Tuesday, January 01, 2013

You may not wish to read this blog (about "the"Delhi rape)

If I may be serious for once.  I have been trying to be light and informative, but for nearly the whole of my time here there has been a national issue that you will have heard about (so I don't have to repeat the details): the horrendous violent physical and sexual attack on a woman on a moving bus in Delhi.  She eventually died of her multiple serious injuries but not before she had been flown to SIngapore to a hospital specialising in organ transplants

It has become a national cause celebre, with many public figures jumping up with their contributions. The Prime Minister and the eminence grise Sonja Ghandi were are the airport at an unearthly hour to receive the corpse and the deceased's family on their return from Singapore. (A bit like Princess Diana and Blair?)

Why has it been on  my mind (apart from the obvious reasons)? Puzzling over why it happened and what can be done.  Many figures have their own recommendations, like outlawing reflective film on bus windows, and others ideas closer to an Old Testament approach, but few seem to have thought about the first question.  I don't want to suggest a bleeding hearts approach to the influences that perverted the minds of the attackers ("poor victims themselves of forces they could understand or control"). However, surely some attempt has got to be made to understand how a group of men could contrive to perpetrate such an enormity - for it was almost certainly a premeditated event. Do men hate women - or some woman - SO MUCH? Are they unable to see them as human beings at all?  I would ask whether the alcohol component may have been significant - as well as the very teasy style of Indian movies.

By at least one index (Reuters), India is the worst place in the world to be a woman. Historically, there was sati (obligatory self-immolation of wives on the death of their husband) and the dowry system (now illegal but widely flouted, leading to mistreatment or murder of wives who bring not enough  according to her in-laws, who may well in any case treat her after marriage as an unpaid household servant).  And as a result  in many parts it is considered to be a curse to conceive a girl-child, so that female foetuses are aborted or new-borns killed. Of course, there are a few gestures towards women but rather patronising, I feel: separate compartments on trains, separate queues, preferential seating on buses.

One explanation that has been put forward is the migrant workers coming from traditional areas cannot cope with modern styles of dress of the student community. But do we want to advise these young people to "cover up"? Another explanation is that many of the victims of rape are "Dalits" (once called Untouchables) and men have no respect for them due to the caste system. A third area of focus is the failure of the police to take rape accusation seriously (sound familiar?) - and how many female police officers are there?

There are of course on excuses but I for one would like to try better to understand how such a terrible event could happe.  And of course it's not an isolated case, just one that has come so prominently to national and international attention.

I promise something lighter next time!

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