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The Delhi Gang-Rape: Men Are Better Than This

The Delhi Gang-Rape: Men Are Better Than This

December 29, 2012
Is it time for men to cut off their genitalia? Or should we start showing ourselves some respect?

The 23-year-old woman who was gang-raped on a Delhi bus on 16 December 2012 has died in a Singapore hospital. The details of her case were so horrific that it brought widespread reaction across India and around the world: angry protests were held in Delhi against the Indian Government's failure to protect women, and countless people abroad vented their frustration on Facebook, Twitter, and in blog entries. Anti-Government ire escalated daily after it instituted a curfew at Delhi Gate – the site of the most notable protests – and particularly after it decided to move the woman from a Delhi hospital to Singapore for further treatment.

Now the woman is dead, and in their white-hot anger, everyone is looking for someone to blame. They will invariably point in the right direction. Blame is everywhere. The Indian Government has failed to protect its citizens through the proper application of the law by those responsible for upholding it, and there is an undercurrent of misogyny and the subjugation of women in Indian society (particularly in Delhi, according to this blog post and many others).

As I watched the responses to the announcement of her death roll in on Twitter – responses which continue to flow as I type this, and which will continue for days at the very least – I wondered what I could possibly add to the conversation. A few things seemed to invalidate whatever I might be able to say:

1) I am a man. The worst sexual harassment I have ever been subjected to was when a drunk young woman grabbed my penis as she walked by me on Cuba St in Wellington. She continued walking with her friends, laughing at what she had just done, and I continued on my way home. I've never worried about being molested in public and have no idea what it feels like to fear the streets. To deflect a gaze that mentally undresses you, and more. To not just anticipate the possibility of rape, a sharp object always near your hand, but to expect it and prepare for it. This is what Indian women go through all the time. Their freedom is constantly infringed – if not by an immediate physical threat, then by years of mental conditioning.

2) I am a foreigner. My attitude to the world and other people is informed chiefly by my upbringing in New Zealand, however much I might identify with India and Indians. As such, I can observe and listen, but anything I attempt to contribute will carry some gap of understanding.

3) I probably think the same things as you. Examples: violence against women is unacceptable. A female in jeans or a skirt is not inherently provocative. Enjoyment of alcohol or dancing does not imply a willingness to be touched inappropriately. And a government that presides over a society unsafe for women (228,650 incidents reported in 2011) is failing in its duty.

So, what could I say – from my white male perspective – that hasn't been said before?

Well, there is one thing, and it's about men. Hopefully it can be evaluated without concern for one's background, and if it has been said before, hopefully it is worth repeating.

There appears to be a common belief in India that men cannot control themselves when they see a woman. Perhaps she is dressed in figure-hugging clothes, or is pursuing higher education and a career outside the home. Perhaps she has been out to a nightclub. In any of these situations, and in some even more ridiculous cases, it seems the blame for a rape or molestation can be shifted to the woman because the man just couldn't help it.

Lydia Polgreen reported on this for The New York Times last year. “If these girls roam around openly like this, then the boys will make mistakes,” said the mother of two accused rapists in one case. Mistakes. Like dropping a bottle of milk on the kitchen floor, or missing an open goal in a football match. There is no doubt in my mind that by and large, women in India are not given the respect they deserve as human beings, and every person should check themselves when they are about to pass judgement on a woman needlessly. However, if Indian men are viewed as id-driven beasts concerned primarily with the most primitive sexual desires, then they are not adequately respected either.

I know that it's possible for a man to control his urges when confronted with an attractive woman because I seem to manage it without a second thought. Further evidence is apparent in all of my male friends – Indian or otherwise – who, as far as I know, have encountered thousands of women throughout their lives and not molested any of them. This is no miracle, though it is probably a result of good parenting, good friends of both sexes, and conscious rejection of certain popular attitudes towards women.

So, here's my impractical, probably inadequate attempt at wisdom: men should be treated with respect, just as women should. This does not mean placing men on a higher plane than women in any way. It means holding us in some kind of esteem, at the very least to the degree that we are not assumed to be rapists-in-waiting. I say this as much to men as to women: many of us, in the wake of learning of the 23-year-old rape victim's death, openly decried our gender and, in some cases, expressed a crude desire to castrate ourselves. Some men are dangerous, sure, but most of us are not. And it's my belief, as I've written before, that most men who molest girls in public know that they're doing something wrong.

A culture of respect is obviously not something that can happen in an instant, and for India, it may be decades away. Another rape victim has died, and more such crimes will inevitably take place. The Indian Government bears heavy responsibility and absolutely must act to make the streets safer for women. But if things are to change, there has to be some belief that men are better than this.


  • Nasryn
    02.09.13 05:41 AM
    It does seem that victims of theft don’t go truohgh the same ridicule and victim blaming. From time to time you will get people who question the victim of theft—why did you leave your keys in your car? However, you don’t see attacks on who the victim was fundamentally born as (male or female). That is what bothers me. The victim blaming is targeted towards women. I can see where some people think a gun seems like a nice solution to balance out inequalities between men and women. However, I just think it shows a lot of ignorance about what rape really is.
  • Janhvi
    20.05.13 10:38 AM
    What you say here, and what I believe too, is correct. It is my firm belief that even if a woman is out on the streets naked (though that does not mean I say they should be), no man has a right to touch her against her wish.
    If only, though, it were that simply understood ~ sigh!
  • feluda
    07.01.13 06:17 PM
    i dont think gang rapes are confined to india (though id be interested to see stats for this kind of attack compared with rapes carried out by lone attackers), as this article about london rape stats (from 2009 but hey) shows -

    this story from france is even more horrific -
  • Joseph James
    Joseph James
    06.01.13 10:59 PM
    It is pretty strange that the author exhorts women to have more respect for men in the wake of another gruesome rape and murder in the national capital. How can that bring about any change? For too long have the women respected and trusted men. But has that changed the attitude of men towards women. It is true that only some men are dangerous; but their number seems to be on the increase. And even those of us who are not potential rapists do believe that women must confine themselves to a limited and well-defined space. When they step out of it, they deserve what they get. Even in the present case there are thousands of men in India who do not approve of the behaviour of the Delhi girl. According to them she had no business to be out of her home/hostel so late in the day in the company of a male friend. Her behaviour must have provoked the 6 rapists. Perhaps their whisper is not loud enough to reach the author in New Zealand. But I am sure these men outnumber the candle-holders at the India Gate.
    Things have become so bad in recent years that women have no choice but to suspect every man, at least in India. In Kerala, there has been a spate of incidents in which the rapists were close family relations. In the infamous Paravur case, the father was the pimp who 'sold' his daughter to several men. There have been unbelievable cases of fathers and brothers sexually exploiting minor girls. In the wake of all this, do men deserve respect?
    I do not know if this is the case in more developed societies. Rajpriya seems to think that rape is a universal problem, even in the developed societies. It would have been interesting to know the author's take on this.
    A lot has happened since the Delhi rape. A minister has called for the new anti-rape legislation to be named after the Delhi girl and it has found many takers including her parents. This, of course, is a positive development. But most other reactions indicate that things aren't about to change in India. The leader of a local political party has stated that all rapists belong to a particular state in the country. Another leader thinks that all rapists belong to ‘India’ as distinguished from ‘Bharat’. An honourable minister of a large state in the country feels that a woman who crosses the Laxman line of decency will certainly fall a prey to a Ravan and has none but herself to blame for it. I do not understand why our countrymen can't stop the blame game and simply admit that there is something rotten in our society. That could be the starting point to usher in a change.
    While better policing and stringent laws can certainly reduce the incidence of rape, there has to be a concerted effort by the government, educators, social workers, religious leaders and the keepers of the law.
    Rape is, indeed, a complex problem in India. It is a means to assert the male superiority. It is a weapon used to keep the dalits and the minorities in their place. A columnist recently suggested that the increasing rate of rapes in India could be attributed to inequalities in access to sex. Perhaps, those on the wrong side of the prosperity line have also started venting their frustration through rape. In the Delhi incident, it is quite obvious that there was something more than mere fulfillment of lust. The youngest among the Delhi rapists was reportedly the most brutal. He is a fitting case study for the psychiatrists and can throw light on the working of a rapist’s mind.
  • Rajpriya
    31.12.12 11:47 PM
    Accidentally stumbled into this website that reports plenty sex related crime even in in New Zealand that include gang rapes.
  • Rajpriya
    31.12.12 11:03 PM
    You are absolutely right about gangs getting involved in rapes in India. Cowards don’t do things alone and when drunk the animal in them wakes up. It’s a shame that there are shameless onlookers in India. For these onlookers that’s live porn and pure entertainment.

    Only in Indian movies you witness the hero beating up twenty guys single-handed. In real life there are no Indian heroes to beat up gangs.

    Links to two stories of gang rape one in Britain and second in Germany may be isolated incidents.
  • A Singh
    A Singh
    31.12.12 08:50 PM
    @Dianne, you may be right but I don't think anyone is expecting this problem to disappear overnight. Knocking Delhi way off the top of the world rape league table would be a start! And of course, rape exists in every country in the world. What sets Delhi/India apart, is that the attackers are so brazen, safe in the knowledge they will get away with it and the very low reporting rate due to cultural reasons and the fact that the Police will not take it as seriously as they should.

    @Rajiv, I would like to see the rapists suffer but the death penalty may not be the way forward. A fear of being executed may bring down the the number of rapes, but where it does happen, what is the incentive for the rapist to let his victim (and a witness) go? Surely, the number of murder against women will increase.

    As mentioned by others, an ineffective legal / law enforcement system and a tendency to blame the victim are factors but don't expect anything to significantly change there in the short term. Women will continue to be under threat - they are still being raped as you read this article. And it's not just Delhi or young attractive women. Women of all ages (from children to grandmothers) are being assaulted in every town and village across India. Their cases are just less newsworthy and they are probably dealing with an even more lax attitude from the Police.

    There is a more immediate solution, and that is for the number of men up in arms and protesting on the streets to make a conscious decision to start intervening in assaults which often happen in public view. They should adopt a zero tolerance attitude, that is to say they should intervene even if a women is being taunted. As the author states, not all men are would be rapists, but they must go a stage further and physically protect their Indian sisters - like a kind of mass Citizen Police force.

    Rapists may not fear getting caught or the victim reporting the crime, but they may think twice if they believe bystanders would hand out some summary justice with a good beating...
  • Rajiv
    31.12.12 08:07 PM
    Rajpriya - I agree with you that the problem is universal but it's the gang aspect of rapes that is so prevalent in India in tandem with the violence that accompanies it that makes it somewhat a different problem. We can only imagine what these 5-6 animals did to so grievously injure Amanat - that's the kind of thing you don't hear about in the US or Britain... or where have you.
  • Dianne
    31.12.12 06:32 PM
    Kia ora e hoa for your comments. As long as we live in a patriachy rape will exist. For me the issue in India (where I live a majority of the time) is the culture of blaming the victim, access to justice and sensitive treatment of the rape survivor. The other issue that hasn't really been addressed in this is the gang element of sexual violence in India. I know how to protect myself from random eve teasers but confronting a gang of young men is quite another thing. I am hopeful that there will be change because now women's voices are being heard.
  • Rajpriya
    31.12.12 12:31 PM
    Rape is a universal problem. Even the most advanced countries where women are supposed to have equal rights as men the problem exists. Searching for statistics Britain and United States set no good examples being advanced countries. Two hundred and eighty thousand girls in Britain accept sex abuse as being normal meaning they are not reported. Ninety one thousand have been charged for attacks on women in Britain.

    For fear of being blamed, because of their clothes or alcohol intake or for staying with an abusive partner, means more than half of the women surveyed in 2012 said they would be too embarrassed or ashamed to report the crime.

    Currently Sir? Jimmy Savile honored by Her Majesty is making the headlines for alleged abuse of even disabled children.

    According to a survey more than one in five American women ‘have been raped'. 12 million Americans may have been victims of rape, stalking or physical violence – 24 are victims of these violations in the US every minute.

    Where abuse of women is concerned no country can boast of being absolutely or better educated than Indians. If having an exiting sex life means changing partners many times in a lifetime, then India should follow the West. Allow women to throw out of her life a boring man and find the most exciting ones.

    I hope the year 2013 changes the Indian man to respect any woman Indian or otherwise.
  • Rajiv
    30.12.12 08:23 PM
    The five rapists should be hanged and I hope they are without any mercy and without any delay. But will that change anything? A new breed of rapists is probably waiting to violate some unfortunate woman in another part of the country. In a nation where herd mentality makes us destroy stores selling Valentine Day confetti and taunt men and women who are walking holding hands minding their own business, gang rape is just another form of herd mentality action. Where does this stem from? I am no mind reader or shrink but I definitely feel this has a lot to do with us evolving as better humans and not just evolving through education. I hope this unfortunate girl’s death does not go in vain. Hope these changes the way we “really” think of women. In a nation where most of us revere Goddess like Durga, Kali, Laxmi and Saraswati… we treat women like animals should make us think what does the Indian man really believe in? Because in the end, it’s the Indian man who needs to stop being so brutal towards women.
  • Vijay Patil
    Vijay Patil
    30.12.12 07:02 PM
    I agree about teaching "right vs wrong" at home and workplace is important. It is important that by the time young people leave their parents they should have a good judgement about what is right and what is wrong.
    For the first of time of History of India we have Women joining the workplace in large numbers. This presents new scenarios where girls find themselves alone with other men and if those men do not know the line that should not be crossed, it is quite dangerous situation.
  • feluda
    30.12.12 04:42 PM
    great piece. while now might not be the right time to say it, i think indian men do get a bad press. (obviously incidents like this dont help, they just feed into it.) i think a lot of indian men are very conscious of this too, or have to be conscious of it, which creates its own problems. but the myth of the perverted indian man who cant control himself will probably never completely vanish.
  • Angela Carson
    Angela Carson
    30.12.12 03:59 AM
    Love your take on this. Right and wrong is the centerpiece of an article I am working on too. But it is sadly not so simple as you know and eluded to. In my opinion, what makes rape and groping and inequality of the sexes so accepted at the moment (and I only say accepted because -- IT IS) is the LACK of teaching of 'right from wrong' at home and in the work place because no one has ever taught it before so how do you teach that? The new right to equality for women is not demanded in India. Add on top of that the frustration over the absolutely boring sex life that most Indian couples lead (because Indian women are taught that only prostitutes are overly adventurous in bed). And then compound that with society's desire to stay unchanged to preserve the culture (many Indian women wear the same clothes their mother and grandmother did...women are still expected to take care of the home and her husband even if both the man and the woman work, etc). It's an impossible scenario. How can women be equal when they never were before and there's really no one to lead a charge?

    But none of that really matters if you just revert back to "right or wrong" like you said. Rape is wrong. But society needs to own it, believe it, preach it....basically start proclaiming it, so that India becomes a safer place for women instead of the 4th most dangerous country in the world for women (
    29.12.12 09:59 PM
    These are not men, who does this sort of things? they are worse then animals. They should be beaten to pulp, the fu**ing bast*ds. More and more I read about them, more and more angery I get. Doesn't anybody stand up to thses thugs in public place when they do this to a woman. These are the time I'm shame to call my self Indian.

    If you sit quite while this is happening then you guys are not better then those thugs. I also think you guys are just as much guilty as the one who is or are doing this if you let it happen in front of you.

    The only proof that you are a good guy is when you do something good not just stand there and let it happen. So do something good for change.
  • Barnaby Haszard Morris
    Barnaby Haszard Morris
    29.12.12 03:13 PM
    Very sorry to hear what you've been through, Suman, especially when the police didn't protect your rights. It sounds like you are strong and I hope you get the support you deserve from those around you, be they friends, family, or strangers.
  • suman
    29.12.12 02:44 PM
    hi, friends i am suman i just have a request please don't drop the fight for any reason ,go through logic and point out how to achieve the goals ..The system have many flaws but we need to change it.. It's not just a matter of damini the girl who died but think so many girls even kids going through this hell everyday. I myself am a girl i can't count how may times i have been eve teased and heard abusive words .But i fight back to those and also once i hit a drunk guy as he was saying me and my newphew abusive words ..70 people were on the road no one came and helped me when i hit that guy out of anger people and the cops came to protect him and start aguing with me ,but i didn't stop .. This is it i promise no more to this offence because if i remain quite then someone else has to go through a lot more .. I request to all the brothers and friends lets make our country clean .. Please we need your help...
  • Tys
    29.12.12 07:03 AM
    I read something a friend wrote which made perfect sense. He wrote :

    ' as a father Iam going to ensure that I teach my son to respect women and to acknowledge equality. What have you done to make the world safer for women? '

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