Feature

India: Rape culture is slow to change

Antiquated attitudes about women and rape are not just a rural problem in India.

Ranjona BanerjiThe Asian Age

Antiquated attitudes about women and rape are not just a rural problem in India, said Ranjona Banerji. Since the horrific 2012 fatal gang rape of a young pharmacy student shocked India into awareness, we have made some progress. Now, when a village council sentences a girl to be raped as punishment for some male relative’s crime, Indians everywhere denounce the verdict as backward. But it’s far too easy to pretend that the rest of India has now become magically enlightened. In fact, many educated, urban men and women are also “trapped in social and historical time warps.” The Mumbai police commissioner recently blamed the rape rate on sex education. One province’s chief minister, a woman, said women should stay home after dark, while a male minister retained “legions of fans” even after being revealed as a creepy stalker. “These people are not villagers bound by archaic laws,” but sophisticated leaders who refuse to look at their own internalized sexism. And it’s not just rape. Selective abortion of female fetuses is “rampant in urban, literate, and better-off areas,” not rural backwaters. India’s rape rate will not diminish until we grapple with “the constant presence of patriarchy in our lives”—even among the elite.

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