A few years ago, I got the opportunity to travel to Southern India. It was a community service course offered via my graduate program. We traveled from Chennai to Madurai. The cities were beautiful as well as the Tamil people.
The purpose of the trip was to learn about the roles/lives of Indian women. We attended lectures at a women’s college and engaged with the students around/off campus. One of the more interesting lectures we attended was on dating/love relationships. Basically, those things just didn’t happen in India culture. Arranged marriages are still dominate in India and a young woman has a lot to lose if it’s even suspected she likes a boy, let alone actually talking or going out in public with one.
Of course, as a feminist I was annoyed by this but many of the young women saw nothing wrong with it. This is the world they have been raised and conditioned in. Even if they didn’t like it, why risk being rejected from your family/society. The consequences were too great. However, there are Indian feminists/activists who are resisting the oppression faced by women in India.
You see that activism in the PBS documentary “India’s Daughter.” The film chronicles the horrifying gang rape/murder of 23-year-old medical student Jyoti Singh. The film interviews one of the rapists and defense attorneys. Their rationale for the young woman’s assault is disturbing. Basically, she had no right to be out with a boy late at night. The boy was actually just a classmate and “late at night” was only around 7-8pm. One of the attorneys even stated he would light his daughter on fire if she ever did such a thing.
It was a hard film to watch, especially as it brought back memories of my time in India. I meet so many dynamic young women, who because of the reinforced rape/anti-woman culture, will have a hard time living lives free from abuse.
Yet, one can’t get too smug about “those” people being uneducated, etc. The fact of the matter is male violence against women is a worldwide problem. This is illustrated in the ending credits highlighting the staggering statistics of sexual assault against women in different countries.
I mean we just had a Canadian judge tell a young teen to close her legs when being sexually assaulted. Or the Georgia police chief who said women can’t get raped they’re just stupid. Or the U.S. representative who said a real rape victim’s body knows how to shut down a pregnancy. Ignorance knows no cultural bonds.
“India’s Daughter” will be available online until February 13, 2016.
Rest in peace Jyoti.