Having studied in a university in London and being from the “exotic subcontinent of Incredible India” I have answered a lot of questions about home. Some from curious mates others from seriously uninformed individuals. No, I didn’t ride an elephant to school, yes, there are cows on the road, no, ‘Hindu’ isn’t a language, yes, I eat curry for most meals, no, you’re questions aren’t irritating….most of the time. I usually have a coy smile and quick retort to anything thrown at me but the one question that left me at a loss for words was “why do Indian men rape?”. Seems like an unlikely question for someone to ask? If you put in “why do Indian…” in the Google search bar the most frequently asked question happens to be exactly this embarrassingly valid question. As a student in a foreign country who has been subjected to this question I can say I am ashamed.
So today I am writing. Writing, not because I feel like a drop in the ocean of articles on this topic will end those horrifying crimes women in India face, but because writing is probably more productive and socially acceptable than shouting at the next man I see letching at me on the streets, which lets admit, will be the short walk from this office desk to my car parked across the road.
My friend says, “some stare for less time, some stare for longer, but everyone stares”, my mom says, “you can’t spend the night there, it’s always the people you least expect”, dad says, “take the jacket you can take it off later when you reach the party, it’s better to be safe then sorry”. Even though I have gotten used to hearing this, I have learnt to deal with it because I know they come from a place of concern. What makes my blood boil is what many of our political leaders have to say. On the issue of increasing sexual violence in cities, Ramsewal Paikra (Chahattisgarh’s home minister) stated, “No one commits rape intentionally” while Abu Azmi (President of the Maharashtra branch of the the Samajwadi Party) said, “even the women are guilty”. Mulayam Singh has his own explanation: “boys will be boys…they make mistakes” and the RSS’s Mohan Bhagwat takes the cake by explaining to the world that “Rapes occur in India, not in Bharat”. Sitting at home is not the right thing to do but neither is going out at night, or wearing a short skirt, or going out with boys, or going out without the protection of boys and according to the Haryana Khap Panchayat neither is eating Chowmein as it leads to hormonal imbalance, which then leads to rape. As a girl just trying to live in a metropolitan city in India I can say I am not right.
The attitude of men in India undeniably plays a major role in the second hand citizen treatment women in India get but it is an incomplete argument. Member of Maharashtra State Women’s Commision, Asha Mirje’s comment about Nirbhaya being responsible for her own rape clearly demonstrates that this problem is pan gender. Asha Mirje suggested that women invite rape through the way they dress and behave and therefore should share the blame for these incidents. Every time a woman in a position of power makes comments like these it discredits the entire cause of women empowerment. The December 2012 incident seriously puts the alarming high rates of crime against women in the limelight. Since then the number of cases getting media coverage has increased, the attention given to these crimes in the government has increased and the measures taken, effective or ineffective, to fight this problem have increased as well. Comments like that of Asha Mirje seriously disgrace the position of women in society and dishonour the entire women empowerment movement in India. As an activist working tirelessly for women empowerment in India I can say I am disappointed.
Reading the newspapers is becoming like a never-ending horror story. Every day the headlines have some new statistics. The most recent and probably the most concerning ones are those about crimes against women. It is not that I am unaware of the evils present in the society today or that without media coverage I, among others, living in this country would not be conscious of these incidents. But reading them in black and white, broken down to statistics, has a different kind of impact. Rape cases in Delhi have doubled since 2012, 706 cases were reported that year while 1,330 were reported in 2013. Even molestation charges have quadrupled with an enormous increase in cases of eve teasing, kidnapping and abduction. The Nirbhaya rape case led to Delhi being recognised as the rape capital, but these cases are predominant countrywide. Ruth Manorama, an active member of socuet working to improve the position of Dalit’s in the Indian community, commented on this realisation by stating, “It is not a north India phenomenon; it is an all India phenomenon” . The year of 2013 witnessed child rapes in Karnataka double,  while the highest number of rape cases in 2009-20011 was recorded in Madhya Pradesh at the sky-high number of 9,539. The most horrifying of all is the total number of rape cases reported and recorded in 2009-2011, which was 68,000 while the conviction rate was a mere 16,000. Reading these statistics in the newspaper everyday makes me fear for the women in my family. At the risk of being overprotective I hear myself telling them not to go out late, to not go out alone, or not go out at all. As a man in the city, as a brother in the city, as a husband in the city, I can say I am fearful.
I am not a woman. I am not a man. I am not an activist nor a victim. Today I am writing this article as a citizen. A citizen of a country, that has much to offer to the world of tradition, culture, technology, sports and science. I can talk politics at the dinner table. I can play cricket with a passion only seen in the streets of Delhi. I can write poetry and appreciate art. What I can’t do is explain. I can’t explain why my country, once known for Mango’s, classical dance, street food and Bollywood, is now known for rape.