Tuesday, May 28, 2013

No room to criticize India

Rape is a problem in India, but stubbornly persists in the United States too.

By Sri Ponnada

News of a young woman being gang-raped in India last December not only shocked India itself, but also the rest of the globe. Eyes were set on the world’s most populous democracy as many were enraged by the horrendous crime.

Stories about that young woman’s rape seemed to fill the front pages of virtually every newspaper from The Times of India to The New York Times. Being a native of India myself, I was furious when I heard about what happened. I couldn’t believe such crimes were still committed in my country. I have to admit, it is disgraceful.

After that incident, I continued following news from India more closely. Rape was wreaking havoc across the nation. Apparently, that’s how it has been for decades. Some accounts show that every 22 minutes, a woman is raped in India and statistics from India’s National Crime Records Bureau indicate that rape is on the rise. But there is a silver lining.

Despite all the dread and disappointment, Indian women are rising up against the sexual terrorism plaguing their country. Indians are battling the longstanding misogynistic culture in their society. There have been numerous protests in cities and villages alike. Some women are even training themselves in martial arts to fight back.

Protesters in Bangalore, India demand justice for the 23-year-old student 

who died from rape-induced injuries.   (Jim Ankan/Wikimedia Commons)

But others are skeptical of these women’s efforts, particularly people in America.

Since news about that young woman’s rape surfaced here in the United States, I’ve witnessed a variety of reactions. One of the most disgusting has been the complete dismissal of Indian women’s attempts to end rape culture in India. Some have even said the conditions in India will never improve, no matter what anyone does.

Then, others outright bashed Indians. Those people claimed to have been outraged.

I have to ask: Doesn’t rape happen in America, too?

Over the past month, I’ve written about sexual violence in the United States so many times —now, it’s like the statistics just roll off my tongue.

Nearly 1-in-5 women (in America) report having been raped during their lifetimes, according to the 2010 National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Almost 1.3 million report being raped in the year preceding the survey.

Rape remains among the most underreported crimes. Between 2009 and 2010, fewer than half of all rapes and sexual assaults were reported. Furthermore, out of every 100 rapes only 3 rapists will spend a single day in prison. That is absolutely outrageous.

I’m tired of hearing about countless women, and men on my own college campus who have been subjected to sexual violence at some point in their lives. Rape happens so often that it’s becoming comparable to a coming-of-age ceremony.

Not to mention, the male to female ratio in India is incredibly skewed. Around 48 percent of Indians are women, which may sound insignificant, but is fairly substantial. India actually has 15 million surplus men from age 15 to 35. Men in this age range are most likely to commit crimes.

Valerie M. Hudson, coauthor of Bare Branches: The Security Implications of Asia’s Surplus Male Population said in an interview with The New York Times, “There is a strong correlation between masculinized sex ratios and higher rates of violent crime against women.”

In the United States, the ratio between female and male populations is almost exactly equal. However, sexual violence is still a massive problem here.

So, why are we so quick to criticize India?

Yes, India has a problem with rape. But the point is that Indians are trying to fix it. A culture in which misogyny is deeply rooted isn’t one you can fix overnight. In the United States, we’ve been trying to fight sexual violence since the 1970s and we still have such a long way to go. Judging people in India for not yet solving what remains a serious problem in our own country is seriously hypocritical.

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