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The 27th question : what is this ‘rape culture?’

Last week, an interesting post was doing the rounds in social media: 26 questions people from India are sick of answering. In the years I have been living abroad, I have been confronted with these questions over and over again. Do you speak ‘Hindu?’ Which caste do you belong to? But you actually pray to cows right?

As an afterthought, I thought one more question could be added to the list, the question that perhaps all Indians were confronted with in the year 2013: what is wrong with the men in your country? What about the ‘rape culture’ in India?. I have been repeatedly asked this question and I am always at loss for an answer. Where do I begin?

The question was sparked by reports of a brutal rape committed last year in New Delhi. A 23-yea- old woman was gang-raped by six men in a moving bus on her way back from the movies. The incident caused such outrage that the people took their protests to the streets. The word “gang rape” became a part of every household cross India and India’s biggest problem, as far as international organizations were concerned. The international press carried the story to different corners of the world, shocking readers everywhere.

I was shocked too. It wasn’t the incident that shocked me so much as the consequence. Sounds cold, I know, but the reality is that rapes, violence against women, sexual harassment, gender equality, women’s rights and security have always been taboo topics. But now they were being discussed on the national agenda. I was astounded that country had finally decided to wake up and reflect on the position of the women in the society.

Now, an ordinary woman had become a martyr, a symbol of courage and hope. Her case was one of the rare cases in India which saw a speedy trial. The guilty were charged and sentenced to death. Nirbhaya’s fate continues to give courage to women across the country to come forward and report violence and harassment.

This is a good sign and it gives hope for change which is already underway. There are hundreds of other rape victims who still have not got the justice they deserve, but their battle continues and now many men have pledged their support as well.

So, to answer the question, no, technically there is nothing wrong with all the men in country. And no, India has no “rape culture.” India has a problem when it comes to its misogynistic and patriarchal society. Women have emancipated, their values have changed, but men haven’t been able to catch up. Now, women are realising that they need to bring up their sons differently so that rapes don’t happen at all.

Author: Roma Rajpal Weiss

Editor: Manasi Gopalakrishnan

Roma Rajpal-Weiß is an Indian Journalist and Blogger based in Bonn. She can be followed on Twitter @romarajpal.


13.12.2013 | 15:29