My response to India’s rape culture

*Trigger Warning: contains potentially disturbing material of rape and violence against women

Last year, I wrote a post saying that rape was not just India’s problem. It was my response to the gang rape of a 23 year old woman in Delhi during December 2012. More specifically, it was my response to the Western media who at the time painted a picture of Indian men as some kind of monstrous sub-species who rape and brutalise their women. One article even described them as “hyena-like”.  At the time, I couldn’t help but feel that the media were conveniently dismissing rape as a Third World problem.

Sadly today though, the news stories of crimes against Indian and South Asian women keep coming. The gang rape and hanging of two Indian teenagers; the stoning of a pregnant woman in Lahore, killed by her own family for marrying for love; the Pakistani woman with learning difficulties who was forced to marry a Pakistani man just so he could stay in the UK– and forced to have his baby. And these are just the ones that made the news. Think of the hundreds of incidences of forced marriage, rape and domestic abuse against Asian women that simply don’t get reported.

Perhaps there is a bit of media frenzy right now, but we cannot deny the increased frequency of these stories. Moreover we cannot afford to be in denial that South Asian culture has a problem. In my post last year, I naively said that rape and misogyny are two separate issues. Today I stand corrected. It’s precisely because of Asian misogynistic culture that our women are raped, attacked and brutalised. Not all Asian men are like this I am compelled to add at this point. But we all know that these attitudes exist in our culture.

And let’s be clear about one more thing: rape is not about sex, it’s certainly not about love, it’s not even about lust. It’s about male entitlement: the fact that the attacker thinks he can simply take what he wants from a woman’s body, without her consent and without any regard for her.

And while, perhaps Asian men are not more hyena like or more monstrous than other race, it seems our culture lets them get away with more incidences.  The Indian press recently claimed:

“…for centuries upper-caste Hindus were free to attack, rape and even murder those in low castes with impunity. Known victims of rape are often ostracized by their families and villages, so for years many rapes were kept quiet and never reported.”

It sounds familiar doesn’t it? Fear of shame and humiliation brought on the girl’s family keeps her quiet. As Asians we all know that honour, and subsequently shame are such a big deal in our culture that victims won’t speak up. And this perpetuates male dominance over women.

I’m certainly not saying that it’s just India or South East Asia that has these problems. Just two weeks ago, American Elliot Rodger went on a killing spree, in ‘retribution’ against all the women  he claims rejected him and wouldn’t sleep with him. He killed men and women, but in his manifesto he explicitly blames women for his crime.

And then I’m saddened even more that misogyny is not just confined to one corner, one continent of the globe. We see that it can’t be explained away by being a Third World problem, stemming from so-called backwards Eastern religions or cultural practises. No misogyny, rape, male entitlement, violence against women are rife everywhere, in every society and every culture. But it makes me hang my head in shame to think that there seem to be so many occurrences amongst South Asians.

One commentator on Twitter said we need to stop the rape of Indian women. Well we need to stop the rape of all women, full stop. This is much is clear. But we also need to address the attitudes behind the acts in order to see that end. Only a cultural shift stemming from a complete change in mind- set will do this. Our sons need to be taught to value women.  Crass comments against women (like that of footballer Joey Barton on last week’s BBC Question Time) need to be exposed as sexist and frankly unacceptable- not laughed away as a good analogy or because he later apologised.

And no more so is this true in the Asian culture. We need to change this dehumanising culture against our women.



13 thoughts on “My response to India’s rape culture

  1. I was living in India when you wrote your post last year and I remember agreeing with you whole-heartedly. Rape is a world-wide problem, not a cultural problem or a country wide problem. Before I left for India, and after, I had many people ask me (all US citizens) if I was scared to move implying being scared of attack, rape or molestation. Honestly, it really irritated me because I have been attacked, molested, and raped here in my own country. Yet they never asked me if I was scared when I planned to move a few states away. Rape happens everywhere. It is embarrassing that certain parts of the world get classified as having a ‘rape problem’ when in my experience everywhere has this problem. The international culture against women needs to change.

    • Sorry to hear of some of your experiences Lucy. We should have the right to feel safe anywhere we go in the world. It makes my blood boil to think of the evil people who think they can attack a woman- that that’s acceptable for them to do. We need to work so hard to expose the crimes and change the attitudes.
      Thank you for commenting.

  2. It’s shocking how as human beings we are menat to be evovling yet the archaic cultural views remain the same. That people think there is ‘honour’ in murdering a family member because they crossed over the acceptable boundary lines.
    That people think a caste system should be allowed to determine a person’s status in society and keep them there by those who think they have the right to treat them however they want because they are of a higher caste.
    Higher cast does not mean higher intelligence and honour does not come from playing god and taking someone’s life.
    One of the worst thing is that the horrible people who commit these acts of crime against women are supported by the women in their own family, at times pointing the finger at the victims.

    How are women in eastern countries supposed to rise above and fight back when even the police don’t take sufficent action at the time. Instead only investigating when there is public and global outrage that women at being treated as objects and subjected to such horrors.

    As you say, not all asian men are like this. it is the ones who behave these way that are tarnishing the good ones with the same dirty brush.

    • The idea that women in the family often stand by and let these crimes happen is something I have often thought about and have wanted to write about. It always amazes me that there are women who don’t stand up against the abuse etc that men often inflict on younger girls and daughters. Why don’t we stand up for each other as women? My only conclusion is that they are themselves too scared to do so, or that they want to protect their comfortable position in the family so selfishly do nothing. It’s bewildering.

      Thanks for commenting Fozia

  3. I fear that female rape in India will not be taken seriously until the issue of male rape and child sexual abuse in middle class homes is also addressed. That said, we still have work to do here in the UK with regards to all three – but insightful and heartfelt posts like this keep the debate going. Well done.

    • Thank you Manjeet. That’s a very good point. We often think of rape & sexual abuse as a savage attack on the streets but so often it happens in middle class homes of so-called ‘nice’ families, as you’ve pointed out.
      Thank you for commenting

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