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India’s Anti-Rape Protests Miss The Point

By Sara Chatterjee
India – The shock and anger expressed by thousands of citizens against the
brutal gang rape of a 23-year-old medical student on December 16th is
now redirected towards the government.
The turn of
events – which include calls on social media for a boycott of the national holiday
Republic Day later this month – has politicized what is primarily a social, perhaps
even cultural, problem.
The ruling
Congress government can certainly be blamed for being unable to make its
capital safe for Indian women, and the police force has shown innumerable
failures in registering rape cases and seeing them through, but both of these –
and particularly the 
second – are owed to Indian attitudes towards women.
“These days
girls wear clothes they shouldn’t be wearing outside the house. It’s not right,”
said Sushila Chauhan, a 35-year-old domestic helper.
Asked whether
she thought all girls who dressed inappropriately deserved to be raped, she
said, “No, but you have to realize that all kinds of people take the bus in
Delhi. Some of them come from villages. Some of them have never seen a girl
dressed in jeans. You think I’m wrong, but you should see how some girls on
buses dress! Their underwear sticks out of their jeans, and sometimes you can
see their bra through their shirt.”
While Chauhan
is right about the huge numbers of migrant workers who move to Delhi from
far-flung rural regions, statistically, it is rural women who are raped the
most, and they are hardly likely to be wearing jeans.
In a
traditionally patriarchal society that has fast-evolved to allow women into its
public sphere, rape is used by men not necessarily for sexual gratification,
but more to reassert their domination over women who are no longer merely
mothers or homemakers, but have similar ambitions as men do.
A report
published by the Indian magazine Tehelka
earlier this year revealed that Indian policemen tend to think that the victim
deserved it, rather than blame the rapists.
Though a
woman herself, Chauhan offers her own shocking conclusion, “You know, women who
deserve to be raped are never raped … because they go willingly.”
At the other
end of the spectrum, some highly educated Indians are taking to social media to
call for punishments for the rapists that are almost barbaric.
And even as
Delhi collectively mourned the death of the rape victim whose name still
remains a secret, some mourners turned into protesters calling for death for
rapists, and the fall of the government.
There’s a
push for Indians to abandon plans to celebrate Republic Day on January 26. Each
year, it’s when the nation commemorates the day the Constitution first came
into force. Recently, however, the following text message made the rounds in
New Delhi:
“The nation
should boycott the Republic Day celebrations in totality! Ensure a NO SHOW.
They don’t want the citizens gathering even for a peaceful protest, so why
should crowds gather to hear them at their convenience? And what is the nation
celebrating anyway? We have a failed Government loathing (sic) in corruption!
It is time for a revolution! Let the PM & the President address vacant
spaces & buildings. They don’t want our presence now but let us be absent
when it matters most. Let the world get a taste of our disgust. Let us shame
them by playing their game. Let us prepare for a New India!”
Still, there
were reports of women being groped by men – even during this time of grief.
Emmanuelle Loève, a student at
Delhi University put it very well.
think that a change in government will solve all their problems.,”
“But … we need to change the world.” 

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