Delhi Meri Hai… ‘Delhi is mine’ ad campaign currently running on the radio.
The awful Delhi gang rape at the end of last year cast a thick cloud over city and its residents. Regular Chatterboxes will remember I spend half the year in this crazy/amazing city. When I arrived back in the first week of January the media and locals were soul searching and digesting the gravity of what happened.
It’s now the end of February and I have listened to various radio stations every morning whilst doing my yoga moves and I have read the daily broadsheets including the wonderful Indian news magazine, Tehelka. Simultaneously, I have been reading the British broadsheets and the New York Times and I have noticed the regular pieces about rape, feminism, their views on the Delhi gang rape and reports about women in India.
What I find interesting and also depressing is that crimes against women are increasing regardless how developed a country/society is. India has been described as sexually oppressed and backward, where the inequality of women is the norm. However, this analysis does not help us understand why men in the West rape, abuse and assault women in about the same proportion if we are so sexually enlightened and a more equal society. In proportion the conviction rates in rape cases are about the same in India and the UK. In India women should be kept indoors and in the UK women are slags, are all of us asking to be raped?
The difference in India as of now, I don’t know if the momentum will be kept, is that men are also involved in reclaiming the rights of women. The most popular Delhi radio stations are running campaigns to stop the harassment of women and to change the views of Delhiites. Male RJs are opening the dialogue and the discussions as much as women. After all, women that are raped are not living in parallel worlds; they also have fathers, brothers, lovers, male friends, sons, grandsons, uncles and nephews. Why is rape a woman’s issue and not a man’s? Does rape, and what counts as rape, need to be included in sex education in schools? A friend recently told me that one of her male friends couldn’t get his head around the concept of a man raping his wife: he simply could not understand that it was possible. I am not by any means, suggesting that all men rape – I think the vast majority of men do not, only that I’m glad that in Delhi they are being invited to participate in the change of attitudes towards women.
One of my most wonderful friends in Delhi is an 88 year old gynecologist. She lived and worked through a World War, the partition of India and she has spent time studying abroad both in the UK and the US. As we sit together drinking tea on her veranda watching the birds and admiring her garden, she often tells me that women are not safe from predatory men regardless of age. She has told me stories of babies being raped by their fathers, that she once treated a very old woman with horrific STDs and vaginal damage caused by a gang rape on a train where some of the boys were teenagers.
This is a global problem and it doesn’t seem to be dying down, what is to be done?