With the verdict from the Delhi rape case coming out recently, Jennifer Smyth examines India’s attitude to women and their role in Indian society.
You take a trip to the cinema with a friend and you get the last bus home together; a typical night out for a lot of us. There might be a drunken person sitting at the back, and you can hear a teenager’s iPod blaring from upstairs. No one would ever expect to be gang raped and left for dead.
On the 16th of December last year, a 23-year-old woman was raped by six men on a bus they had taken for a joy ride earlier in the evening. Her injuries from being brutally attacked, tortured, and beaten with a metal rod led to her death two weeks later in a Singapore hospital.
News of this event led to worldwide disgust and protest. What is India doing about its country’s backwards views on women, their education, and the lack of respect for their rights as citizens?
The education of women in India is still a much discussed topic today. The victim of the Delhi rape case was a physiotherapy student whose father had to sell his farm to pay for her education.
Her attackers were not so unfortunate. Even in prison, their education is still seen as a priority. They are encouraged to continue their studies in jail as education is deemed a fundamental right. A social welfare officer spoke of one of the men’s training saying, “A tailor has been teaching him how to sew. He can now sew buttons and hem.”
Why should he get to benefit from learning this skill? He brutally attacked a woman and left her for dead at the side of the road. What employer would agree to hire him after his sentence and give him the opportunity to use these new found skills?
The victim’s right to life was not viewed as fundamental by the rapist, yet he is still offered a free education. He may have put an end to her education, but her death has given a beginning to his.
Delhi University argues that educating the inmates changes them for the better; but how much change can come from a man who removed 95% of a woman’s intestines by penetrating her with a metal rod?
According to a 2006 survey conducted by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare-Government of India, 41% of Indian women aged 15 to 49 have never been to school, compared to 18% of men. The main reasons for women never attending school were cited as the expensive cost of education, no interest in studies and that they required for household work.
The Indian government should ensure their women achieve equal rights to education before trying to teach inmates to sew. Attitudes to women and their sexuality are in need of just as much improvement as the education system.
According to Ranjana Kumari of the Centre for Social Research in Delhi, a decade ago rape was a taboo subject in India. Women were, and often still are, deemed to be objects seen as controlled and owned by men. How can rape be avoided in this sort of patriarchal society?
Ten women in the capital complain about being molested every day according to 2013 data from the Delhi Police. From January to September of this year 2,400 molestations were registered in 11 police stations.
An American student, Rose Chasm, has come forward and spoken out about the sexual harassment she suffered while studying abroad in India. Her experiences of attempted rape, molestation, and stalking, among others, while studying abroad left her with PTSD and forced her to take a mental leave of absence from her studies at the University of Chicago.
This type of brutality to women is deemed acceptable by a large number of India’s population. The National Family Health Survey 2005-2006 found that 51% of Indian men and 54% of Indian women thought it justifiable for a man to beat his wife. Is it the years of female subjugation that leave these statistics shockingly high or could Indian traditions be the cause?
One of the most widely known traditions in Indian culture is the system of dowries. The woman’s family is expected to pay the man’s family a fee for the marriage. In 1961, the Dowry Prohibition Act was put in place in an attempt to prevent this practice, but with the lack of proper implementation many women still die as a result of their dowry.
According to recent data from India’s National Crime Records Bureau there were 8,233 dowry deaths in 2012, one every hour. Families torture and kidnap women in an attempt to raise the dowry sum. Other women take their own lives due to the conflict and fear surrounding this outdated tradition. The conviction rate for these crimes was only 32%.
India is not the only country with a negative attitude towards women when they fall victim to brutal crimes such as rape. On August 11th of last year an Ohio high school student got drunk, passed out, and was raped by two of her fellow students.
They posted photographs online of the girl lying naked and images of her being carried from different houses by her wrists and ankles. They posted numerous tweets about their actions and a 12 minute video on YouTube making jokes about the situation.
CNN reporter Poppy Harlow then proceeded to lament how unfortunate it was that the two rapists’ “promising futures” had been destroyed by the part they played in raping their friend. The victim was blamed for being drunk.
If someone was shot while intoxicated you would blame the gunman. How is rape any different? When it comes to attitudes about rape and crimes against women, America is just as much a developing nation as India.
Until women are respected as equals in Indian society there will be no way to reduce the all too prevalent crimes against them. The Delhi rape case has opened India’s eyes and brought unwanted worldwide attention to their nation for unsavory reasons, forcing both the Indian system of law and their public to take action against what they used to deem as “justifiable” brutality towards women.