David Beckham, who recently played for the LA Galaxy, has delighted soccer fans across the world with his skills. His trademark scoring kick inspired the movie titled “Bend it like Beckham”. The main character of that film is a female teenager, whose family had emigrated from India to England. The clash of cultures and generations is played out, with the parents accepting their daughter’s assimilation of new affirming values. This movie was a hit, especially in our local Indian community, which is concentrated in the nearby city of Cerritos.
I am familiar with some aspects of the Indian culture, as I lived in London’s suburbs with large Indian and Pakistani populations. (I became especially fan of the Indian cuisine, as I got tired of the bland shepherd pies, fish and chips, eels, roast beef and Yorkshire Pudding.)
Now let’s talk about gang rapes in India.
Cerritos includes one of the largest Indian and Pakistani populations in the USA. Lately the news about treatment of women from those countries has been shocking. In Pakistan, fourteen-year-old Malala Yousufzai, was nearly killed by the Taliban’s religious extremists because she was advocating for girl’s education. Savita Halappanavar, a 31-year-old Indian woman, who was in the midst of a miscarriage, was refused an abortion and died in an Irish hospital after suffering from blood poisoning. The recent gang rapes in India have reached repulsive savage levels, as the one which took place on a bus. According to news reports, the 23 year old student died from internal injuries inflicted with a metal rod during the rape.
The NY Times published a comprehensive analysis on India’s gang rape phenomenon. Here is an excerpt:
“Indian women have made impressive gains in recent years: maternal mortality rates have dropped, literacy rates and education levels have risen, and millions of women have joined the professional classes. But the women at the heart of the protest movement say it was born of their outraged realization that no matter how accomplished they become, or how hard they work, women here will never fully take part in the promise of a new and more prosperous India unless something fundamental about the culture changes.
Indeed, many women in India say they are still subject to regular harassment and assault during the day and are fearful of leaving their homes alone after dark. Now they are demanding that the government, and a police force that they say offers women little or no protection, do something about it.
…While the Dec. 16 attack was extreme in its savagery, gang rapes of women have been happening with frightening regularity in recent months, particularly in northern India. Critics say the response from a mostly male police force is often inadequate at best.
Last week, an 18-year-old woman in Punjab State committed suicide by drinking poison after being raped by two men and then humiliated by male police officers, who made her describe her attack in detail several times, then tried to encourage her to marry one of her rapists. Dozens more gang rapes have been reported in the states of Haryana, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh in recent months.
Sociologists and crime experts say the attacks are the result of deeply entrenched misogynistic attitudes and the rising visibility of women, underpinned by long-term demographic trends in India.
The New Delhi rape victim, whose funeral was held on Sunday, and whose name had not been revealed, was from a small village in Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous state. Her journey to Delhi was the same that thousands of young women make every year to big cities around the country, in search of a better education and opportunities than their parents had. “My brother’s entire salary was spent on educating his children so that their aspirations were fulfilled,” the woman’s uncle told the newspaper The Hindu.”
I hope that these horrible situations end soon, which will involve profound changes. As a writer for Slate magazine writes, “…almost as horrifying as the crimes themselves were the reactions of state police and politicians who, grappling to explain the outbreak of sexual violence, offered a set of truly bizarre viewpoints that make Richard Mourdock and Todd Akin look benign.”
I hope that David Beckham speaks out soon against India’s gang rapes.
While he’s thinking about it, please sign the Change.Org petition to Indian President Pranab Mukherjee and India’s Chief Justice: