A man rapes an 8-year-old in front of his daughter in broad daylight, and India claims it is progressing

Published: July 16, 2017
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Indian activists protest against violence and crimes against women in Silhuri. PHOTO:AFP

In my previous blog, I had mentioned how an old colleague quoted sacred text to prove that women were sent to this world as a test to men and that women are evil creatures. 

Only a few days had passed and I read this disturbing story of a man raping an eight-year-old girl in Delhi, and that too in front of his teenage daughter. It made me wonder what could be the reason behind a human being falling so deep in the pit of monstrosity that they hurt vulnerable people or innocent children.

Could it be psychological? Is there any explanation at all?

And then I came across these verses from The Mahabharata, Book 13 Section 40 calling women ‘poison’ and ‘snake’. The same chapter also declares that there is no creature more sinful than women. Apologies to my Hindu brothers if I have taken these verses out of context, or if I have failed to understand the historical background behind these verses, but I feel there is a stark similarity between sexual violence against women in India and any other form of violence in the name of religion.

A majority of us tend to study religion very superficially. People (especially in South Asia) are discouraged to ask questions about religion, our history books are skewed, and as a result, we believe what we hear or are being told to believe in. We don’t do our own research, compare translations or exegeses.

So now, imagine a young man from a rural area or a lesser educated background reading the aforementioned verses. When he sits with his mates, he leers at women in the neighbourhood. He goes to B-grade cinemas to watch Telagu soft porn. When he goes home, he sees women in his family being treated as sub humans. While watching Bollywood movies, he is subliminally hammered with the message that women only exist for the sexual gratification of men (thanks to item numbers specifically).

How can we expect this young man to behave around strange women?

But then the words of Manohar Lal Sharma (the lawyer who defended the culprits of the 2012 Delhi gang rape case) ring in my ears. In the BBC documentary called India’s Daughter, Sharma is heard saying,

“We have the best culture; in our culture there is no place for a woman.”

In a separate interview, this devil’s advocate also said that he had never heard of a “respected lady” being raped in India. These arguments not only make me shudder, they also make me wonder whether it is fair to blame lack of education for sexual violence.

If a lawyer, an individual who has supposedly dedicated many years of his life to study law and fight for justice, can say something so vile publicly, then how can we blame an illiterate man for being a misogynist?

People have been theorising that perhaps the Bare Branches phenomenon could be a contributing factor to increased sexual frustration among men in the Indian society. To simplify it, academics have been forewarning against the implications of a massive imbalance in the population ratio of men to women resulting from female feticide. In India, according to the statistics available from 2011, there are 939 females per 1,000 males. And it is expected to dip further to 898 girls for 1,000 boys in 2031.

But does not having a partner or inability to find a wife give men the right to sexually assault women? Perhaps in a patriarchal society it does. In a society where mingling with the opposite gender is still frowned upon (remember how Jyoti Singh she was held responsible for her fate because she was traveling alone with a man late at night), people feel victim blaming is easier than investigating deep-rooted issues.

Let’s not fool ourselves by saying things like India is a very progressive country. Like most Asian countries, India has a long way to go. Indeed the economic boom in India is admirable. Contributions of Birlas, Tatas, Ambanis and Gulabchands in making India as one of the most desirable investment destinations are impressive. The public relations effort of the Indian government to portray their country as a safe haven for tourists is something we can all learn from. But truly, is it enough when a woman is raped every 15 minutes in the country?

And before my fellow Pakistanis start commenting on this blog seeing this as an opportunity to gloat and turning the comment section into the Line of Control (LoC), please don’t forget how you treat your women and childrenFour women are raped every day in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.

Don’t forget Mukhtar MaiUzma AyubVaijanti Meghwar and Kasur’s child abuse scandal. Also, many cases go unreported because of the stigma attached to reporting such crimes and rape survivors supposedly bringing shame to their family.

Rape is a global phenomenon but it becomes much more problematic in societies and cultures where victims of sexual violence are blamed instead of the perpetrators. In such societies, rape survivors are forbidden from going to the police by their families. If they do so, they are further victimised with unnecessary questioning or justice is either delayed or completely denied in courts.

One can only wish for a time when women, children and vulnerable people can feel safe on the streets, in educational institutes, at workplaces and inside their houses.

Dureen Anwer

Dureen Anwer

Dureen is a communications professional from Pakistan, now living in the UK. Having worked for a local government and now for the healthcare sector in England, she often wonders why Pakistan can't be developed like these Western countries. She tweets @ConfusciousDee (twitter.com/ConfusciousDee)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • wb

    I think Pakistan’s education system has fallen below the low bar set by your own people.

    1) Mahabharatha is not a holy text.
    2) There are no verses in Mahabharatha.
    3) Mahabharatha is an epic novel. Like Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings.
    4) Mahabharatha is not even mandatory object to believe in in Hinduism. I’m a Hindu who do not believe in God.
    5) 99.99% of HIndus have never read Mahabharatha.
    Recommend

  • wb

    Look at the utter base level of editorial standards of ET.

    Who is Jyothi Singh? A simple google will tell you that her name was Jyothi Pandey.

    rate of rape is higher in Pakistan than in India. And that too with an overwhelming majority of rapes never getting reported in a place like Pakistan..Recommend

  • SuperNeo™

    Dureen Anwer,
    Its social problem , Indian community is working towards its solution , its not propagated or driven by religion like in your home country,
    social problem do have solutions , worldwide countries work on this.
    its noting to do with India, back in your current peaceful country 10 pakistani are sentenced or 20 yrs for raping minor girls does that make whole pakistani community rapist ?Recommend

  • Patwari

    Everyone knows these statistics. It is very hard for hindus to accept reality.
    It is their karma.
    And here comes the hindu BJP cyber warrior brigade with it’s vitriolic hate
    and denial,….once again.Recommend

  • Gratgy

    “And then I came across these verses from The Mahabharata, Book 13 Section 40 calling women ‘poison’ and ‘snake’. The same chapter also declares that there is no creature more sinful than women”

    You fail to understand the difference between a religious text i.e Quran, Gita etc and an Epic. Mahabharata is an Epic. This instance you have mentioned is the opinion of one character who has taken an oath of celibacy. This is quite obvious and doesn’t need much common sense, unless you intentionally feign ignorance in order to misguide your readersRecommend

  • marium

    I don’t want to trivialise the issue but tell me how India expects us to be unhypocritical by not propagating its “rape capital of the world” image to the world as we share the same problem with lesser intensity; when India has left no stone unturned over the last decade painting us all as the terrorists of the world as if extremism does not exist in your backyard. Yes we have a problem just like you do. The thing is you decided to use it to further malign us in the world rather than helping us solve it. Then again, most of us can’t imagine stooping to that level. May women in your country and ours be given the right to life they deserve.Recommend

  • vinsin

    Mahabharata is not a religious text book. South Asia is the only place in the world where you can question Dharma not discouraged at all. India is among the countries with lowest rape rates in the world with highest conviction rates. UK has 40 times higher rape rate and with poor conviction.

    No one in India read Mahabharata and take it literally or seriously. Pakistani living in Pakistan worried about India, living abroad worried about India. Rape in North India has to do with the influence of Islamic culture.

    Bhishma is not god, his views are his and has no meaning in Mahabharata.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anushasana_Parva

    Even educated people in India dont know Sanskrit and you are talking about less educated people reading Mahabharata.

    Rape has no relationship with progress.Recommend

  • abhishek singha

    What ignorant writing..Recommend

  • Milind A

    “Apologies to my Hindu brothers if I have taken these verses out of
    context, or if I have failed to understand the historical background
    behind these verses”

    First of all you made a mistake by linking these religious verses with the incidents at hand. As a Hindu I was not aware of these verses, but you made me aware. Hindus have this magnanimity to accept that their religious texts could have obsolete or offensive verses. We’re ready to reform these and move ahead. Finally the educated and quite a lot of uneducated Hindus have rosen against rape and you see protests happening, culprits caught and put behind bars. Compare this to the complete blackening of Qandeel Baloch’s death anniversary by Pakistanis.
    And finally don’t bracket all South Asians together when you talk about questioning religious texts. Hinduism thrives on questioning religious texts (this has been happening since yore), some exceptions notwithstanding…Recommend

  • HZR

    Religion of all hues is all about dominating women and the fact that 4 wives are permitted proves tha she is nothing but chattel and commodity.About rapes,an equal number take in Pakistan a well with the same brutality and inhuman wayRecommend

  • umar

    Good article. I think the most important change will come from the mothers. Often i have noticed that women are their own worst enemies whether in close family relationships or otherwise. Even birth of a girl child is looked down upon by many mothers. If mothers start believing in the concept of equality then they can condition their sons to be more respectful. For South Asia i think it will take a century or two before people become receptive to these concepts.Recommend

  • Rose Mary Marlow

    Not sure what one has to do with the other in terms of progress. Now, as per today’s news in this paper, water is unfit for human consumption in Karachi. Is that progress?Recommend

  • PorkSmasher

    It is indeed a sad and gruesome incident but how could it is linked with India’s progress or its poverty. As you mentioned yourself that rapes are world wide phenomena which can be happened in much more advanced countries like UK or Japan to poorest countries on the earth. Few days ago some Pakistanis were convicted in UK for forcing prostitution on British teenage girls by raping them. If living in Developed country like UK cant stop Pakistanis to treat white girls as a sex toys then how could an Indian society which is basically a patriarchal society can change its mindset in 10-20 years. Even in Islam,women are treated as secondary to men and they are still struggling to get their basic rights. Instead of looking rapes as a country specific or derogate others we should try to educate people to respect women.Recommend

  • Rohan

    Pakistan and its unhealthy obsession with India continues hence its a failed stateRecommend

  • zakir hussain

    The heading itself is wrong – Rapes happen everywhere and in every country. The difference is highlighting by media.Recommend

  • rationalist

    @author, what is the real motive of your article? To condemn this dastardly act? If so, why are you bringing in Hindu religion and India bashing into this? Are you somehow implying that your religion is superior in comparison with regard to protection of women?
    This is an act by an individual and has nothing to do with religion. There has been extensive media and public condemnation in India on such acts.Recommend

  • Salman Haider

    In almost all religions women are considered inferior to men. Only modern education can save women from subjugation.Recommend

  • hp kumar

    Pakistani women r the most oppressed among all and yet you speak about conditions of women in India.they r in far better condition.they r more freer and have better achievements to boast about.bher man more probably will look for another woman and she is bound to live with the agony of life.rape laws r not in their favor.so I m really amazed by this article .Recommend

  • Milind A

    Indian women drive on road, drop their kids to school without that parrot tent (burkha) covering them. Show me if this happens in Pakistan. Recommend

  • Sane

    Stop your old rhetoric. No one buys now. Correct your people.Recommend

  • Sane

    Why you Indian commentators have to do on Pakistani News website?Recommend

  • Sane

    Keep pointing out others, without acknowledging problems you have in India. Recommend

  • Salim Alvi

    After forced opening of Indian economy and more so of media following happened:
    Media went into the hands of aliens who considered India and its culture a threat. This media helped the basal instincts among the natives, be that of mega financial corruption or sexual corruption.

    Native Dharma (which literally meant that which holds individual, family, society, nation and nature together in harmony) was abused and demeaned. Money and instant gratification culture of the west was promoted. Giving rise to mega corruption. Public servants do corruption when they lose connection with the people whom they are supposed to serve.

    Natives need to go back to their roots lest they destroy themselves and family.Recommend

  • PorkSmasher

    Why Pakistan is so much obsessed with India. Sometimes we really feel that is it a Pakistani news paper or an Indian, everyday there are lot of news about India in Pakistani news paper.Recommend

  • wb

    My dear Marium, a cockroach riding an elephant thinks it’s bigger and taller than an elephant. Pakistan is only riding China. The moment China shakes off its body, you’e back in the dirt.Recommend

  • Ahmar

    Yawn. Once again a typical male-bashing blog from ET feminist, blaming ALL men as responsible for this rape.

    The author is quite happy to dismiss religious texts, illiteracy or male-female ratio as the cause. Nope. The reason for rape is men. All men. And don’t you Pakistanis dare gloat that this happened in India and you are any better. You’re just as much of patriarchal rapists as those Indian men.

    Perhaps we should murder/castrate all men and then finally you women and children can feel safe on the streets, educational institutes, workplaces etc?Recommend

  • rationalist

    Yes, the author’s intention seems to be to link religion into this topic. However, on your comment, the Mahabaratha is not a religious text. It is an epic/story. Besides, the “verses” quoted are taken entirely out of context.

    Back on the subject, the rape phenomena in India is a new one, Four or so decades ago, women felt safe to go anywhere in India at anytime without fear of molestation or harassment. The advent of raunchy movies and internet porn in the past few decades have been the main reason for increased/reported molestation incidents. Also at play is the fact that women increasingly come forward to report these incidents.Recommend

  • Salim Alvi

    Why did tribune edit my comment?Recommend

  • Salim Alvi

    19 women sages contributed to Vedas. Bhishma had taken vow of celebacy on demand of his step mother. If you want to quote Bhishma then quote his Bhishma Geeta which will make you better person.Recommend

  • Salim Alvi

    Before talking about how fairer sex is treated historically by natives, just do etymological study of the words, Woman, Aurat, Insaan, Shadi, Nikah vs native Stri, Mahila, Vivah, Lagn, Manav.

    Recommend

  • Salim Alvi

    Also of a child who was given up by his mother, Ganga because of her own vows.Recommend

  • Salim Alvi

    U r ready for reform because u dont make a book in alien tongue the lastest & bestest book. So u learn from the breath, its rhythm, its warmth, its even ness from both nostrils; u r open to learn from wind, the rivers, the mountains who create them, the soil which nurtures the flora and fauna which sustains u. U rever ur ancestors who gave the DNA and r confident with ur native roots. This rootedness makes u a good learner & a good human being. U r not constipated with alien wordy thoughts.Recommend

  • Salim Alvi

    Per capita rape in England is 35 times that of India. In USA it is 30 times. I guess 4% UK’s population which is Pakistani bumps up the per capita rape number compared to USA. In 60s, 70s & even 80s, hardly any one heard of rape. Even in 70s 60% of medicos (MBBS students) in metros were women. Aphrodesiacs in Pizza (pig fat), coke and even chinese sauce sold by Anglos need to be investigated as one of the contributing factor for jump in sexual violence besides urduized bollywood imposing Sunny Leonah on Indians. India is being attacked with weapons of mass destructions Recommend

  • Salim Alvi

    Please get the geography right, here we r talking about India & Indian subcontinent and not few islands of Indonesia which r south of equator. Just because Anglos make mistake in geography, u native of subcontinent shud not call it South Asia.

    Deppressed and abused mothers raise angry suicidal kids. Since Pakistan is producing so many kids who are willing to blow themselves up in bazars and kill scores of innocents, u can safely conclude that Pakistani women are suffering marrital rape and abuse.Recommend

  • Hassan Mirza

    Cheap sensation by cheap news paper is the moto of Pakistan journalism who only promote sex and drug culture and corruption and not feel shaneRecommend

  • Sane

    Indian society is of rapists and murderers. Recommend

  • Sane

    Let Indians burn in their own fir of hate. Pakistan is on way to progress.Recommend

  • Salim Alvi

    Let us make Saraswati & Durga Pooja compulsory in all schools including madarassa and convents. One of the Nirbhaya’s cruel tormentor rapist was “minor” Muslim boy.Recommend

  • Patwari

    Looks like hindus are in pain over this blog. In denial.Recommend

  • Gratgy

    Ignoring is better than feeding a commentator by stating facts he is incapable of understandingRecommend

  • Gratgy

    In Hinduism Shakti or Devi, The Divine Mother, is the supreme being in the universe. All other Gods are mere manifestations of her power.Recommend

  • Gratgy

    ET changed “troll” to “commentator” in my commentRecommend

  • Xyz

    Rapes rate is higher in Pakistan even though women are more empowered in IndiaRecommend

  • Xyz

    If Mahabharata is a religious text for Hindus then Harry Potter is for Christians!!!Recommend

  • GKA

    How many judges of high courts registered themselves to defend the rapist. Compare that with the judges of lahore high court who defended Qadri
    Point being made is that indeed India has a long way to go but its laws and its ideals are very progressive. Pakistan’s laws (and ideals are not.Recommend