INDIA: Stop exporting gender based violence 

After the sexual assault upon a woman in Guwahati, in Assam state early this month, a shocking event the national media in India competed in telecasting, and the despicable ‘culture’ discussion that followed, the country has scored again, internationally, for similar criminal conduct by Indian men. Impelled by sexual lust and contempt to women, the members of a youth delegation that travelled to China misbehaved with Chinese women during their cultural and diplomatic mission. The members of the delegation that returned to India on 21 July are now being questioned for their misconduct. Understandably no punitive action would follow, since those accused of committing this despicable crime are some of the most privileged in the country, worse, are protégées of the country’s various political parties – left, right and centre included.

According to some members of the delegation and Indian diplomats, Ms. Nita Chowdhury, Secretary from the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports, had to warn the delegates during their 10-day trip to China, that they would be sent back mid-way through the visit if they did not improve their conduct. The Secretary must have been aware of her ‘jurisdictional’ limitations, since had she for instance reported the incident to the Chinese authorities formally as required by law, the Secretary would have had to face worse adverse consequences at home. Perhaps what would be more discussed in India then, would be how the Secretary hurt national pride, than what the members of the delegation did to women in China.

The delegation, all of them reportedly under 35 years, included students from the Nehru Yuva Kendra Sangathan (NYKS), members of youth wings of political parties and representatives of Panchayat Raj Institutions. It is reported that many members of the delegation used sexually abrasive language against Chinese women and attempted to physically molest them. The women were assisting the delegation with translation and logistics in China. So much for the alleged future leadership of India and the national culture they represented in a neighbouring country.

Both these incidents, in Guwahati and in China, are telltale and vivid examples of how women are treated in India. It is no exaggeration if one were to argue that the country treats its women as chattel, mere objects of labour, sex and as personal cooks at home. It will take much more than sari-clad politicians and a president to change this.

The statement “women’s fashion, lifestyle and conduct should be in accordance with Indian culture … women should not wear clothes which provoke others (to misbehave with them)” by Mr. Kailash Vijayvargiya, a minister from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) concerning the Guwahati incident is mere ratification of what the Chairperson of the National Commission for Women (NCW), Ms. Mamata Sharma said earlier this year. The NCW is the national body in India mandated to safeguard and promote women’s interest. Both statements represent the dominant opinion in India about women.

Whether these persons have legitimate mandate to represent the country, much less its women and culture is a genuine question. Those who represented India in China and made use of the opportunity to approach women with their home grown detestable wolverine personality abrasions were living what they practice at home. In that many Indian men in the delegation must be in fact wondering what is there in their conduct for the women to complain about in the first place.

Ill-treating women – parading a victim of sexual violence in the media included – is in fact a crime. Unfortunately, among many other abrasions, impunity writs large in Indian culture, caste-based discrimination, for instance. Impunity is inbuilt into social values in India promoted by deep caste prejudices that have transcended religious boundaries. Caste-based discrimination is practiced within all religions and political parties in the country. All of them without exception treat women with least respect. In that what was witnessed in Guwahati and in China are expressions of true Indian culture.

Perhaps India’s best contribution to promote respect to women would be if it stops exporting violence against women, and at the very least, apologising to China.