Sexual harassment, assault and rape is as prominent in India as Masala chai is. Unfortunately, these blunt and harsh facts are true, and the recent video of India’s daughter has shed light on the current situation on an international scale. Talking about sex first of all, is a subject of a taboo, but rape: it is the elephant in the room, the bull in the china shop, it is there but not spoken about.
Although shunned and a subject swept under the rug, a rape occurs every 20 minutes in India. These statistics are shocking for a country home to a large proportion of millionaires and a developed country of the 21st century. However, these statistics are those of which have been reported, activists believe that this is only a fraction of the percentage of rapes that occur. A prime example of cases not being reported, women unable to express themselves because of the concern of their welfare after doing so, is the rape case in Nagaland in 2013. A teacher had been forcing himself on 14 underage girls, (the size of half a classroom in the UK) for 3 years. 3 years, imagine that. A part of your adolescence spent in terror by someone you spend every day with, hoping to gain an education from, hoping to aspire in a career or fulfill a dream, unable to tell others. Only 1 complaint was made after the long ordeal, and to little avail.
In most circumstances, victims are preyed upon by higher class men, or officials, 85% of victims are from the “untouchable class”. How are these women able to tell others of the incident, that no doubt haunts them daily, with no prejudice or discrimination involved? An obvious example of this discrimination that consumes the nation as if a shadow, is the rape case in 1992. Bhavari Devi was ignored by government officials because of her low caste and gender. Why would a woman unburden themselves of their troubles to someone they can’t even trust, whom is skeptical about their plea, or even possibly the predator in the first place? One of India’s exemplary politicians whom is well known and regarded in society, Mulayan Singh Yadav, states on the subject of rape: “men make mistakes”. This nonchalant and careless attitude to a subject that fills hold a nation with terror, is just as horrifying as the predators. How can the attitude of society change when the leaders themselves express no need for change?
India’s Daughter is a documentary based on the rape of Jyoti Singh in Delhi 2012. Being led onto a bus that seemed to be the right one, her male friend was knocked out unconscious by a metal rod, as she was raped by 4 men on the back of the bus, including the driver. Because her reaction was of not “calm acceptance”, whilst she was being raped, she was repeatedly beaten by the metal rod, causing severe internal bleeding, blood loss and later, death. These actions: grotesque, sick and violent, show evidence of men acting as predators, targeting vulnerable woman, working in packs, as if a pack of hyenas tearing part an innocent antelope, to feed their thirst of lust and violence. The sheer brutality of rapes in India: Aruna Shanbaug who was raped with a dog chain on, whom is now in a vegetative state for the next 40 years, Scarlet Keeling, a British girl who was raped and drowned and so many more others that should never be forgotten, highlights the severity of problems within society; the caste based violence and in differences, the unjust political system, and the tolerance of sexual harassment.
This documentary- quite rightly- highlights the gender inequality problems in India, the brutality of rape, and society’s dysfunctional thought process. The bus driver’s response towards his guilty actions, “a decent girl won’t roam around at 9’o clock, they should be doing housework in homes”, is chilling and disturbing. India has banned the BBC’s documentary in India- where it should be most shown. If it was on every television box in India, as even the poorest people in slums are glued to their box- all members of the community could reflect on these issues in a new light. India’s plea to ban the BBC from airing the documentary has fallen on deaf ears, but the response of a YouTube ban is contrary to what India wanted, it has propelled the speed and volume of international viewers. This ignorant and egotistical banning which the government has put into place further highlights the problems within India, on a global scale.
As I was in India whilst is was aired in the UK, and banned in India, it meant I wasn’t able to watch it, although I have read numerous articles describing the contents of the video. As trends merge on Twitter as if wildfire, and more women begin to protest because of the banned material, these actions already highlight the internal aftermath of the airing of India’s daughter. But here in India, there is much more work to be done, a substantial change needs to take place.
This change needs to stem within society itself. I have spoken abut men as rampant animals, but how can they not think like this when gender inequality is so apparent. Women are seen as weak and a nuisance. When finding out one is pregnant with a girl, disappointment is bestowed on the mother, and even illegal abortions are often arranged. Women are seen as a commodity, bartered for and given with a dowry- although India says it has abolished a dowry, it still is in place in areas of India. They are not given the respect that they deserve, in all aspects of society- in the workforce or even the entertainment industry. Bollywood actresses are seen as abnormal and dangerous when choosing a life revolving around a career rather than a family, and women in industries are ignored. For example, I was on a train in India when a woman stated to a man that he was in her seat. After a quick text to the train company, she found her seat was in a different place. Men in all of the surrounding areas began to tut and roll their eyes at her, laughing at her expense and her foolishness. I am sure the response would have been very different if it was a man making a simple mistake.
Both men and women are oppressed in India, but in entirely different ways. At a young age, both men and women are segregated, unable to interact or even talk to each other. Because of this, men do not know how to behave around women, unable to understand them. Indian men are notorious around the world because of their “creepy attitude” towards women. However, this is all they know. They think they are superior, they have the right to over power women, or acceptable to compliment women on the street- unaware that this behavior makes women feel uncomfortable and is wrong.
I have, on a significantly large scale, been on the receiving end of this “creepy attitude.” Although covering the entirety of my body, ignoring becks, calls and eye contact from local men around- I have still been followed home and assaulted a number of times. It could be an Indian man’s thought process of western women- seeing them as loose or flirtatious, or it could be my blond hair. Either way, not once have I felt safe in India, and subject to daily harassment because of my gender and appearance. Stories of attacks on western women are not uncommon and shake the traveler community right to its core. As much as the tourist industry can lie about it, and as much as locals can turn a blind eye to it: harassment, assault and rape is a massive problem in India and is one that will hold me back from visiting in the future.