It goes without saying that women’s issues and feminism is and international concern.
In my research I’ve encountered a great deal of coverage regarding rape culture and sexism in India, including this article that draws parallels between the Steubenville rape case and the 2012 New Delhi rape case – two cases that involved a gang rape of a young girl, but received extremely different reactions and news coverages.
23 year old medical student Jyoti Singh was brutally raped and tortured by six men and eventually died due to her injuries, and India’s streets were filled with mourners and activists protesting for change while American news shined a very critical eye on the matter. In Steubenville, a 16 year old high school student was kidnapped, drugged, raped and urinated on by a handful of high school football players and received cruel taunting and death threats, while news broadcasters expressed sympathy for her attackers. The parallels are many, and we can learn a great deal about the global rape culture by scrutinizing how we respond to such travesties – but understanding sexism overseas has a deeper impact, one that will help us solve the problem altogether.
According to the article, “everywhere, rape often puts the victim on trial: in one poll, 68 percent of Indian judges said that “provocative attire” amounts to “an invitation to rape.” Furthermore, “In Delhi, of 635 rape cases reported in the first 11 months of last year, only one ended in conviction. That creates an incentive for rapists to continue to rape, but in any case that reported number of rapes is delusional. They don’t include the systematized rape of sex trafficking.”
It doesn’t end there – following the medical student’s attack, a Swiss tourist was gang raped in front of her husband while on a cycling trip in Madhya Pradesh.
Not to say that India is a brutal society in which the masses cannot see the potential for change – far from it. I have also encountered many interesting articles that show how solidarity between women is a universal language.
The New Delhi rape victim was attacked in transit, while riding a chartered bus. Furthermore, a high number of victims have reportedly been attacked while riding cabs. As a result, a group of women in Delhi started their own cab service only servicing women in order to offer safe transportation for women. This cab service is a branch of a larger organization that attempts to level the professional playing field in technological careers by giving women job opportunities. Other activist groups, such as Take Back the Night in Calcutta, are prolifically protesting and taking direct action to create safe spaces for marginalized gender groups.
But what stuck with me most was this headline: Delhi Men Say Sorry. In a public apology, men in Delhi actually gathered in a public setting and held signs apologizing for the culture of rape and sexism in India.
Among those issuing an apology was Shorya Bisla, 23, dressed in a black biker vest and red neckerchief. “I might never consciously have disrespected women, but I feel that I have been mute when the people around me have,” said Mr. Bisla who works in marketing.
Paul Narjinary, 38, said he was taking part as an example to other men. “If hard core bikers can humble themselves and respect women, other men will start realizing that their own attitudes need to change,” Mr. Narjinary said.
This struck me as so evolved, so humble, and so progressive that it makes me misty. While sadly the realities of sexism and rape culture cross international borders, I feel that we can learn a little something from India. From what I have encountered, men in the United States will typically condemn rapists and misogynists while essentially distancing themselves from that label, the “I do not fall under this category ergo I have no responsibility” mindset. The idea that a man can actively assume responsibility for his silence and condonement of sexism is astonishing and something I would like to see on our soil.
Here at Generation Handmaid, we would like to thank the men of Delhi for their apology and offer our solidarity to our sisters in India. Keep fanning the flame and don’t stop fighting the good fight.
Up to date coverage if the New Delhi rape case can be found here.
“They are very interested in how other households are run; such bits of petty gossip give them an opportunity for pride or discontent.”
– Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid’s Tale