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The Invisible Reasons Behind India’s Rape Epidemic

One rape case was reported every 16 minutes in India in 2019. This makes India one of the worst places to be a woman. The rise in the cases of sexual crimes in our country is undeniable. Despite the current cultural change and conversation surrounding women’s safety, India seems to be on the brink of an epidemic. This therefore, forces us to dig deep and question the reason behind India’s rape crisis- is there an increase in the crimes committed or is the number this high due to more cases being officially reported.

Due to waves of Feminism, better education and more awareness, sex has gone from a hushed topic to a more open conversation where people unabashedly talk about their experiences with sexual abuse and assaults. This comfort not only destigmatizes the sufferers of sexual violence but also brings with it a further opportunity to better understand the plight that the victims of these heinous crimes go through. Due to the attackers now being named, understanding the mentality and motives behind these crimes is also becoming easier.

To start with it is important to understand the term xenophobia. The term xenophobia is defined as the fear or hatred of that which is perceived to be foreign or strange. This can be linked to racism, discrimination, riots, wars and just violence in general. But how does this relate to a secular nation like India? India is in the midst of the largest migration the world has ever seen – the rural to urban migration. Close to 31 villagers are estimated to show up in a city every minute, over the course of the next four decades. This rapid and unprecedented transformation has led to a very violent cultural confrontation. Men from these villages, many of whom have had barely any interaction with the opposite sex other than their mothers or sisters for much of their lives, go from the age old well set caste systems and gendered roles to a place where these old traditional social systems and roles simply cease to exist. With the dawn of modernization and westernization, this leads to a lot of confusion in the minds of these young men and women. Moreover, the government provides less attention to the issues of these migrants.

Only ten percent of internal migrants are employed by the industries while the rest are forced into the informal sector where they work in the streets and live in the slums, disregarded by the state and even the society. This can lead to a sense of deepened xenophobia with these internal migrants viewing themselves as devalued and weaker i.e. more ‘feminine’. Something similar can also be seen in the society, when certain men fail to perform and match consistently to the perceptions of the dominant masculinities they are then devalued or feminized and placed under the same groups as the women. This rural to urban problem contributes as a causal factor in the accelerating rapes in India, especially in a city like Delhi. Despite this transformation being a contributor to this issue, it does not, however, conclude the discussion given the rise in the rates of rape cases within these villages as well. In a country like India where a woman is viewed as the honor of the family, especially in rural areas, a crime like rape becomes a tool for vengeance. With the government launching new schemes and programs to uplift the lower castes, aiming to get them jobs and education, we see a dispersion in the order between castes. This leads to a lot of anger among people of the higher castes who then project their power by raping women of the lower caste. The same tactics are observed in wars. Raping a woman is viewed as a means to ‘emasculate the men of the other community’.

Another alarming reason behind these crimes is India’s skewed sex ratio. With nine hundred and ten women per thousand men in 2020, India has the second lowest sex ratio after China. This may not seem like a big number but when we translate it into India’s population we see, approximately, forty million more men than women. Because of this skewed sex ratio, the age group of 17 to 35 year olds are left single without brides. The same age group is responsible for the most crime, with ninety-five percent of these men having criminal records. Historically a less female to male ratio is correlated to an increase in the number of crimes, violence, and a more patriarchal society.

Men have raped babies as well as 90-year-old women as well as men. Despite that the conversation always seems to be centered around blaming the women and her clothing. The prevalence of rape culture and unwilling to face the facts, not only heightens this victim blaming but can lead to fewer reporting of such cases. This attitude encourages the perpetrators to keep doing all the heinous things they want without being held accountable. However, we do see a positive wave of change with both men and women pointing out the flaws of the system and uniting to seek justice for victims of these crimes. While India is still in the midst of this epidemic, it is us, all of us who should question and stand up for what’s right which moves us closer to a more equal and just society.