The Burden of Honor

Writing this post has been a very difficult and long process. When I made the commitment to write this post I thought it would be very easy to write about this topic, I would just have to enter some statistics and I would be all set. But as I started settling in in Delhi and started experiencing it again, this became very personal for me. This article today talks about the Indian society but that doesn’t mean it is limited to the Indian society.

Women in India have been deemed the Bearers of Honor for centuries now. It is almost as if all of family’s respect depends on the girl. If the girl goes out for late-nights, she is perceived to have bad morals and upbringing, but if a boy doesn’t come home for days he’s just being a boy. A girl is supposed to dress appropriately, carry herself off in the right way and god forbid she experiences any sort of assault or abuse. She is marred for life. No one wants to marry a girl who has been raped because she is deemed impure. She must have done something to provoke the rapist. It’s all on her. And due to this stigma, thousands of girls don’t even get the courage to report these cases.

According to the National Crime Records Bureau 2013 annual report, 24,923 rape cases were reported across India in 2012. Out of these, relative or neighbor committed 24,470; in other words, the victim knew the alleged rapist in 98 per cent of the cases. This bad reputation that India has gained over the past couple of years is also affecting the economy, there has been a significant drop in the tourism of India, especially when it comes to single female travellers, 36% drop to be precise.

Though things are not as bad as they sound, India actually has a better track record when it comes to rapes when compared to the United States. Compared to other developed and developing countries, incidence rates of rape per 100,000 people are quite low in India. The National Crime Records Bureau suggests a rape rate of 2 per 100,000 people. This compares to 8.1 rapes per 100,000 people in Western Europe, 14.7 per 100,000 in Latin America, 40.2 per 100,000 in the Southern African region and 28.6 in the United States.

But statistics aside, I have been back in India for 3 months now and I miss the freedom of wearing shorts and just walking around the neighborhood without being stared at or maybe I miss feeling safe when I am somewhere out late in the night with my friends. I miss not being judged for my habits or daily routine by not just the men in the society, but sadly enough, by the women too. I have a curfew time to be back home by—I am 20 years old but my parents still don’t allow me to be out too late. When I ask my mother “why is it so” she has the same reply, “We trust you, but we don’t trust the world.” Can I blame her for her attitude considering all that has happened in the city in past years? Absolutely not.

There are a lot of regulations and laws in place, but are they enough to solve a problem as old and complicated as this? We are talking about eradicating centuries of patriarchal and misogynistic ideologies and traditions. The only way we can help remove this devil from our society is by training our next generations. If they grow up in a society where there is gender equality, women and men are treated with equal amount of respect, everyone is held equally responsible for their crimes, their fathers treat their mothers and sisters with dignity and pride, and they have a right to speak up against wrong, then these heinous thoughts won’t even cross their minds. Rape is more than sexual perversion of an Individual, is it a parasitic evil fed by our society—fed by each and every one of us.

-Radhika Sharma

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