A version of this was originally posted at the AIF Clinton Fellowship blog. This post will be edited occasionally to reflect new articles.
The brutal rape and murder of a young woman in Delhi in December has set off a wave of national protests, international media coverage, and general introspection about women’s rights in India.
The conservative streak in this country, as in many countries, Western and otherwise, is still inclined to blame the victim, citing a woman’s clothes, lifestyle, sexuality, choice of transportation, and audacity to be out after dark as the reasons for harassment and violence. A panchayat in one Bihar village has banned unmarried women and girls from using cell phones, saying that they “promote extramarital affairs and unsanctioned marriages and erode the moral fabric of society.” Government officials in Pondicherry have decided that “separate buses for schoolboys and schoolgirls, overcoats for girls, ban on mobile phones on campuses and restricted interaction of girls and boys” is the way to stop school harassment.
Progressive voices, of both women and men, have spoken out against these statements and actions. This is a round-up of the most interesting, powerful, and thought-provoking articles from recent weeks.
On not hiding:
“I am here to alter this city’s character, I am here to combat the normalcy of my absence, I am here as an argument against fear. Gawp, glare, gossip, but get used to it, I am here.”
“But we, instead of giving in to paranoia and shunning ‘dangerous’ places and actions, must learn to take calculated risks, for that is the only route to fearlessness.”
On women’s desire:
“When you proposition us, on the road, in the bus, or at a movie theatre, and we say no, we are not saying that we don’t feel any desire. We are simply saying that it’s not you who we desire.”
On empowering women:
“The presence of women in a visible position of command at the village level has been shown to have a significant effect on the aspirations of young girls, and has also increased general societal acceptance of working women — no small thing in some of the more conservative parts of the country.”
On men and inequality:
“Rape is the monstrous face of ordinary domestic injustices. Do not fall into the easy trap of blaming politicians for a flaw that exists in almost every home.”
On men’s disempowerment:
“In India, women’s bodies appear to have become the principal terrain on which male rage is venting itself.”
On the patriarchy’s reaction:
“Every time incidents of sexual assault or molestation happens in any part of the country, we girls face more and more restrictions,” one student said during the discussion. “Why should we pay for the crimes men commit? Lock the men up. We are not the culprits!”
On what men think of rape:
“What creates the idea of women as ‘fair game’ for sexual violence? What, in effect, do Indian men think about women?”
On feminism and Orientalism:
“When horrible crimes happen, specifically to women, we reduce the culture, in this case, of about 1 billion people, to a gang-bang-enabling society of rapists. And of course, by blaming Indian culture specifically, Western sexism is brushed under the table.”
On The Verma Committee Report:
“The Verma Committee Report most fundamentally alters the public discourse on crimes against women by placing these crimes within the framework of the Indian Constitution and treating these offences as nothing less than an egregious violation of the right to live with dignity of all women.”
On the media’s role:
“Activists from women’s groups say it is important to speak of rape not as the ruination of a life, but as a horrific act that one can survive and move on from.”
On rape in India:
“The unspeakable truth is that the young woman attacked on Dec. 16 was more fortunate than many rape victims. She was among the very few to receive anything close to justice.”
On the legal proceedings:
“But while efforts to try the case expeditiously are to be commended, some legal experts are understandably concerned that a rush to judgment could mean that any verdicts will be overturned on appeal.”