has 5 times more reported rapes than India). But painting the world oldest culture in poor light just to achieve change is wrong.
Here's what a lady friend of mine had to say. She's from India but has been living abroad for many years, and recently went back to India for a female-only visit with some western friends. She even rode an auto rickshaw at night, with the driver seated next to her. Here are her comments: “Never travelled like this before but so loved it. As women, we just need to be sensible and keep our eye out for trouble... I didn’t feel like I was in danger at all, neither did my friends who travelled with me...People are actually lovely as long as you make your intentions clear and stay alert...That said I carried pepper spray with me everywhere… just in case:-)”
I’ve mentioned in my previous article that most sexual violence in India can be avoided by following simple rules of common sense. But any calls for common sense is met with more labeling by Indian women activists (and western sympathizers) who believe that they should, in a country with five thousand years of modesty, be allowed to walk semi-naked if they please to. I am perfectly fine with the sentiment, but I would rather keep my women safe until two things happen: Indian society undergoes the required westernization at all levels to make this a safe option. Indian law-enforcement becomes strong enough to handle this. Until then, the common sense approach is what is best entailed.
Here’s what a commentator on my blog had to say about this syndrome: the simple act of asking women to be 'careful' in India in an online forum has resulted in me being bombarded by hate messages and charges of being a rabid misogynist and a potential rapist. The unfortunate reality is that Indian males, especially those residing outside the country, will be stereotyped as perverts and rapists for some time to come now. Thanks to global media where sensationalism sells in pithy 500-word articles with matching headlines. So suddenly, we have questions like "Why do Indian men rape?" screaming out of a major newspaper headline, simply tarring millions upon millions of perfectly decent, progressive minded, Indian males, rich, poor and destitute, in villages, towns and across the world, with the same brush as a bunch of brutal criminals. It's a losing battle for our dignity. Let it go. Don't be surprised if perfect strangers pull their little daughters away from your presence.
Even so, I'd say it's a small price to pay if this generation can completely transform Indian society into a genuinely gender-equal one. Till then you and I will always be a potential rapist. To those who don't know any better. Welcome to the world of labels.
In conclusion, India lawmakers and law-enforcement needs a shakeup. The protests and uproar in Delhi will go a long way in ensuring that, I hope. But change can be brought about without labeling the average Indian male as a rapist and without labeling a largely safe country, the world's largest democracy, as one from the dark ages.