Saturday, August 1, 2009

What is it with Indian men and rape?

Yet another statistic, yet another dark splotch on the sheet... Today's Times of India (August 1, 2009) reports that a 22-year old newly-wed woman was gang-raped in Thane by five as-yet unidentified young men. The police suspect that local thugs may be involved. Who knows when (or rather, if) they will be ever apprehended and brought to justice.

Also reported in today's Times of India, a twenty-something woman was gang-raped by four persons at Savitribai Phule slums in Nagpur in front of two kids in the early morning of Friday. Gagged with a cloth and threatened with sharp weapons, the victim could do little to help herself or her neighbor's two kids, who were sleeping with her, and cowered in one corner of the room during the incident.

This past Wednesday (July 29, 2009), Indian Express reported that a 30-year-old kitchen help in the hostel of Central Government-run Navodaya Vidyalaya was gang-raped and later set on fire by her co-workers in Belora village of the district in Gujarat. The victim is struggling for life in the government hospital here with 95% burns.

Three reported rape incidents in just a matter of a week. Also on Wednesday, a Times of India report conferred a dubious distinction on Madhya Pradesh and West Bengal; India has been recording a rise in the number of rape cases during the past five years with states like Madhya Pradesh and West Bengal registering maximum number of them, the parliament was informed Wednesday.

According to the National Crime Record Bureau, an astounding 20737 rape cases were registered in 2007 alone. And that is just the tip of a huge iceberg. Rape in India is largely a safe crime to carry out as it is plagued by very poor reporting levels due to the stigma involved. Delhi-based psychologist Rajat Mitra, who is active in this issue and even counsels imprisoned offenders, says: "People from the upper class and the middle class do not report rape cases. It is mostly the people from the lower class that come out to seek police intervention." It is estimated that as many as 90% of the rape cases actually remain unreported.

What is it with Indian men and rape?

Is it about sexual gratification in a country where, inexplicably, sex is still a taboo subject and the Indian male is a lustful, prurient, sex-starved lot eager to carry out rape to fulfill a sexual fantasy whenever opportunity presents? Is it about power and control over certain individuals, or a group of people - an uncontrollable urge to dominate? Or, is it a violent response, a lashing out, of the patriarchal societal establishment to the increasing economic and social emancipation of the Indian women, whom it finds it cannot subjugate any further?

In India, it probably is all of the above. Rapes are often not crimes of opportunity carried out in the spur of the moment, but in most cases are well-planned and a considered act. The rapist actually enacts the rape in his mind for many times before he actually carries it out; the opportunity in most of the cases is created by manipulating the situation carefully or casing out the vulnerabilities of the intended victim.

Perhaps a lot of it has to do with the traditional Indian male attitude towards women. "streeyaashcharitram devaa na jaananti, kutoh manushyaah" - Rajasthan deputy chief minister Hari Shankar Bhabra quoted a Sanskrit shloka in the State Assembly, no less, to say, "Why talk of humans, even the gods cannot say anything definite about a woman's character..." when commenting upon Bhanwari Devi, a low-caste victim of gang-rape by upper-caste thugs, in 1998. The comment sums up the prevalent general Indian attitude to sexual assaults, carefully couched behind an appropriate Sanskrit shloka to render some legitimacy to it. Rape is assumed to be the woman's fault and a test of her character.

Holy cow! When did we become so utterly insensitive and inhuman?


  1. Is it actually increasing, or it is just a case of improved reporting through social awareness? Or it is increasing simply because our population is inflating rapidly?

    Although there is nothing surprising if it is actually increasing. And my guess would be that most of the rise would be in the cities and suburbs, as a result of the takeover of the consumerist market economy, where the unrestrained power given by money manifests in cases like sleeping pavement-dwellers being run over and so.

  2. According to the National Crime Records Bureau, the number of reports have increased by about 9% per year over the past few years. But it is also true that about 90% of the rapes, particularly those in the upper class society, and those involving incest, go unreported. Of the c.21000 rape reports collected by the NCRB in 2007, 470 were incestuous. But I would say that blaming the so-called consumerist market economy for increase in rapes is a bit facile and disingenuous. The question is rather one of the mentality and attitude of the Indian male. The gender insensitivity amongst Indian men that we see today has not developed overnight, or even in a matter of years, prodded on by economic considerations. Rather, this is a social evil that has been nurtured steadily over hundreds of years, carefully garbed and garlanded in traditions and religious mores.

  3. reporting a rape does not make it go away. and even reporting the crime does not always ensure justice.
    what is justice? jail for the rapist? that only puts him away but the girl has to live with the memory of it and the scar for her life.
    the question is not why? this has no definite answer. the question is how can it be stopped altogether? sadly enough, this has almost no answer.

  4. i say castrate the scumbag! humiliate him publicly and make it known to all. set an example.

  5. Of course if a woman is raped by 5 men then it must be her fault. NOT!! I live in South Asia and the men here do things because they can. They know they will get away with it. The root cause, I belive, is that they are afraid of women's power. They are the more powerful sex.

    Keith ( a man who is disgusted at his fellow men)