Why this focus on rape in India by world media? – Maria Wirth

Maria Wirth“Rape is a delicate subject and whoever tries to place it into perspective is likely to get slaps from all sides, not least from the women’s groups. Not many will dare to state that India has a problem, but not a bigger one than other countries, and does not need interference from the West in handling it. In fact, India has a great advantage. The family system is generally still strong especially among the masses who have escaped English education….” – Maria Wirth

French and foreign newspapersJudging from media reports, India has a BIG problem with rape. No other country seems to come even close. All over the globe “another rape in India” is reported ever so often. On my last visit to Germany, I jolted when on 27. December 2013 the most popular TV news ended with “another gang rape in India”. It was one of only five topics of the 15 minutes broadcast.

Even my sister wondered how a gang rape in India made it to the main news in Germany. That same day in a conservative estimate, over a thousand rapes would have been committed all over the world. In the USA some 200, in South Africa some 170. In the Western cities, the statistics show a high percentage, much higher than in India. Many of those rapes would have been gang rapes. In many cases, the girl or woman would have been killed. Behind each of those statistical figures are painful, heart-rending stories. If we knew what is happening at this very moment on this earth—how much pain humans inflict on other humans and on animals—we could not bear it. With so much crime happening everywhere, why is India being singled out and shamed with “another gang rape”, when it actually has only a fraction of the crimes other countries have in relative numbers? In absolute numbers of course it would be no surprise if India with her huge population of four times the size of the United States were number one apart from China. Even then it is not number one. USA is.

The deluge of rape reports on India started with the shameful gang rape of a young woman, Jyoti, in a bus in Delhi on December 16th, 2012. Jyoti died. The six culprits were convicted. One committed either suicide (official version) or was killed by prison inmates. Four got death sentence. The sixth was a minor, six months short of his 18th birthday. He got away with 3 years in a reprimand home. As he allegedly was the most brutal of all and responsible for the death of Jyoti, efforts are on to try him as an adult.

Der Spiegal: Leading German News MagazineThis gang rape received unprecedented publicity. It reached national and local news all over the globe. It reached even a friend in Slovenia, who is usually oblivious of what is happening. Why was it broadcast all over with such intensity? Was it because Indians protested in a big way and demanded harsh punishment? Those protests should have actually gone in favour of India, as they made clear that Indians consider rape as completely against their culture. But the opposite happened.

Ever since that December 2012, news on India have centered almost exclusively on “another rape” and even on the “rape culture of India”. One year later, the tragic story of Jyoti was again splashed over half a page in a local Nuremberg newspaper, and in its year-end review, Der Spiegel magazine did not feature anything about India, not even the Uttarakhand disaster with over 7000 dead, but—a group of victims of sexual abuse learning martial arts in Lucknow, ready to take on anyone who molests women. Obviously it was implied that such molesters are lurking at every corner.

India does have a problem with rape. Other countries also have this problem. Yet the exclusive focus by the world media on “rapes in India’ is not justified and raises suspicion of an agenda behind it. Articles appeared now, often written by Indians with Hindu names, that Indian (read Hindu) culture is to be blamed for the rapes, because it does not consider women as ‘autonomous entities’, which probably means that they can’t do what they want. The Washington Post proclaimed that sexual violence was endemic in India. The Reuters Trust Law Group named India one of the worst countries in the world for women. A Harvard committee crafted strategies for ‘adolescent education’ to change the Indian mindset about gender. It was getting a bit much. Don’t westerners look at their own record—past and present—and compare it with that of India? Are they not ashamed?

Rape in all branches of the US military is an on-going scandal!Anyone who cares to find out will easily discover that rape is not in the culture of India, and women have a good, even respected position compared to other cultures or countries. This position may not be in tune with the view of feminists, but are feminists the measure of all things? Do those feminists believe that village women in India want to be like them? In my view, those feminists look pitiable in the eyes of those often very strong village women who see Sita as their ideal. The main anguish of those women is poverty, not gender roles.

To blame Hindu culture is preposterous to say the least. In fact, if Hindu culture would have prevailed and Christianity and Islam had never appeared on the scene, the world would be a better place. Christians and Muslims have traditionally used rape as a tool of war. For them, the ‘other’ was never worthy of any consideration and could be brutally raped and killed never mind if they were civilians. The Geneva Convention’s purpose is to stop this barbaric behaviour. Hindus never needed a Geneva Convention. They also fought wars, but they did not brutalize women or the civilian population.

The campaign to paint India blacker than it is sadly has worked. It is now a ‘fact’ for most foreigners (and for the convinced Indians) that Indian women have to live terrible lives, more terrible than anywhere else. No disagreeing possible. Everyone will shout you down with plenty of horrific examples. Yes, there are plenty of horrific examples and one needs to find out the reasons and find remedies. But individual criminals do not define a country, even less, if other countries have more of them. So why is India beaten with “another gang rape” again and again? Is the purpose to spoil the image of India? And if so, why?

Rape of Afghan girls by US military in FarahIn recent times, Indians have clearly made a mark. There is tremendous talent in the country. It is acknowledged that Indians have brains. This expresses itself in a new-found confidence. ‘Western values’ are more likely to be scrutinized now and the ancient Hindu tradition is seeing a renaissance. The ‘established opinion’ that Christianity and Islam are any time better than Hinduism is being challenged. Modern Western values are also more likely to be scrutinized and the West does not like it. The established opinions have power and this power seems to be used to malign India in a most unfair manner.

Rape is a delicate subject and whoever tries to place it into perspective is likely to get slaps from all sides, not least from the women’s groups. Not many will dare to state, that India has a problem, but not a bigger one than other countries, and does not need interference from the West in handling it. In fact, India has a great advantage. The family system is generally still strong especially among the masses who have escaped English education. Chastity before marriage is still valued and not ridiculed. Romantic love is still seen for what it is—a temporary emotion and not a solid basis for a lifelong companionship. Compromise among family members and even sacrifice are not yet condemned as restricting individual freedom. Sita is still an ideal for most Hindu women. Bhakti, love for God, can still be expressed.

Over 2 lakh men and women raped in US prisons each year!The fact that these values are still strong is not appreciated by Western opinion makers. Those values are considered out of sync with the zeitgeist. They pose a challenge to the Western lifestyle which is being pushed into India. ‘Modern, Western values’ mean for example (I learned this from an article in a German magazine) to live in rainbow or patchwork families, Those families will either have gays as ‘parents’ or children from different partners as the parents would have had several live-in relationships earlier. It is supposed to be a great learning experience for everyone. 

Traditional Indian society is clearly out of sync with this modern lifestyle and to portray it in a poor light, “another rape” makes headlines every other day. Care is taken that only rapes committed by men with Hindu names reach the limelight and are discussed on TV. India has some 200 million Muslims and some 50 million Christians and they also commit rapes and very cruel ones, as well. For example the minor in the rape case of Jyothi is a Muslim. This news, however, did not make it to the mainstream media. There seems to be communalism in regard to broadcasting crimes, and maybe even in registering them. This makes sense, if the objective is to demean Hindu culture and thereby propel it to reform and open up. It is expected to leave those old-fashioned family values behind, to have condom vending machines in colleges, to consider free sex as normal. What better start than to talk of rape? It prepares the ground for allowing Westerners to prepare the syllabus for ‘adolescent education’. And once the youth is convinced, the ‘backward’ Hindu society will be a thing of the past.

Child rape in the various Christian churches, the Catholics being the best documented.This prospect would be a horror for the Indian masses from all religions. Hindu society is indeed rigid in certain aspects and has much scope to improve, but its values are still highly preferable to western, modern ‘values’. One just needs to look at Western societies to realise that the modern life style is a failed model. It has already regrettable fallout: many youngsters are without direction because of too much freedom. They long for clear rules and turn to fundamentalist, evangelical churches. Hindu Dharma would be the better option. But they are not likely to get to know about it in an unbiased manner. – Maria Wirth Blog, 27 January 2014

» Maria Wirth is a German and came to India for a holiday after finishing her psychology studies at Hamburg University. She visited the Ardha Kumbha Mela in Haridwar in April 1980 where she met Sri Anandamayi Ma and Devaraha Baba, two renowned saints. With their blessing she continued to live in India and dived into India’s spiritual tradition, sharing her insights with German and Indian readers through articles and books.

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8 Responses

  1. You bring up a very valid point Maria. Rape can never be condoned, however, the intensity and magnification by world media on Indian rape cases seems questionable.

    The root cause to this needs to be investigated. History has repeatedly shown that nations who start challenging superpowers (intellectually and economically), are often subjected to this kind of slander, in the hope of dampening the aspirations of locals and foreign nationals.

    Indian influence in global affairs has moved in leaps and bounds over the last two decades. It is no longer just another developing country at the mercy of industrialised nations. It is a role model for the rest of the world. No other country has managed to keep such large and diverse cultures under one banner for such a long time.

    Indians need to closely examine and make a rational assessment on negative media coverage which will continue to bombard the morale of the people.

  2. Regarding how tourists see India, I would like to share a comment by Adriana made on 28.1.14 on my blog to this article. Here it is:

    This reminds me of a conversation from a couple of weeks back. I was planning to visit India with a friend. But my aunt convinced us that India is unsafe. She recommended Spain instead. When we turned to Google, this story turned up – [British tourist, 31, brutally gang-raped metres from Spanish holiday apartment](http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2293275/British-tourist-31-brutally-gang-raped-metres-Spanish-holiday-apartment-men-including-70-year-old.html).

    A couple of searches later, we found the [British Behavior Abroad](https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/259521/British_Behaviour_Abroad_2012-2013_data.csv/preview) report for 2013. It says that 31 British tourists were raped in Spain last year. Another 39 were sexually assaulted! We’re talking about the tourists of just one nationality. And we’re talking about a single year! For India, it was 0 rapes and 1 sexual assault (the notorious case of the woman who jumped from her hotel window to escape a sexual assault). There is no under-reporting because these figures are from reports to British embassy, not Indian police.

    That said, I’ve heard from some Indian acquaintances that India IS more unsafe than most of America and Europe (including Spain). We’re visiting Seychelles this Feb!

    • Regrettably the above comment must be qualified.

      Foreigners ARE raped in India and there is no record because they are afraid to report the incident to the police or their consulates.

      There is also the rigmarole of a medical examination in a government hospital that they wish to avoid. They will be met with hostility and prejudice because it is assumed a foreign woman is unchaste.

      In the pilgrimage town where I live—I am not referring to Pondicherry here—which has an internationally famous ashram that attracts thousands of foreign visitors between November and March, there were two rapes of foreigners last year (2012-13) that we know about. The year before (2011-12) that there was one rape that we know about. These rapes were not reported. Earlier still, there were two rapes in a ten year period that we know about. One was reported and when the woman was produced in the government hospital for examination, the doctor in charge took one look at her from behind his desk and pronounced that she had not been raped! This year (2013-14) a group of foreign women met the SP with a petition that carried hundreds of signatures, requesting the authorities to act to protect female tourists from sexual harassment and worse.

      So far this season there has been no reports of harassment or rape.

      These tourists are more vulnerable because they are innocent enough to believe they are protected because they are in a holy place.

      All tourists in whatever country are vulnerable to the bad elements in society because they must carry their money and passports on their person, may not be familiar with the language and local customs, and are easily exploited by landlords and other service providers.

      This said, India is still a much safer place to visit for a foreign tourist than many European countries, or, indeed, the US.

      The problem for foreigners in India is stereotyping and prejudice, rather than actual physical violence and rape.

      • It is not just rapes that don’t get reported but also tourist killings and there have been many over the years. The legal system in India only works in theory, but when one tries to go forward with the complaint or get justice for the killed loved one the way is blocked. I personally know this as my nephew Felix Dahl was killed in Patnem Goa 28th of January 2015. Most of the rape and murder cases never make it to the worldwide media, but instead the actual figures are hidden from the public.

  3. Besides, behind such hype there may be the criminal idea of gobbling up the foreign funds by the so-called feminists who are masters of attracting foreign funds by tarnishing the image of India.

  4. There is certainly an agenda behind this propaganda. And that is, to present India as rapist nation as against the generally understood notion that Hindus are much more disciplined and spiritual than other nations.

  5. Just some 4/5 days ago, Times of India, Bangalore carried this news item:
    “One in five women raped in US, says White House report”.
    The news item gave some further details and also said:
    “The report also said that about 33.5% of multiracial women
    have been raped, as have 27% of American-Indian women”

    The report was issued by the White House and is titled :”Rape and Sexual Assault”

  6. We thank Ms. Maria Wirth for her sensitive observation on recent upsurge of rape in India and the media hype thereon. While the crime is against Indian culture and has lately assumed endemic proportions, it is strange little thought has been given to the issue and its fallout. The Mahabharata warned of the disasterous consequences of such crimes against women and the nation. In our quest for modernism, we kept us merely busy in unlearning whatever grand and novel in our tradition and in foregoing social discipline built in our culture and civilization. We must not forget we must uphold ‘Dharma’ and ‘Dharma’ will hold us together.

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