With the flurry of news stories on the recent violent attacks and rapes in New Delhi and Bombay, it can be tempting to condemn India as a hopelessly male-dominated society and chauvinistic culture. But this oversimplification does a huge injustice, not just to the country and its people, but the the victims and survivors themselves, who are facing more than what gets through the media to our eyes and ears.
How might someone who identifies not only as Indian, but also as male, grant us some insight on the recent headlines that have placed a shadow over his country in recent months?
Jishnu Guha was born in Bombay India, a bustling city of over 13 million people, one of the most densely populated cities in the world. He came to the United States for college in the Fall of 2007. Currently, he works at Beloit College office of Communications and Marketing.
Jishnu agreed to share with Anchal his perspective on issues of masculinity and the recent high-profile cases of rape in India with the caveat that he is not an authority, and cannot speak for all Indians, (who comprise over 17% of the entire world’s population!).
When asked if he felt these news stories accurately represented India, Jishnu explained to me that these relatively few stories we hear of women being attacked and raped are select cases that fall far short of telling the whole story. Beyond that, with a country that is thousands of years old, and home to over a billion people, these stories tell very little about the country, its culture and its people. “I think it’s great that [these stories that have come out] have brought the issue of rape to people’s attention, but there is so much more going on, maybe not with the same severity, that doesn’t receive any coverage.”
What these stories can reveal are systems of education, economy, tradition, and justice that have broken down and been twisted over time.
“The answer will always boil down to socio-economic status and the vast gap in education.”
I asked Jishnu what issues a woman in India might face in coming forward against her attacker in India that would be different for a woman in the U.S.:
“I don’t know for certain. I do know there is a huge gap in social norms in India, because the income bracket is so wide. People in the low income bracket are more in-tune with the traditional culture, which is great in a lot of ways and very bad in others. The notion of pride and not shaming one’s family holds true in these communities. Which is why I think the main stories that are told have taken place in the main cities.”
Cities where on top of having much greater access to the media, there is more wealth, education, and people are less strictly-rooted in their traditions.
“In the rural parts of India, if a girl is seen just holding hands with a guy from another religion she will be punished by her family, so I can only imagine what would happen to this girl if she were raped.”
Jishnu spoke of how families might keep such attacks secret, punishing the woman for dishonor, rather than prosecuting her attacker. To add to that, “This is all speculation, but I wouldn’t be surprised if there were people in rural areas who were raped and didn’t even know it was wrong, just thought it was how things were supposed to be.”
-Kelly (guest blogger)
Stay tuned for the second part of Kelly's eye-opening interview with Jinshu.