I am a young asian woman, lucky enough to live in the west. I tread the line of fire as I use the adjective “Lucky” here. I know that. It looks like I am a westernized asian woman turning my back on my heritage. But I wonder, is it perhaps our heritage that turned its back on us? I can hand on heart declare that India is one of the most beautiful and with no exaggeration here, magical places in the world. It holds an unmatched vibrancy, history, spirituality and scenery. As such a sight to behold it doesn’t surprise me to see travellers in the hundreds of thousands flock there to ingest the culture. But buried beneath all of this light is a tremendous darkness that is at long last making its way to the surface. It’s so distressing, it’s becoming hard to breathe in the wake of cities within India being deemed by other countries as “The rape capital of the world.”
I consider myself lucky to live in a world that recognizes and respects the necessity of treating women like equals (to some degree). While there is still a fair amount of abhorrent sexual violence towards women (and men) here, there is more of a regard towards consequence. Women are more cared for and protected here. There are explicit adverts here to teach us not to get into unlicensed minicabs, there are self protection classes, rape alarms, there is a sense of tragedy and shame around the concept of sexual assault here. It is an act considered so vile that the mere mention of it here can turn a woman or indeed a man’s stomach. We have numerous hotlines, helplines and services at our fingertips to get to aid. We are nurtured and counseled and people of all sexes are educated about the severity of the situation. As a young woman who is born of the east, I can say, while the spark of revolution has been faintly lit, respect for our women is so far from the reality where I am from, that it can rob you of your ability to think straight.
How is it possible that in 2014, in a world capable of such progress, that something such as even the most basic form of equality is still so hard to master? How do men teach their sons and each other that women are so lesser that they are held in society as little more than a hole, a punching bag, and a commodity.
Yesterday in a newspaper, I read this:
"The religious feelings of people need to be respected and therefore saving the cow is one of the top priorities of the government," Nagendra Singh, the state public welfare minister, told the paper.”
Please do not misunderstand me here and think I am in any way shape or form disrespecting the importance of The Cow to Indian people. The sacred worship and love of any being can only be held in highest regard as far as I am concerned. Only it burns to have to swallow the fact that it is not apparent that a regard anywhere NEAR this is given to women within this culture. We are the mothers of the sons who commit these crimes. We provide life. Nurture. We are equally imperative to the future of mankind. We have the same minds. The same rights. The same hopes and fears. We are built for survival, not for the “use” of men. It is insane to me that it is commonplace for a woman to be raped on a moving bus in the middle of the day. It is insane to me that to wear jeans, a typically western clothing item, is to court sexual harassment, it is insane to me that it is an everyday part of life, borderline an assumption that young women, be it indiginous or tourist, have to constantly bat off the unwanted and unwarranted physical sexual advances of men in the street, on transport, in restaurants and in their schools. My mind is blown that you are not taught in school that you need permission to lay your fingers upon another human being. Another creation of the God you so highly regard.
How is gang rape something that exists within any culture whatsoever? How do men watch other men terrorize, violate and traumatise a woman and then go on to mimic the action? When I read this morning that less than a month ago in India, a 16 year old was gang raped twice by the same gang, the second time because she had reported the first crime, and then found mysteriously burned to death, I felt sick. But not so sick as when I read that in that same week it was reported that a group of young men in India, found a girl, distressed on a road side having just been gang raped, and they proceeded to gang rape her themselves. And it took the death of a 23 year old girl raped and beaten to death in the middle of the day on a bus home, for the world to take notice of this ageless crime, for young women to even have to gall to report these crimes?
How long has this been going on? Forever I can tell you. Of course women being allowed to walk the streets freely and at all times because of the ground breaking revolution allowing them to go to school and work, means they are easier prey than before, when it was once custom to be escorted everywhere by men… so it is perhaps a growing crime. Also there was once more shame around pre marital sex, even for men, which I believe is on the wane, as more and more seemingly have no problem helping themselves to vulnerable women.
It is all the perils of one singular evil. A lack of appropriate education in the basics of humanity.
Young boys do not grow up with the rape gene. We are not predisposed to hurt and traumatise one another. It is taught. It is tolerated. It is encouraged from somewhere. It is not an Asian trait to attack women. It is a lesson ingrained in the people, soaked in the blood and the hope of women everywhere. The simple fight of nurture versus nature. It starts with the parents, the workplaces, the religious groups, the elders and in my opinion, most importantly, the schools. In the same way an entire enormous country has been taught to respect and cherish an animal, they can be taught to do the same for one half of the damn population.
Putting everyone in jail for 20 years, when there is little money for a strong legal system, never mind enough jail space and staff to house such a wealth of criminals, means that it is very possible legal systems will at times fail to prosecute out of desperation to not have the jail structures burst their banks. What do you do? You lock up a bunch of rapists together for two decades and they do god knows what to each other in those prisons and still the tiniest percentage has learned little more than, “don’t get caught.” Or do you turn the crime into a moral prison sentence, one that can never fully be served… an emotional jail sentence. Do you stop the cause rather than the effect. Do we start a movement to teach young men to abhor and prevent this happening to their sisters, mothers, wives and friends? Rather than egging each other on and hunting in packs, can we see a movement of men stopping one another, questioning one another, and getting in the way?
While I am so relieved to know a legal system is in place and growing in severity, it is not the means to an end. The men I personally know in this country do not stop themselves from partaking in non consented sex with a person out of fear of punishment, but because they consider the act disgusting and terrifying. Us westerners have been capable of some of the worst crimes against humanity known to man, including slavery and tremendous mistreatment of women… even we are evolving. We are no more advanced in our ability to change than those in the east. We are just educated. All people have the astonishing capacity for change.
The time is well overdue. The indian people will only suffer. Tourism will decline shortly enough. The movement has started. They can no longer silence the people. The money will stop coming in from travel. The already devastating poverty will rise. They are only robbing themselves. We have to step in with compassion in order to teach compassion. An iron fist is a temporary fix only.
I am heartbroken to say that in spite of what I am missing out on culturally and spiritually that I am loathe to put my foot upon that soil as it is sodden with the blood and tears of women everywhere. It is sickening that in this day and age, a woman’s right to step out of her house unscathed is privilege and not a right.
We gasp in horror but we do nothing. It’s a circus to us. A distant nightmare so foreign to us we feel we need not engage.
Men need to step in and help. We need pioneers for change to teach the next generations the truth which they are starved of. This is not a case of men fighting for women. This is men fighting for human beings. We are as one. We are the future. We are important. We are in crisis.
We need a voice. Male Celebrities, Sportsmen, Politicians, Religious leaders, anyone with influence has to speak up and smear the deserved shame over the act of laying your unwanted hands upon a woman.
In america it took White leaders to accept the movement of the black community in order to create real and effective change. It is infurtiating, but it is something that needs to be changed in house. Men need to take responsibility for the acts of other men, step in and damn well do something. Don’t just stand there and tut from a distance. Speak. Teach. Move.
We need your help. It is embarrassing on your part that we even have to ask.