India's Culture of Sexual Violence

By Erbe, Bonnie | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA), January 4, 2013 | Go to article overview

India's Culture of Sexual Violence


Erbe, Bonnie, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)


The next time you hear palaver about the U.S. being overtaken as the world's superpower by India, ignore it. True, the U.S. is more often compared to China when it comes to losing our global rank. But in Asia, India and China see each other as the top contenders to overtake the U.S., and India, unlike China, claims the mantle of being the world's largest democracy. So India, too, is a formidable contender.

But after having done some digging into the issue of how India treats its women, I no longer believe that country has much of a shot at world supremacy in the political or economic spheres.

I have been galvanized by the recent round of protests by Indian men and women, against the culture of gender violence in India. Initially, I thought it was a mark of progress that Indian women and the men who love them could rise up this way against their government to demand an end to the sexual violence there. This uprising comes, of course, in reaction to the horrendous rape and murder of a 23-year-old New Delhi student by six men who now face the death penalty for their criminal behavior.

In retrospect, having learned that gender-based violence is about as routine in India as jaywalking is here, I see things a bit differently. I see that country (which I have visited three times) as much more backward, tribal and in great need of reform on many fronts.

Sexual violence is rising in India, and it's not exactly clear why. One astonishing reason, however, is that women and girls are being raped by the people who are paid to protect them. According to GlobalPost.com:

"Between 2002 and 2010, as many as 45 women were raped by the police while in custody. ... The same week as the Delhi gang rape, a woman in Uttar Pradesh claimed that a police officer who'd promised to help her prosecute her attacker had instead raped her himself. ... In the Mathura case, for instance, a 16-year-old girl was allegedly raped by two policemen in a Maharashtra police station while her unwitting parents waited patiently outside. …

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