Imagine dressing “inappropriately” or being out “too late”. She

Imagine
a woman in India getting a brand new sparkly red dress from her friend from
America. She’s overly ecstatic to wear this new elegant red dress
and shows it off to her friends during a college event. Little does she know,
this red dress would cause her emotional, psychological, and physical trauma. My
neighbor in India, Sarah Thomas, is this woman; she wore this new red dress to
a college campus event and a heterosexual
male brazenly approached her, grabbed her, and squeezed her in her private
parts as well as brushing her legs with his hands. My friend was distraught and
shaken. She didn’t know what to do in the situation because in India the
majority of society blames a women and not a man for either dressing
“inappropriately” or being out “too late”. She tried to report the situation,
but the police officer in charge looked into her eyes and blamed it on her for
wearing a “short” dress. Sarah’s sister and I were furious and proceeded to
call local politicians and women in leadership positions to finally get the boy
expelled from her school. India is still a patriarchal society, where women are
generally identified as subordinate to men. Gender-based sexual violence in
India is normalized and excused by the lack of interest and inconsistent
reports from the police, which is influenced by the intersection of the
societal patriarchal mindset,
education, class, and jobs.

Although
India is the largest democracy in the world, it still is largely a patriarchal society. The patriarchal
society in India becomes prominent during one’s birth. “In India males have
remained doubly advantaged, as they are born in greater number than females, as
anywhere else” (Singh). The disparity of female-to-male sex ratio can cause a
lot of issues for the women of India. While interviewing, Sarah, she stated
that the female-to-male sex ratio in India can cause a shortage of marriageable
women. She explained that the main reason why the male sex ratio is higher is
due to female babies being aborted illegally, being categorized as a burden, or
being a liability to their family, which is promoted by many government
officials and religious leaders (Thomas). One may believe India’s government
safeguards women’s honor and respectability, but in reality, it fails to
protect their own country’s women. Women need to be treated as an asset, not a
liability. Women need to be respected; they are not born to be used sexually. A
shortage of females in India can lead cisgender
Indian men to have an increase sexual arousal causing sexual assault (Esteve-Volart).
Not only does the rate of sexual assault increase, but also women in India have
a smaller chance to develop and grow using education and a profession. They are
encouraged to get married at a young age and often parents do not put emphasis
on their daughters to get a formal education. With most people in India being
raised into this patriarchal
mindset, many of them believe that gender-based sexual violence is accepted in
the country’s lifestyle.

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Gender-based
sexual violence in India is normalized and appears naturally as a social construct. India has a record of
multiple incidents of violence against women that are not broadcasted or
reported by the legal system. The, 2012 Delhi
gang-rape case was a sensational case around the world. The case was so
important for India because it created attention to rape reporting in print,
visual and social media. After the response from this case, visual, print, and
social media stories of rape increased by 30% (Drache, Daniel and Velagic). It brought
positive measures by showcasing that the police and government were the
fundamental cause behind crimes against women.

Although
the case shed light over the misconduct of police and government officials, it
is still a huge controversy because the legal system of India is still
inconsistent of sexual assault reports. According
to Anupama Roy, a professor of political science, “the immediate aftermath of
the rape case, the Delhi Police came up with a safety primer for women. The
advisory asked women, among other things, to restrict their lives—head home
straight from school/college—and to run scared—don’t retort if you are
harassed.” (Roy). Authorities should not be teaching females to be scared about
their bodies and their gender identity, but rather teach them to be confident
with their bodies and stand up for their rights. Instead, it seems like that
they are teaching these females they are “weak”. They are teaching these females
that restricting their lives is perfectly normal. They are giving them that
generalization that men are in charge of the “house” and females are in charge
of the “kitchen”.  They are teaching
these females that they do not have the strength, intelligence, or
determination to fight back against their oppressor.

 As I was interviewing my friend Sarah, she
stated that in India, they do not offer sexual education that includes female
anatomy. Sarah was completely unaware women can have clitoral orgasms (Thomas).
According to the National Crime Records Bureau, 93 women are raped in India
every day. The rate of women getting raped in India is significantly high and a
solution to lower the rate of rape in India is to teach young girls and guys in
high school and middle school about body confidence, sex education, and the
body itself.  Making a gender, race, or
sex class required in high school can help these students became well aware of
these sensitive topics, which can be the start of helping India’s society
accept the word “equality”. Instead of shaming these females for their gender
identity and teaching them that gender-based violence is a normal thing, they
should be teaching these females how to stand up for themselves and correct
those who harass them.

One’s
social class plays an impact on gender-based sexual violence in India. Social
class is when individuals in society associate themselves with economic or
social status. The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and International
Center for Research on Women (ICRW) constructed a survey that gathered data
stating 40% of men that address having economic burdens and strains confess to
committing sexual violence, opposing the 27% of men that was not affected by
economic burdens (Chartoff). Lower class men incline to encompass that economic
and financial burden, which can lead to being more hostile towards their female
colleagues. Not only do lower class men commit rape or sexual violence, but
also men from an upper class. According to Flavia Agnes, a divorce and property
law lawyer, upper-class men such as doctors, police officers, government
officials, etc. use rape as a medium to overpower women from a lower class
(Agnes). It’s harder for lower class women to report their rape cases to the
police because usually no one takes their side or believes them. Police
officers, government officials, and upper-class men take their power to
advantage and make it seem like the women that they raped was lying or had some
type of mental issue. This makes it very hard for these lower class women to
pursue their education, profession, and marriage.

In
India, a social necessity is to be married. For the Hindu religion, a dowry is
one step towards the ultimate goal of marriage. The dowry is still most
prevalent in India, which is when parents of a bride hands money or property to
the bride’s groom. Harsh Dobhal, a social audit of human rights commissions in
India, states that “women in the Indian community are treated as a man’s sexual
property and marriage is considered the ultimate goal for a girl; a huge factor
that causes this belief in the Indian community is from the dowry” (Harsh). The
dowry brings misconception of marriage, identity, and gender. It creates this
mindset that women are always subordinate compared to males. There is a Dowry
Prohibition Act, but in certain communities in India, the dowry plays a huge
part of their wedding proposal. There are girls that go through this process
and feel a sense of failure because they are tied economically and socially to
their new husband. The Indian society creates an image that female’s work for
their husbands. They question girls that are in a marriage who have actual jobs
because in India’s mindset the husband is the only one in the marriage that is
supposed to work and provide for their family. The caste system and class in
India do not do justice for the society because most people, especially of a
higher class believes that the females from the lower class can be forced for
their sexual satisfaction, and they will conveniently avoid to speak up about a
sexual assault case, gender-based inequality, or emotional abuse and feels
discouraged to report it to the legal system. India needs to realize that women
do not need to pay their spouse to marry them! 

To
make these females feel more confident with themselves, India needs to start eliminating
job that are designated for male only or female only. The job misconception of females
occur not because of their ability but due to social status “In terms of skill
development, women are impeded by their lack of mobility, low literacy levels
and prejudiced attitudes toward women. When women negotiate with banks and
government officials, they are often ostracized by other men and women in their
community” (Ramesh). Women in India are often discriminated against for
promotions to managerial positions and positions of power and authority. The
religious and gender social practices that are often established by men and women
in the community can leave women hiding their talents and inhibiting them from
helping India’s economy flourish and grow. These social practices create a male gaze by showcasing women and the
world from a masculine point of view. “Paternalistic parents are willing to pay
for their daughter’s primary education if they have the means but not the extra
amount needed for higher education, because women are not expected to enter the
labor force in the future, therefore there are no private gains from girls’
higher education” (Esteve-Volart). The families that do this to their daughters
give them false hope for the future. These
parents are implying that their daughters are always inferior to males. These
parents tell their sons to have fun, but will tell their daughters to be
safe.  Everything their daughter does
after marriage is for the person she marries. It’s sad because some women in
India have the same ability, work ethic, and education as some males in India,
but still, these women are not as free as men to engage in this economy. These
girls’ talents are hidden from the public. Having a place that doesn’t encourage
decimation due to one’s gender can create an atmosphere of self-worth and
confidence.  

Rape
or sexual violence can do a lot to a woman psychologically, emotionally, and
physically. In India, gender-based sexual violence is normalized and excused.
The social status of an individual, the lack of support from the government,
the inherent patriarchal society,
and the lack of reporting law enforcement plays a huge factor when it comes to
reporting these sexual violence cases. The widespread culture of rape in India is
publicly known to be not strictly chastised by the government. In order to
decrease sexual abuse and violence in India, the criminal justice system can
start recognizing police officers that report these circumstances in a rightful
manner, start teaching kids from a young age that everyone should be treated
equally no matter of race, gender, and class, and having sex education classes.
Doing these three small tasks can make a huge difference in India’s patriarchal society!