Judging from media reports, India has a BIG problem with rape. No other country seems to come even close. All over the globe “another rape in India” is reported ever so often. On my last visit to Germany, I jolted when on 27. December 2013 the most popular TV news ended with “another gang rape in India”. It was one of only five topics of the 15 minutes broadcast.
Even my sister wondered how a gang rape in India made it to the main news in Germany. That same day in a conservative estimate, over a thousand rapes would have been committed all over the world. In the USA some 200, in South Africa some 170. In the western cities, the statistics show a high percentage, much higher than in India. Many of those rapes would have been gang rapes. In many cases, the girl or woman would have been killed. Behind each of those statistical figures are painful, heartrending stories. If we knew what is happening at this very moment on this earth – how much pain humans inflict on other humans and on animals – we could not bear it. With so much crime happening everywhere, why is India being singled out and shamed with “another gang rape”, when it actually has only a fraction of the crimes other countries have in relative numbers? In absolute numbers of course it would be no surprise if India with her huge population of four times the size of the United States were number one apart from China. Even then it is not number one. USA is.
The deluge of rape reports on India started with the shameful gang rape of a young woman, Jyoti, in a bus in Delhi on December 16th, 2012. Jyoti died. The six culprits were convicted. One committed either suicide (official version) or was killed by prison inmates. Four got death sentence. The sixth was a minor, six months short of his 18th birthday. He got away with 3 years in a reprimand home. As he allegedly was the most brutal of all and responsible for the death of Jyoti, efforts are on to try him as an adult.
This gang rape received unprecedented publicity. It reached national and local news all over the globe. It reached even a friend in Slovenia, who is usually oblivious of what is happening. Why was it broadcasted all over with such intensity? Was it because Indians protested in a big way and demanded harsh punishment? Those protests should have actually gone in favour of India, as they made clear that Indians consider rape as completely against their culture. But the opposite happened:
Ever since that December 2012, news on India have centered almost exclusively on “another rape” and even on the “rape culture of India”. One year later, the tragic story of Jyoti was again splashed over half a page in a local Nuremberg newspaper, and in its year-end- review, the Spiegel magazine did not feature anything about India, not even the Uttarakhand disaster with over 7000 dead, but – a group of victims of sexual abuse learning martial arts in Lucknow, ready to take on anyone who molests women. Obviously it was implied that such molesters are lurking at every corner.
India does have a problem with rape. Other countries also have this problem. Yet the exclusive focus by the world media on “rapes in India’ is not justified and raises suspicion of an agenda behind it. Articles appeared now, often written by Indians with Hindu names, that Indian (read Hindu) culture is to be blamed for the rapes, because it does not consider women as ‘autonomous entities’, which probably means that they can’t do what they want. The Washington Post proclaimed that sexual violence was endemic in India. The Reuters Trust Law group named India one of the worst countries in the world for women. A Harvard committee crafted strategies for ‘adolescent education’ to change the Indian mindset about gender. It was getting a bit much. Don’t westerners look at their own record – past and present – and compare it with that of India? Are they not ashamed?
Anyone who cares to find out will easily discover that rape is not in the culture of India, and women have a good, even respected position compared to other cultures or countries. This position may not be in tune with the view of feminists, but are feminists the measure of all things? Do those feminists believe that village women in India want to be like them? In my view, those feminists look pitiable in the eyes of those often very strong village women who see Sita as their ideal. The main anguish of those women is poverty, not gender roles.
To blame Hindu culture is preposterous to say the least. In fact, if Hindu culture would have prevailed and Christianity and Islam had never appeared on the scene, the world would be a better place. Christians and Muslims have traditionally used rape as a tool of war. For them, the ‘other’ was never worthy of any consideration and could be brutally raped and killed never mind if they were civilians. The Geneva Convention’s purpose is to stop this barbaric behaviour. Hindus never needed a Geneva Convention. They also fought wars, but they did not brutalize women or the civilian population.
The campaign to paint India blacker than it is sadly has worked. It is now a ‘fact’ for most foreigners (and for the convinced Indians) that Indian women have to live terrible lives, more terrible than anywhere else. No disagreeing possible. Everyone will shout you down with plenty of horrific examples. Yes, there are plenty of horrific examples and one needs to find out the reasons and find remedies. But individual criminals do not define a country, even less, if other countries have more of them. So why is India beaten with “another gang rape” again and again? Is the purpose to spoil the image of India? And if so, why?
In recent times, Indians have clearly made a mark. There is tremendous talent in the country. It is acknowledged that Indians have brains. This expresses itself in a new found confidence. ‘Western values’ are more likely to be scrutinized now and the ancient Hindu tradition is seeing a renaissance. The ‘established opinion’ that Christianity and Islam are any time better than Hinduism is being challenged. Modern western values are also more likely to be scrutinized and the west does not like it. The established opinions have power and this power seems to be used to malign India in a most unfair manner.
Rape is a delicate subject and whoever tries to place it into perspective is likely to get slaps from all sides, not least from the women’s groups. Not many will dare to state, that India has a problem, but not a bigger one than other countries, and does not need interference from the west in handling it. In fact, India has a great advantage. The family system is generally still strong especially among the masses who have escaped English education. Celibacy before marriage is still valued and not ridiculed. Romantic love is still seen for what it is – a temporary emotion and not a solid basis for a lifelong companionship. Compromise among family members and even sacrifice are not yet condemned as restricting individual freedom. Sita is still an ideal for most Hindu women. Bhakti, love for God, can still be expressed.
The fact that these values are still strong is not appreciated by western opinion makers. Those values are considered out of sync with the Zeitgeist. They pose a challenge to the western lifestyle which is being pushed into India. ‘Modern, western values’ mean for example (I learned this from an article in Focus, a German magazine) to live in rainbow or patchwork families, Those families will either have gays as ‘parents’ or children from different partners as the parents would have had several live-in relationships earlier. It is supposed to be a great learning experience for everyone. A book will soon be out in Germany that examines whether gays make better ’parents’ than the traditional man–woman combination. It is overlooked, that these ‘parents’ can’t produce children together. But then, who needs children in the west?
Traditional Indian society is clearly out of sync with this modern lifestyle and to portray it in a poor light, “another rape” makes headlines every other day. Care is taken that only rapes committed by men with Hindu names reach the limelight and are discussed on TV. India has some 200 million Muslims and some 50 million Christians and they also commit rapes and very cruel ones, as well. For example the minor in the rape case of Jyothi is a Muslim. This news, however, did not make it to the mainstream media. There seems to be communalism in regard to broadcasting crimes, and maybe even in registering them. This makes sense, if the objective is to demean Hindu culture and thereby propel it to reform and open up. It is expected to leave those old fashioned family values behind, to have condom vending machines in colleges, to consider free sex as normal. What better start than to talk of rape? It prepares the ground for allowing westerners to prepare the syllabus for ‘adolescent education’. And once the youth is convinced, the ‘backward’ Hindu society will be a thing of the past.
This prospect would be a horror for the Indian masses from all religions. Hindu society is indeed rigid in certain aspects and has scope to improve, but its values are still highly preferable to western, modern ‘values’. One just needs to look at western societies to realise that the modern life style is a failed model. It has already regrettable fallout: many youngsters are without direction because of too much freedom. They long for clear rules and turn to fundamentalist, evangelical churches. Hindu Dharma would be the better option. But they are not likely to get to know about it in an unbiased manner.
By Maria Wirth