“…do parents dare to ask their sons where they are going?
Those who commit rape are also someone’s sons. It’s the responsibility of the parents to stop them before they take the wrong path.”
These were the comments of India’s Prime Minister Narenda Modi speaking at yesterday’s Indian Independence Day celebration. His first major comment on India’s rape culture was clearly more intelligent and more accurate than those of his state minister for Madhya Pradesh back in June this year, who said:
“Rape is a social crime. Sometimes it’s wrong, sometimes it’s right”
(Don’t even get me started. I’ve read and re-read the context of what he said but I cannot find any justification in his comments.)
Anyway, back to Mr Modi.
What he’s talking about is a cultural shift which is spot on. He’s talking about raising our South Asian sons with attitudes towards women that are totally different today’s male culture. It’s about erasing male entitlement from Indian and South Asian culture so that our sons don’t grow up with the notion that they can brutalise a woman’s body. It’s also about a respect for humanity. I’ve said before that rape is not about sex or lust or gratification but about power and a deep-seated disrespect for all women that allow a man to do that.
Bravo Prime Minister Modi for speaking out so openly and at such a prominent event, about gender equality and women’s rights. Let’s hope that his openness towards the further emancipation of India’s women (he talked about better sanitation for India’s women, an absolute shocker that they don’t have it already but at least now it’s being addressed), will inspire a cultural change amongst Indian society particularly Indian men- essentially the start of what he was getting at in educating our sons.
But despite the progressive nature of Modi’s comments I can’t help feeling a little uncomfortable with it all. Why are parents getting the blame? Why is the onus of responsibility being placed solely on family? It’s a very Desi approach to things isn’t it, where ‘family is everything’. Newsflash: Your grown up sons can think for themselves. When they walked out the door and went onto rape a woman, it was a decision they made on their own. And ultimately they are responsible for their own actions.
So I have to ask the obvious here: why aren’t the men who commit these crimes being asked to look inwardly at their own hateful attitudes? Why isn’t the individual being held accountable for his actions? I get that Mr Modi is saying something like prevention is the best medicine, and he’s right in a sense, but I just don’t think that goes far enough.
I’m sorry Mr Modi, it isn’t good enough to tell parents to do something about India’s rape culture. We need to tell the men of today to do something about it as well as raise our sons to be different- that’s the long term approach. It’s like saying lets end poverty by planting a potato field: what about those who are hungry now? What about those women who have go outside to defecate only to have the further injustice of then being physically and sexually assaulted?
Yes by all means, let’s hold our sons to account by asking them where they’re going at night and let’s instil values that eradicate misogyny and male entitlement. But please, let’s find a more immediate solution too.