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Horrific Gang Rape in India is a Symptom of Larger Societal Problems

 

This morning, I heard the news that a 23-year-old medical student who was brutally gang raped in Delhi on December 16th had died. Another gang rape victim, in the state of Punjab, committed suicide this week after being pressed by police to drop the case and accept money or even marry one of the rapists. The girl, a teenager, and her family wanted police to open an investigation. 

In 2011, in India, 256,320 violent crimes were recorded. In a country of a billion people that doesn’t seem very high. By comparison, there were 1,203,564 violent crimes reported in the USA in the same year. That’s more than four times as many crimes for less than a third of the people. Now, comparisons are problematic because of different definitions of violent crimes and much different enforcement and justice systems. In the USA, as much as there is to complain about when it comes to treatment of certain groups of people based on income or skin color, police do tend to be much more egalitarian toward victims of violent crime than police in India, where poor victims find it difficult to get the police to take much of an interest. But that’s another discussion.

My point in bringing up the violent crime statistics is that of those 256,320 recorded crimes, 228,650 of them were committed against women. That’s 89% of violent crime. Let me just state that in a style that does justice to its mind-boggling wrongness: EIGHTY-NINE PERCENT OF VIOLENT CRIMES IN INDIA LAST YEAR WERE COMMITTED AGAINST WOMEN. EIGHTY-NINE PERCENT!

Just wow.

I was traveling in India this month and was in Delhi on December 16th, although when media accounts of the rape surfaced, I had moved on to another part of the country. My experience everywhere I went tells me that, despite the public anger currently being vented through protests, India has a long, long way to go before women can feel safe.

Growing up, I learned, without really being aware of learning it, that my body was mine; no one had the right to touch me or talk to me in a way that made me uncomfortable or in any way inflicted damage on me. As a young women being groped on a bus in South Korea, I had not yet internalized that lesson enough to overcome the other lesson I learned unconsciously: Be polite and don’t make scenes. As a 23-year old, I got off of that bus in Korea and sobbed on the street. As a 43-year old in Malaysia, when a 70-something gas station attendant groped me, I had, apparently, appropriately ranked the lessons because I went a bit, shall we say, mental on his ass. Very publicly and very loudly. I doubt he’ll be copping any feels from crazy foreign women in the future.

Before I tell the next part of this story, I want to add a disclaimer. I am certain that there are many (probably millions) of good Indian men who treat women (or at least women in their own class) with respect, who look at women as equals, and who are vehemently outraged by what happened to this one particular woman in Delhi as well as thousands of other women who are routinely raped in Delhi and around India. I know some of these men and I know that they are horrified.

When I was alone in India (which, thankfully, was not very often), I was constantly approached by men. Men wanting to be my tour guide, men wanting to chat, men wanting to “hang out” or men whose motives were never completely clear to me. I tend to be a bit cold and unreceptive to men who approach me when I’m traveling solo. It’s my defense mechanism. I’m probably missing out on many positive interactions, but it only takes a single negative one to do permanent damage to my body and my psyche, so I error on the side of bitchiness. In most places, men will try two or three times and give up. In India, the men follow you down the street, asking the same questions over and over and over and over again until my feigned bitchiness became outright hostility. One man had the unfortunate gall to ask me, “Why are you being like that?” He got a bit of the very loud and very public mental fit I mentioned above.

In Jaipur, which was the only significant part of my trip where I didn’t have travel companions, I was reduced to tears in my hotel room and seriously considered cutting my trip short. I was besieged by men any time I tried to walk anywhere on the street. At one point, a group of adolescent boys walked up and showed me porn. As I walked away swearing, they shot rocks at the back of my legs with a slingshot. Nice boys they’re raising in India. The only way I survived Jaipur was arranging a tour guide through my hotel. Once I had one, I guess I was considered “his” because nobody bothered me when I was with him. Fuck that. If there are places in this world where I can only feel safe when I have a man around to protect me, I do not want to visit those places.

I should be able to tell someone to leave me alone and have my wishes respected, instead of being followed all the way to my hotel and then having a desk clerk shrug when I told him I was made uncomfortable by the same man skulking about the hotel lobby, waiting for me to check in. I should be able to walk unmolested down a street in any city that is not in a war zone. I should not have to look at the penises of a hundred men who don’t bother to shield themselves while they are pissing on public streets or train tracks. (Seriously, I saw more penises in India than I had previously seen in my entire life.) And I should not been seen as an automatic whore because I’m a western woman. Yes, I have sex and I’m not married. But it does not follow that I have sex indiscriminately. I get to choose who and when.

That is a choice that is denied millions of women in India. Women are raped on buses, by taxi drivers, in cities, in villages—pretty much wherever and whenever some man or group of men decides they want to rape. Up until now, women haven’t been considered valuable enough for the police to take action against their rapists. India is currently in the midst of protests, some violent, some peaceful. Will it be enough to change a culture that had always ranked women as a low priority? Sadly, I doubt it.

It's hard to even react to this.  I'll go ahead an open up an imperialist can of worms and suggest that we spend too much time talking about and nurturing developing economies and not enough time on developing societies.  What we're getting, as a result, are illiberal democracies springing up around the world.  People are choosing representative forms of government but those governments are representing troubling policies and ethics, at least if you have absolutist view of human rights.

Of course, if a story like this happened in the U.S. -- a gang rape and then police pressure on the victim to recant, would anybody doubt its veracity?  And, who would win the race to argue first that all of this could have been avoided, had only he victim carried a concealed assault weapon?

Why would she/we need a concealed weapon.

1) Had she been armed, who could deny that she may have escaped the assault?

2) If an armed guard were present, who could positively say, she still would have been gang raped?

Being armed is not a perfect solution, but it gives a potential victim. an opportunity to escape being a victim.

I shouldn't have even written that part.  Couldn't help myself, I guess.  But I am not shocked that, as soon as I brought it up, somebody rushed to that argument like a moth to a flamethrower.

The answer, Resistance, is that our lives are supposed to transcend nature, tooth and claw.  If they don't, the answer isn't a bigger gun, it's to fix society.  India needs help.  So does the U.S.

I agree, the problem is societal.

We now have so many laws on the books, but you cannot legislate morality.

It has always been the inclination of mankind, to do bad all the time.

There has never been in mankind's history, where man hasn't ruled over man, without violence and injury. It isn't in their nature, they cant even direct their own steps 

The whole Earth is living in critical times, hard to deal with. where even those entrusted to lead; the rulers/leaders are not open to agreement.

Party spirit cares more about SELF;  than the whole.

Tell me how you intend, to stop the gridlock and fighting.

Banning guns, isn't going to change the inclination of domination; it only makes the sheep like ones, appear as easy prey. 

Huh? "to do bad all the time"? Certainly the Greeks put together a less-than-evil system. Under the Ottomans, Jews were accepted peacably in Salonika. The Khazars built a tolerant system. Despite brutality, Genghis Khan let cities live in peace as long as they kept up with their tributes. The history of Europe since 1000 has hardly been bad all the time, with extremely bright spots like Rudolph II and the Renaissance, even though you can find bad things happening in any period along with the good. We hardly have the marauding armies/existential threats that we did during the battles for the Gates of Vienna, the invasion of Huns, the 100 years war...

I suspect that the gun issue is another reason why the violent crime rate in the USA is so much higher. But again, a whole other discussion that probably deserves a thread of its own!

I just read your comment again and want to delve into that imperialist can of worms. I think you're absolutely correct that we spend time talking about and nuturing developing economies and don't pay much attention to developing societies. There's a part of me that thinks, "so, what?" It's really not the business of any outsider to participate in the shaping of a culture, right? But when I was living in South Korea in the early 1990s, I was struck by how much conflict there was between traditional culture and modern economics. I thought then, and continue to think now, that most economies in the west developed at a pace that allowed cultures to keep up. The techonologies that allowed us to modernize came along slowly. Then, at least in South Korea, we magnanimously gifted them the technologies that had taken decades to develop. Boom. You're modern. The traditional aspect of Korea was left reeling. Twenty years later, I suspect either traditional culture and modern economics have formed an uneasy partnership, or that traditional culture is being left behind. I don't know because I haven't been back to Korea. But I see the same phenomenon in Indonesia and Malaysia. I suppose it was there in India as well, but honestly I wasn't there long enough to get a really good read of it. 

I don't have a solution to this conflict though. I don't think that globalization is necessarily helping cultures around the world, but I also really don't think it's our business to tell them how to live or not to live, except where basic human rights are involved. Arranged marriages-fine. Covering hair-fine. Rape-not fine. 

Do I think I'd be okay with covering my hair or having my parents arrange my marriage? No. But I grew up in a place where these things were not part of the discussion. I know a lot of women who would feel completely exposed if they were uncovered in public. I also know women who have had highly successful arranged marriages. There are some bad ones too, obviously, but the same can be said for "love matches."

 

Yes, this is also what concerns me. I think we're learning that you can't impose rights on the unwilling. And yet, in every society, to one degree or another, people want them.

Every country has problems created or amplified by characteristics of its society or culture. I spent a month this year, from mid-March to mid-April, in southern India. I flew into Kochin, on the west coast, where I spent about a week getting some dental work started then traveled by motorcycle straight east to the other coast and around the southern horn and back up to Kochin where I spent the last few days finishing up the dental procedures. As a male traveling alone my experience was bound to be different. I realize that. I had a very good experience in India. I did not meet any traveler that had a bad story as the highlight of their experience.

 I have the conceit that being a “traveler” is a better way of going than that of being a tourist. I suspect you share that sentiment at least to a degree. In previous foreign trips I have always taken the local options to get around and always stayed in the cheaper places that were the choice of locals as well as other international travelers living on tight budgets. It is this contact and short term semi-immersion in other cultures along with meeting other travelers and sharing stories that has always been the most significant part of every trip, the part that I value as the best memories.
 A difference on my trip to India was that I rented a motorcycle rather than use the bus and train system to get around. Despite the maniacal traffic, I liked my ride a lot, but this mode cut into my personal contact with Indians enough that overall I consider that it was a mistake to travel that way. Still, I met many Indians and dealt with many in my day to day affairs there. I spent time on city sidewalks, in small villages, in cafe’s and cheap hotels, and in local celebrations I stumbled upon. I also met other travelers and these were the people I had longer conversations with and our experiences traveling were always a part of what we shared.
 There are many Europeans who go to India like snowbirds go to Florida. Many more live there full time. I talked to some of these. I met several women who traveled India and did so alone at least some of the time. I spent most of two days at Ft. Cochin with an Israeli woman who had been on two previous trips to India. She was definitely a budget traveler like myself. I do not know if she had any bad experiences with Indian men because it just never came up. I feel certain that it would have if she had had reason for any special fear.  Any traveler knows to use common sense precaution anywhere they go because there is the possibility of an attack anywhere and of course some places are worse than others. Rape is a horrible crime that happens everywhere in the world but women being in special danger in India when traveling alone or with partners never came up in any conversation with anyone. That is in no way meant to say that the rapes and other sex crimes don’t happen and maybe more often there and that they are then handled in a gender fair way, I don't know about that, it is just to get to my conclusion that the following statement is a gross exaggeration and detracts from an otherwise interesting blog.
 
   Women are raped on buses, by taxi drivers, in cities, in villages—pretty much wherever and whenever some man or group of men decides they want to rape.

India is huge and is in affect many countries but it is not a level of hell. It has hundreds of languages. It has many cultures. I am sure that some of those cultures are very unfair to women and equally sure that none of them treat women perfectly. I saw a tiny part of  India. I am convinced that no one, including native born and bred Indians, have experienced anywhere near all of it. It is simply too large and diverse.

When I was alone in India (which, thankfully, was not very often), I was constantly approached by men. Men wanting to be my tour guide, men wanting to chat, men wanting to “hang out” or men whose motives were never completely clear to me.

This has been my experience even as a male in every touristy part of every poor country  I have ever visited. I have always been able to shake them. It is too bad that it is a harder problem for women and one that gives them fair reason for worry.
I know you have had some great experiences traveling and I hope that continues to be the usual case.

This topic and Lulu's comment implicates way too many cultural issues to permit of easy deconstruction.

 

That said, I find the comment curiously obtuse.  We are, after all, speaking of a culture which finds it appropriate (granted in some venues for some practitioners of some cults...pace, Lulu) for widows to  immolate themselves on the funeral pyre of their deceased husbands.

 

Surely that tells us something?

I guess that ancient burial rite might tell us something more relevant if it was at all common today. A burial rite that persists and is part of a huge emerging problem today is far more interesting.

Griffon vultures are huge scavengers and used to be ubiquitous in south Asia. But their population has declined drastically since the mid-1990s, and one species is near extinction.
As a result, animal carcasses rot outside villages, attracting rabies-ridden packs of dogs. The Parsee religious community in India is also in crisis, as it disposes of its dead by feeding them to vultures.

http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn4617-mysterious-mass-dieoff-of-vul...

This link is dated 2004 but more recent ones indicate that the chemical which causes the die-off is still being sold.

 

This new detailed editorial at Tehelka magazine basically agrees with you on this point, jolly:

The Rapes Go On. How Do We?

[.....] We spoke with lawyers, activists, policymakers, writers and thinkers in an attempt to trace the patterns of rape and to unravel its insidious design. With the hope that our outrage will stand out against the bold, brazen and repeating motif of misogyny.

Compiled by Aditi Saxton & Sunaina Kumar.
With Inputs From Aradhna Wal, Shazia Nigar, Shonali Ghosal & Soumik Mukherjee

 

5 Reasons Why The Rapes Won’t Stop

1. THE MEN WHO HATE WOMEN


Honour killings, female foeticide, dowry deaths, acid attacks, public stripping and parading, eve-teasing, sexual assault — these are just some of the ways in which men in our country express their hatred for women. Some form of misogyny is endemic to every society, but in India, men get away with persecuting, abusing and raping women with a sense of glory and of celebrating their manhood. As activist Gautam Bhan says, the root cause may lie in the dangerous mix of impunity and entitlement at the core of contemporary masculinity in our culture. “Men are not born biologically violent. We make them so. Boys and men are raised in our society to think that we are men because we demand, we take, we win, we conquer.”

The “she asked for it” narrative is so deep-rooted that all discussions about the issue of violence against women address the behaviour of women rather than the perpetrators. Even the National Commission of Women (NCW) issues advisories about how women should be careful of what they wear. The perpetrators are often protected by their Khap, or clan or family. As the reported cases of rape in our cities climb up, they point towards a reaction of a patriarchy towards women stepping out of their prescribed domains. [.....]

P.S. Their associated article, which the above is a response to, a compilation of 20 solicited short essays, is extremely interesting for those interested in the parts of Indian culture and society that have contributed to the problem:

How do we stop rapes? India looks for answers

Sunday's gangrape has left India shocked and scared. Twenty personalities — lawyers, activists, writers, filmmakers — suggest some real solutions to problem
Edit to add: This is the magazine's twitter feed where I found a link to the new article and where you can see they are currently focusing content on the rape issue; there's also comments from others there

25 years ago I was reading a letter on a beach in Madras, and I looked around and there were about 12 Indians reading over my shoulder. They were just curious - about writing, about a foreigner, etc. People stuck to me more in India than anyplace I've been except for Bali. While this might lead to sexual harassment, many Indians seemed incredibly shy and old-fashioned about any discussions about sex, though were very curious about this whole idea of sex before marriage. Whether the dam bursts and primitive behavior comes out when they're finally alone with a western woman, possibly, but certainly not 100% of the time and certainly rape is not the problem it is in say South Africa.

I'm certainly skeptical that 90% of violent crime is against women (does India have any trustworthy statistics?), even though I imagine the emergence of women in the workplace and greater visibility in society has encountered enough harassment, and India is probably still 2/3 rural despite 1 billion+ people.

Anyway, good to see women power coming to the forefront - protests and asserting rights. Long time coming, considering they had a female head of gov almost 50 years ago.

many Indians seemed incredibly shy and old-fashioned about any discussions about sex, though were very curious about this whole idea of sex before marriage

And many, many others, also know of the Kama Sutra

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kama_Sutra

Apparently some who appear to be shy and would blush; still have a deep seated interest in rape, that fulfills their sexual pleasure?

Even as the police turn a blind eye; saying in their hearts “Boys will be boys”

Boys, who’ve found pleasure, in the Kama Sutra since infancy?

Disclaimer: This is not a personal attack against anyone, who has enjoyed the lessons of the Kama Sutra. It doesn't mean everyone becomes twisted.

But ask yourself; does it contribute to a culture of disregard to woman? 

Rape doesn't fulfill sexual pleasure. It's about power. 

Also, in response to other comments above, I didn't mean to suggest that I felt like I would be raped in India. I just felt uncomfortable and generally off balance and pissed off that men were being such assholes. The problem with rape in India is a local one--Indian men raping Indian women. 

Your traveller comment is an interesting one. Usually, when I travel, it's been with other expats and we meet even more along the way. It's a really nice way to go. This time, I was visiting friends from the USA who grew up in India and were back for a holiday, so I was staying in private homes. Mostly my experience there was made lovely by being so well taken care of. I went to tons of historical sights that were super impressive and I learned a lot that I hadn't had any idea of before. But the harassment I was subjected too when I was by myself was annoying and overwhelming. I've been followed before. I've been begged to buy stuff or give money. I've been proposed to by taxi drivers in Jakarta. There was just something about India that made it more insidious for me. It's just not my cup of tea.  

Having friends to travel with who knew so much about the place must have been great. Speaking of historical sights, I stayed in a room which it is believed with fair evidence that Vasco da Gama slept in.

Too bad about the jerks who spoiled part of your trip. I wonder how much the different prevailing religions have to do with sexist attitudes, the north being predominately Muslim. Did you get into areas in the south that were Hindu?

 I have the chance of returning next year to the northeastern part. A moto adventure riding friend has a daughter who went and a couple other friends who did and he is determined to go after hearing their stories. He is planning a ride in the Himalayas into Nepal. There is a fairly narrow window of weather conditions in August/September when it is a reasonable venture. I cannot justify the expense like before when my total trip cost two thousand less than the needed dental work would have cost in the States but what the heck, maybe I will sell my house and go anyway. But, on the top of my wish list is Thailand and across Cambodia to Vietnam. Maybe. Or maybe I'll just go to Disneyland.

I was in Delhi, Agra, Jaipur and then in Kerala, but a Muslim area of Kerala--that's where I got hassled the least, but I was with a male friend that I'm certain everyone thought was my husband and we always were with our driver (another strange thing, but very convenient!).

I loved the tombs and ruins in Delhi and strangely enough, Delhi is where I felt I could walk around the streets on my own and not get hassled as much, especially in the non-tourist areas.

I have a friend who has been all over Asia and ranks Nepal as his number one favorite place. He says it's got everything you love about India (colors, food, vibrancy) and nothing you hate (filth, intensity, massive, crazy throbbing mobs of people and traffic). For me, Cambodia is the best place I've been so far. You should make a real effort to go. Angkor Wat and the other temples are of course the number one thing, but Phnom Penh is an awesome little city and other places more off the beaten path are supposedly also great. If you're going to Cambodia and Vietnam, don't forget Laos. Yes, it's landlocked, but with amazing people and beauty. I haven't been to Laos, I'm just reporting what I've heard. I hope to go this year and I'm also making a return trip to Cambodia when a family member visits in August. 

I've basically been traveling for six weeks, with time in Bali and India. Now that I'm home, I'm going to blog some about the good parts in the coming days. But with the death of the woman who was gang-raped, I needed to get the bad out of my system first.

Just a suggestion that might help explain what may be going on here with any disconnect between what you experienced and what you're reading: lots of tourists traveling in Mexico don't see any evidence of the epidemic of drug violence in that country (besides perhaps the soldiers at highway checkpoints that wave foreigners in rental vehicles right through.) That doesn't mean the epidemic isn't real.

Likewise, many people thoroughly enjoyed visiting NYC in the late 70's and early 80's, when the crime rate there had gone astronomical, and the city in general was a filthy wreck, and met nothing but interesting, nice and helpful New Yorkers. That doesn't mean there wasn't a high crime rate and a deep underlying sickness in the city then, including lots of people of all colors being afraid of young black men.

Also, in most countries, the more rurally you travel, and/or the more outside of tourist traps and tour groups you go, the more welcome you are. You're an intriguing rarity, a stranger in the hood, and people are both more interested and more polite.

Not to detract from the seriousness of the piece (beautifully written, btw), but I would like to see you go off on some asshole who harasses you. You could get someone to film you and post it on youtube. Or maybe get some of them google glasses. Instant viral sensation, I bet.

Haha. I'd probably like to watch that too. I don't have much of a temper face to face, so I don't lose it very often. When I start to feel that kind of rage, I usually just start crying. It's irritating, but I've always been like that.

After the gas station incident, I had a two-hour drive home. I pretty much giggled to myself the whole way, replaying the surprise on the guy's face in my mind. 

http://daddysan.wordpress.com/2012/12/24/the-subjugation-capital/

I love Delhi, the city. I love its wide, open roads, its wonderful architecture. I’ve made great friends in Delhi. I went to a wonderful school in Delhi. I’ve also suffered in Delhi. I’m one of millions of women with tales to tell of how Delhi has ground our self-respect and security to dust. General descriptions of harassment can’t adequately describe the horror a woman faces every day in the city. There isn’t a single moment when you’re walking its streets that you can think “I’m safe, I can breathe easy and enjoy the sunshine. What a lovely day!” If you have breasts, you’re fair game. It doesn’t matter who you are, where you’re from, how old you are, you can be a man’s property. You can be used for his gratification. You can be dominated.

I don’t want to recount the hundreds of times I’ve been groped in crowds in Delhi. Hands moving over you, pinching your bottom, rubbing your breasts as you desperately try to find some inch of ground that will be safe. Women routinely carry sharp objects like needles and drawing instruments to dissuade such attacks but there are too many incidents to deal with......

I've known that feeling of powerlessness only very briefly in my life and I'm sorry that you've had to feel it for longer periods. In all of the criticism, there is one very good thing that they've done in Delhi and that is to make the first car of every subway train women only. It's a huge relief to not have to worry about the groping. I rode the trains all over. I did not get on a bus, specifically to avoid potential problems.

There has been much more horrific rape than this example, happening in epidemic quantity in large regions of India, with police and the culture complicit; there has been investigative reporting on it recently; here's Telhelka magazine, October 27, 2012

Haryana's bestial rape chronicles or where a rapist is considered 'a real man'

[....] the scourge of rapes is very real in Haryana. So real that it’s hair-raising. So real, it even makes one wonder whether calling Haryana the rape capital is politically incorrect.

Sample this. On 8 December 2010, in the little known village of Pillu Kheda in Jind district, a 13-year-old girl was abducted by four boys, raped and left by the roadside. The girl somehow managed to crawl to a brick kiln for help, only to be raped again by two workers there. When she was finally let go in the evening, an autorickshaw driver offered to give her a lift, only to rape her again and dump her on the same road. Left for dead and crying for help, the young teen was picked up by a truck driver and his aide, who — not surprisingly by now — raped her repeatedly for nine days [....]

The link has a map with reported rapes, titled  "30 days in a rape state" which includes a lot of gang rapes and juvenile victims. If you read on, you will be horrified more beyond that and beyond a feminist view, because it is also partly about caste, about using lower caste women like they are garbage. There is a map with

Here is more from Tehelka on law enforcement complicity in their Dec 22, 2012 issue:

TEHELKA INVESTIGATION: The rapes will go on

First published on 14 April 2012

In a two-week long investigation, Abhishek Bhalla and G Vishnu spoke to more than 30 senior cops in the Delhi-NCR region. More than half had shockingly ugly views on rape victims. This is the face of law exposed. How can the system effect justice through men like these? [....]

 

For some reason this story of the medical student has resounded with many more Indians of power, helping to turn the tide against acceptance of rape, than the many brutal horrific rapes that have been going on for a long time. I sadly suspect that's partly about caste, too. But if it helps get more respect for all women there, all to the better. After all, it was upper class women in this country who lead in most of the fights for women's rights here, from birth control to suffrage to changing attitudes about rape. Back in ye olden days of my youth, it was once called "consciousness raising," and it's a good thing if it's happening in India where it is definitely needed on a great number of levels, not just on rape. It's about time many more citizens of India got a bit more conscious about their own country. That it's vast and has many cultures isn't an excuse for their many extremely serious problems.

P.S. I see, Orlando, that you have sort of gotten to my last point in your title: a symptom of larger societal problems. I agree totally; I could rant on it a lot more, but I think it's best to leave it at that. Except to repeat that I am glad to see some "consciousness raising" finally going on there.

Those articles are extremely difficult to read. I find myself outraged and grief-stricken at the same time. I completely get ocean-kats anger and the anger of the women protesting now. These attitudes seem completely out of synch with teh world that I live in. But I guess I live in a bit of a fantasy world. 



Orlando, I don’t know what to say and that is no big deal to anyone, but I also don’t know what to THINK either and that IS a big deal to me. I stated my reaction to your story but it was actually a bit muted. Gang rapes such as happened to the young medical student happen here but I would be offended or at least strongly inclined to protest if some foreigner tried to convince their friends that such a thing was representative of American men’s attitude towards women and that such things were accepted by most American men. I felt stronger about what I considered to be a very bad case of over generalizing about an entire population than I expressed. I am now trying to reconcile the cognitive dissonance created by my own experience versus the stories I am hearing.
 As I said in my initial comment, when I travel within a country I visit I normally use the buses and trains along with the general local population. In India I did not do so. Maybe if I had I would have got some general sense of things there that would have made your experience ring true as a significant indicator of some aspect of India culture in general. But I didn’t and now the evidence is piling up that indicates my impressions were based on way to shallow a testing of the waters.
 Ocean Cat’s link has a couple sentences that might have rightfully been screamed at me if I had said my piece in front of an Indian woman:  “ Here’s a reality check: if you’re a man, you don’t know what the fuck you’re talking about. You have NO IDEA what it’s like to live a life that doesn’t belong to you. I understand your sympathy but have no use for it.” I have made some effort to relate to and empathize with the lives of others. In this case I may have mostly failed.
 AA’s link is double tough to try to understand. A string of that many men compounding a sick perverted crime rather than reacting to help the victim does indicate something much worse and more general than the random perversions which all societies contain.
 I still cannot feel that attitudes that would create and allow such things to be common were prevalent among the Indians I encountered. I cannot feel it but I must acknowledge that it might be true. Maybe some class division is part of the explanation, maybe most of it. Maybe very large and distinct geographical differences exist. Maybe I just saw what I hoped to see.  
 Thanks for sharing your outrage and making me look a bit closer. I look forward to your coming travel stories.

“ Here’s a reality check: if you’re a man, you don’t know what the fuck you’re talking about. You have NO IDEA what it’s like to live a life that doesn’t belong to you. I understand your sympathy but have no use for it.”

IMO, this is a valid and reasonable opinion that is applicable to many situations and issues.  (Of course, sometimes if you're a man would need to read 'woman' and/or other qualifiers.) 

Definitely what is going on here is caste/class/tribe-based, both with the epidemic of gang rape, and the massive reaction  to an urban medical student suddenly being a victim of the same:

 Our redemption as a people lies in smashing the hierarchy of sorrow
Why don't we seek justice for raped Dalit, Kashmiri and Northeastern women in the way we do for the horrific gangrape survivor?
By Ajaz Ashraf, December 26, 2012

What Indian women are in the process of discovering, mho, is that together, they hold up more than half the sky. Patriarchy has always taking great advantage of class distinctions, where they can have both their madonnas and their whores. Madonnas have to learn that there is something better than being kept in a gilded cage; sometimes when that gilded cage fails to protect like it's supposed to, the message finally sinks in about patriarchy and how they are not so very different from their sisters in other tribes as they thought.

The societal process of the reaction to the medical student's rape is not unlike what is going on here with the Sandy Hook case, including things like this discussion of Orion's re: "Dr. Cornel West: Politicians Only Talk Gun Control When ‘Vanilla’ People Get Shot"

I am of the opinion, though, that India is a special case, worse than many other countries in this regard. It's almost natural for humans in such a jam-packed mass of humanity, competing for resources, to associate in tribe/caste To simply get through the day, it's nearly impossible to care about every one of the thousands of other humans you pass by. So a Brahmim feels hurt when another Brahmin has hard times, but passes by Dalits in hard times his entire life without feeling a thing.

There's a place where these two problems intersect: women's education and family planning. For not just upper class/caste women but all women. For an example of what I am talking about, lots and lots more lives used to be extremely cheap in China until women were educated and the one-child policy instituted.

But in India and China, we still have partriarchal notions among women that still have to fade away about which sex is more valued, and mho, there India is far worse than China. But then neither is the horror for women that is, say, Afghanistan/northwest Pakistan, or many areas of Africa. I simply expect much more from India at this state in its development, they can do it, I know they can do it. They have shown the world the great talent of their people at adapting and adjusting many times over the last century. (On their massive infrastructure problems, too--on that, China should put them to shame. China still has terrible poverty, but they have at least sewers and clean water and nearly everyone learns to read and write, etc.....)

Once again, I am fascinated and hopeful about the consciousness raising going on over there because of this one horrible crime. Granted, it started with "tribe," but the reaction, it's good for their country. Sometimes empathy with a "vanilla" victim is what it takes to get a reformation ball rolling...

It is quite troubling to me when I realize that the challenges of treatment of people, and specifically women in our own country are still so huge and yet around the world they can be far worse.

The idea that you want to marry off your twelve year old to 'protect' her seems so insane.  Stoning of women is still taking place... the realities escape me.

This did make me think about the violence against women act and that it would be wise for us to fight extremely hard for our rights here to at least send some message to the rest of the world and provide more protection for women against violence here at home. 

Ultimately that is how I will respond to this... fight for stronger protection for women here at home.. because I know in some small way it has an affect on the whole of humanity.

And... well it makes me hope that maybe Hillary is up for running for president in 2016 and that we keep pushing to elect more women to public office consistently to support progress in the future.

I won't be traveling anywhere that I feel I won't be treated well.  We vote with how we spend our time and our dollars.  If there is a way for women to join together to send messages in this way... I will support it... if not, I hope that one develops.

As a 43-year old in Malaysia, when a 70-something gas station attendant groped me, I had, apparently, appropriately ranked the lessons because I went a bit, shall we say, mental on his ass. Very publicly and very loudly. I doubt he’ll be copping any feels from crazy foreign women in the future.

I'd of broken the fucker's collar bone. But then I can be a real sonofabitch when I want to be. Which is more often than I car to admit.

The most famous uppity-educated Pakistani girl speaks on the issue:

Delhi Gang-Rape Victim Dies: Malala Yousafzai Blasts Indian Government
BY Palash R. Ghosh, International Business Times, December 30 2012 3:22 PM

Malala Yousafzai, the young Pakistani women’s rights activist currently recuperating from a gunshot wound in a British hospital, has expressed her condolences to the family of the 23-year-old Indian woman who was gang-raped in Delhi two weeks ago and subsequently died.

According to the Daily Bhaskar newspaper of India, Malala also blasted the Indian government for mysteriously transporting the rape victim from a hospital in Delhi to Singapore, despite her weakened condition.

“The rapists dumped her on [the] road,” Malala tweeted. “The government dumped her in Singapore. What's the difference?” [....]

This from that piece is also quite interesting, my bold:

In an editorial in The Hindu newspaper, Ratna Kapur, Global Professor of Law at the Jindal Global Law School, wrote that the tragedy represents a “tipping point” and compared it to the convulsions of the Arab Spring revolt.

“The protests across the country that have gone viral in recent days represent how we as a nation have arrived at a moment of transformation that many young people have provoked across the world in recent years,” she wrote.

“The woman’s brutal rape and murder provides the spark to bring the culture of destructive masculinity, and the pervasiveness of rape and sexual violence in our society to the front and centre of the political agenda. Such violence cannot be reduced to a social problem to be handed over only to women’s police cells or departments in charge of women and children’s affairs. Its eradication is central to our self worth and integrity as a nation.”

The problem with the purdah mindset:

Part of the policing problem is that less than 4 percent of India’s overall force is female, said Suman Nalwa, head of Delhi’s special unit for women, in an interview. She said she was working to improve police response to sexual assault.

“Earlier, women didn’t leave their homes, so there was no crime,” Ms. Nalwa said. “We are doing our best, but, of course, there is a lot more to be done.”

from

Indian Women March: ‘That Girl Could Have Been Any One of Us’ by Heather Timmons and Sruthi Gottipatti in New Delhi, New York Times, Dec. 30/31, 2012.

I am conflicted about "burka bans" and the like because of this. Required veiling of women does signify an underlying mentality that women belong in the home, protected by males, and are "fair game" outside of it.

My first instinct is to be as accepting of veiling as you (in your comment upthread,) that it's a cultural choice that often doesn't signify much at all. I grew up with nuns in habits as teachers during the Vatican II era, and the young ones were becoming more feminist at the same time, so they were strong models and I didn't grow up signifying wearing habits with weakness. But looking back now, and knowing how the Vatican is now, I realize the habits signified some very troublesome underlying attittudes that hadn't been dealt with and are taking decades to change. Habits initially signified purdah too, it's just that simple, habit = cloistered. and pure, not wearing a habit  and out on the street = fair game for men.

On the "eve-teasing" you experienced on your trip, the NYT piece makes it clear that your experience on your trip is the status quo for urban Indian women as well as tourists, and note that reporting for it was contributed by Malavika Vyawahare, Anjani Trivedi, Niharika Mandhana and Saritha Rai.

Regarding your theme,

Nice boys they’re raising in India.

I found this in the article very interesting:

After years of aborting female fetuses, a practice that is still on the rise in some areas because of a cultural preference for male children, India has about 15 million “extra” men between the ages of 15 and 35, the range when men are most likely to commit crimes. By 2020, those “extra” men will have doubled to 30 million.

“There is a strong correlation between masculinized sex ratios and higher rates of violent crime against women,” said Valerie M. Hudson, a co-author of “Bare Branches: The Security Implications of Asia’s Surplus Male Population.” Men who do not have wives and families often gather in packs, Ms. Hudson argues, and then commit more gruesome and violent crimes than they would on their own.

especially because I do have a strong belief that gangs of young men cause much of the grief  in attempting to create a civilization, whether it's a team of mercenaries, Al Qaeda, Bloods and Crips or rapists in India. It's kind of odd that most societies in history have tried to deal with this problem by putting many kinds of controls on the young women rather than controls on the young men who are considered to be just "sowing their wild oats." Sometimes it seems like the only control patriarchies have seen fit to try is to put them in rigidly disciplined militaries and use them as cannon fodder.

After writing the above, I got to thinking again how India really is in the process of change on all of this. I did a quick google for "purdah India" and for the first result I got this March 2011 piece from The Globe and Mail:

The first time Mumal Barupal went to a meeting of her village council, she sat on the floor, off to the side of the benches occupied by the other members, in purdah - her face completely veiled by the end of her sari.

Then she ran the meeting: She was the newly elected mayor.

Back in 2005, Ms. Barupal won a tense local election; others in her low-caste group believed she might champion their causes, and used caste and family alliances to propel her to victory. But a few hundred votes did not change the social codes of rural Rajasthan, where no low-caste interloper seats herself up high, and no woman speaks when her face is covered or dares look at men without a veil.

Over the following months, though, she found a way to shift a bit at each meeting until she was sitting at the same level as everyone else. At first, she spoke from beneath the veil, but gradually drew her sari back inch by inch until her face was uncovered.

"Nobody wanted me there, but they couldn't stop me," she says, recalling the first days of her dominion in the dingy, cinderblock room. "You have to go and get your rights."

The story of this mayor - or sarpanch - is one of extraordinary personal achievement. But the gradual pulling back of her veil also represents a wider change that has occurred across India over the past 15 years, a change that is profound and yet so gradual as to have come almost unremarked . [....]

More news from Delhi about the sexual climate of India.

http://www.counterpunch.org/2013/01/04/the-cultures-of-delhi/

To be fair, India's per capita rape rate is far below most countries, around 70th on this UN list. Of course New Delhi could be worse than other locations, and there are other issues about women's position in the society. But this particular grotesque rape-murder shouldn't be used to exaggerate India's problem or ignore the larger problem elsewhere. South Africa with 1/20th the population reports more child rapes annually than India reports total rapes (of course unreported child rapes are greater). The US has 85-90,000 reported rapes a year...

I think that is a good point. We should not ignore the larger problem. But also, rape statistics are tricky because of underreporting. There is underreporting in the US, but I read somewhere this week (sorry, I don't have the link) that it's estimated that for every reported rape in India, 50 go unreported. I would have to think that would be the case in South Africa as well.

The trial is going on. Some of the news:

We are seeing the defense try the "she asked for it" ploy but not getting away with it.

The bus record was destroyed.

Bite marks on the victim's body have been identified with two of the accused.

One of the accused took the woman's phone and the man's shoes home.

There is continuing pressure about the necessity for police reform.

More coverage here via Google News.

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