Ensuring Respect for India’s Women

Originally from Milford, Connecticut, Sravya Jaladanki is a second year, Political Science major at UCLA. As a new member, she is a part of the Campaigns Committee in GlobeMed. But beware: Sravya absolutely HATES when people touch her ears. It just creeps her out and don’t ask why because she don’t know.


 

I probably have about 50 religious idols in my house. Yes, it could basically be classified as a temple and yes, my family is very, very, very Hindu. In Hinduism, we have hundreds and hundreds of deities. Some are male and some are female, and some are actually even half-human half-animal (true story). The female idols specifically are treated with utmost respect, specific festivals and week long religious celebrations devoted strictly to certain female goddesses.

It never fails to surprise me though, how hypocritical this is of Indian mentality. The men in Indian households worship female goddesses but in many families, when a girl is born the father feels a pang of disappointment. Indians dance for hours and hours around a female idol in celebration of the festival of Navratri, but those same men brutally beat and raped a 23 year old female medical student to her death in 2012.

Stories like this aren’t uncommon in India. In 2016, a woman was raped in a hospital just hours after giving birth via C-section. On Women’s Day that same year, a 15 year old girl was raped and set on fire. In the summer that I was visiting family in India, a six year old girl was raped by her teacher, in my city. The statistics are bizarre.

A woman is raped in India every 15 minutes. That also only accounts for the rapes that are actually reported, as the majority of cases in India go unreported out of fear or retaliation or family shame. Violence against women is even worse, as a women is subject to violence every two minutes. So why is it that a rapidly developing country like India can’t control its rape crisis?

Some theories point to the large male population in India. The sex ratio between males and females is incredibly skewed, referred to also as the Bare Branches Phenomenon. The phenomenon addresses the competition that males have to find a female counterpart, which drastically increases security issues. However, this phenomenon is also present in China, where daughters are actually preferred over sons. But China doesn’t have the same issues with rape that India does. In order to understand the problems with controlling rape in India, it is necessary to have a more deeper understanding of Indian culture.

First, many Indian families, especially in rural areas, prefer a son over a daughter. Some families see the idea of marrying their daughter off as a burden, especially in rural areas where dowry is still a common practice. Families that don’t have the means to give a “proper” dowry to a groom worry over how their daughters will get married. A daughter is also seen as someone who leaves the family after a certain age, so a son who can provide for the parents in old age is preferred.

Additionally, some Indians are radical conservatives. They believe that women should dress a certain way and that if they are “too independent” or “too modern,” they are only asking for trouble. This ties into the 2012 Nirbhaya rape case. One Indian lawyer defending the rapist said that “in our culture, there is no place for a woman.” Another lawyer claimed that if he found his daughter taking part in “premarital activities,” he would set her on fire. The sad reality of the situation is that mentalities like these are not uncommon in India. They are apparent even in figures of authority in India, which only encourages rapists.

India cannot become a great nation without first ensuring respect for its women. The men of India need to understand that it doesn’t matter how educated they are or how entitled they feel. Indian women are not delicacies for them to gorge on, and they most certainly do not need to be apologetic for being a woman. It is not enough for Indians to decorate their houses with idols of female deities – it is necessary to first start by respecting the women in front of them.

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