Ripping Apart

As the issue of rape is more sensationalized than it is sensitized, it has largely gone ignored that women are no safer against this heinous crime in the Western world than in South Asia

March 22, 2015, 5:45 p.m. Published in Magazine Issue: Vol. : 08 No.- 18 March. 20 - 2015 (chaitra 6, 2071)

The sexual assault of an elderly nun in West Bengal earlier this week is going to put the spotlight once again on India in the global arena. For the wrong reason. This is the second time in just one month that the issue of sexual violence in India has come to the forefront. Earlier this month, a documentary on the December 16 gang rape, which featured an interview with one of the convicted rapists, created uproar worldwide. Showing no remorse for his heinous crime, the rapist blames women for rapes and states how they invite rapes upon themselves. Eventually banned in India for its sensitive content, the documentary was used by many Western media to make sweeping assumptions on how vulnerable India is for women and how the rapist’s voice reflects the mentality of many Indian men.

While there is no doubt that India records a large number of sexual violence cases with the capital even earning the notorious title – ‘rape capital’ -- the Western media have been particularly biased on the issue often ignoring the problem that is plaguing their own backyard. A report published by the Ministry of Justice, the Home Office and the Office for National Statistics showed that up to 95,000 people, vast majority of them women, are subject to sexual assault every year in the UK. Despite this huge number, only over 1,000 rapists are convicted on an average every year. This shows that the sorry state of affairs of the law and order, which the Western media often blame is the reason for rapes in India and the other such countries, is a bigger problem for the UK. This has resulted in UK’s growth rate of rape to stand 20 times higher compared to India. According to a UN report, the annual rape rate in India increased from 1.9 to 2 per 10,000 people during the period 2008 to 2012. For UK, it was an astonishing 24.1. Contrary to popular perception, India does not top the list of countries having the highest number of rapes. It, in fact, stands behind the UK, US, South Africa and even Sweden.

‘Blaming women for rape is what hundreds of millions of men are taught to believe in India’, says a feature article the popular news site The Independent. Thanks to the documentary, the ‘psyche of the Indian male’ has been subject to much criticism once again. Despite a rapidly modernizing society, many men in the country still hold traditional views and deem their superiority over women as appropriate. But again, this is persistent even amongst many men in Western countries. A survey commissioned by  the Amnesty International in UK found that a third of Britons believed that a woman is responsible for being raped. The brutality of the famous Rotherham child exploitation scandal, where about 1,400 children were sexually assaulted and the Oxfordshire sexual assault cases, where 400 British girls as young as eleven were assaulted also shows that the severity of the crime is not less heinous in UK as well.

This takes me to the credibility of the documentary. Despite being produced for the  BBC, reports have emerged  that a lot of lies and deception went behind the documentary suggesting that the motive was to merely sensationalize the issue -- not sensitize the public.


Abijit Sharma

Abijit Sharma

SHARMA is Associate Editor of New Spotlight News Magazine.

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