Why ignoring Indian culture does a huge disservice to Indian women


10:02 am - January 4th 2013

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by Iram Ramzan

Many commentators have written about the Delhi gang-rape case but, in my opinion, very few of them have alluded to the cultural aspects. We cannot just sweep it under the carpet.

While Owen Jones was right to point out that “rape and sexual violence against women are endemic everywhere” and that a third of Britons blame the victim, at least women in western countries are not conditioned to be raised as potential mothers and wives, with this notion of shame constantly hanging over them.

In the UK, no sane person would dream of telling a rape victim that she must marry her attacker. In late December, another Indian girl, who was gang-raped, committed suicide after police pressured her to drop the case and marry one of her attackers.

In 1997, Bollywood released a well-known film, Raaja Ki Aayegi Barat, in which a young woman is raped; the court then compels the rapist to marry the woman because, as she says, “who will marry me now?” (Just Google Bollywood rape scenes and you will be presented with hundreds of links to sleazy scenes where we are invited to ogle at ‘hot babes’ being raped.)

Skewed attitudes towards the other sex develop from a young age. A female child is made aware of her differences by her parents and relatives who constantly belittle them compared to men. My brother is always given preferential treatment to me, and I am told that “It’s different for him, he’s a boy” or, my personal favourite, “A man can go out and come back with shit-faced and sit at the dinner table without any problems. You’re a woman, it’s different.”

I’ve been told horrific stories of Asian women who have been raped by their husbands and told by their mothers that it is their “duty” to submit to their husband’s will. Having honour is often the most sought after, protected and prized asset that speaks to the status and reputation of a family within their community.

I was stalked by a man for two years and did not report the incident to the police for fear I would be told by my family that their “honour” would be at stake if others knew. I have been harassed and molested in public and private, and have never told them, precisely because of this stigma.

This from a British-born Asian – imagine how worse it must be for those living in the subcontinent? There, females are neither safe inside the womb nor outside it.

Sonia Gandhi, the head of the ruling Congress Party, described Damini as a “cherished sister”. I really wish people would stop suggesting that if everyone treated women as their own sister or mother, there would be a reduction in harassment or rape. The fact that many of these men do not even respect their ‘own’ women, and view them as inferior, can be seen as a reason for why they commit these awful crimes in the first place.

To deny the impact of culture on this crime is doing a huge disservice to Indian women and ignores its overall impact. It is tragic that a woman had to be gang-raped to awaken something in the Indian mentality. However, let us hope that this is the beginning of a new wave of change and reform.

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Story Filed Under: Blog ,Foreign affairs ,Race relations ,South Asia

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I don’t know whether this writer is correct or not. What I do know is that, as a man of Indian origin, I do not want anyone judging me with pre-conceived notions of how I would treat members of the opposite sex.

Culture does play a part but focusing on culture alone will lead you down the wrong path and also demoralises South Asian men in the process. Indian men are out there in huge numbers protesting.

Rape as a crime really is beyond the pale and you have to be particularly deranged to take part in something like that! If there are much higher incidents of rape within India (not much evidence of this), then I would suggest that it has more to do with callous policing and higher prevalence of mental illness, as a result of tough social conditions.

As someone living in Manchester, UK, a quick flick through local newspapers confirms to me that rape is not something that uniquely ‘South Asian’ men do:-

http://menmedia.co.uk/manchestereveningnews/news/crime/s/1597279_sex-beast-jailed-for-eight-years-for-violent-attack-on-18-year-old-girl

http://menmedia.co.uk/manchestereveningnews/news/crime/s/1597042_hyde-woman-raped-in-her-own-home-in-horrific-attack-by-masked-raider

I read reports like this on an almost weekly basis. What I think Emer O’Toole was getting at was that we in the West should not gloat too much and get complacent as there are a lot of problems back home that we need to protest for!

Five pieces on the same subject, Sunny? Do you guys seriously never get bored these obsessions?

Most social scientists will confirm, I think, that changing “cultures” and social values is a tough reform challenge and likely to be a long haul.

In Britain, the so-called New Wave drama and novels of the 1950s – perhaps culminating in the acquittal of Penguin Books in 1960 for publishing Lady Chatterley’s Lover – may have finally broken with values about personal relations inherited from the Victorian era.

OTOH the contraceptive pill may have had a greater influence and the growing numbers of social histories and university graduates exposed those Victorian values as a great hoax – hypocrisy prevailed: try contemporary estimates in the 1880s and 1890s of casual prostitution as working girls sought to augment poor pay and the revelations of My Secret Life by Walter.

Whatever the causes, half of all babies in Britain now are born to unmarried couples. But new literature is unlikely to have much influence with prevailing high rates of adult illiteracy in India, especially among the many women who have been denied schooling because of family values. Perhaps better access to films and the internet will help to erode barriers to social change.

Outrage at the gang rape in Delhi is understandable but the public debate needs to move on towards reform issues. All aspects of the process of social change are unlikely to be welcome. Whatever happened to India’s devadasi tradition?

Btw we have had outrageous gang-rapes in London too but those have quickly passed from public awareness:
http://www.independent.co.uk/news/77-years-for-gang-who-raped-tourist-1267945.html

More news of gang-rapes in London and this one has an ironical twist:

“A man convicted of a brutal gang rape in the 80s is due to give evidence at the July 7 [in 2005] bombings inquest this week. . . After the bombings, in which Holness lost a leg, he became the representative for victims’ rights. . . However, it was soon discovered Holness had been part of a gang of youths, known as the Young Raiders, which had brutally raped two 16-year-old girls in Brixton in 1985.”
http://www.croydonguardian.co.uk/news/localnews/8712606.Rapist_gives_evidence_as_poster_boy_for_7_7/

We socialists don’t care about culture. India’s just a capitalist country like any other.

“We socialists don’t care about culture.”

Try Melvyn Bragg on: What’s the value of culture?
http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b01phm1j

In the current context here, “culture” relates to prevailing social values and conventions as well as the received legacy of national histories and literature, including religious literature. By wide consensus, the numerical concept of “zero” emerged from ancient maths in India. Rejecting that as unnecessary antiquated garbage would have serious consequences. European languages have Indo-European roots.

Ignorance is strength

This article is a typical attempt by someone “on the inside” trying to be heroic and criticising their “own community”.

This article, and the similar one by Sunny are a disservice to women, the world over. They distract from the real issue: men having an utter lack of respect for women. Whether we are discussing rape in India, polygamy in Saudi Arabia or pornography in the US – the cause is the same. It is not culture (although you could call it a “universal male culture”) – it is men’s perceived right to sexual gratification from women, any women that pass-by.

Yes, there are issues within the Asian community. As there are in the Arab community, the Italian community, the Irish community, the British community etc. These issues may not be identical – but they have a similar route cause.

It is sad that it is objective, non-Asian, commentators who have pointed out that has nothing to do with culture/race – this is a global phenomena. A similar incident occurred last year with the Rochdale paedophile ring. Many Asians jumped on the bandwagon of pointing the finding at Asian culture as being the cause of the rape cases. These Asian commentators claimed to be brave enough to criticise their own community. As the dust settled, several months later, these same Asians now claim that race/culture had nothing to do with the Rochdale rape cases. Opportunist, attention seekers!

These Asian commentators often go with the flow, and enjoy the attention they get for their “heroic” stance!

I must say the cynicism from some commenters here is deplorable. Sunny repeatedly puts balanced caveats but its not enough, apparently.

9. Chaise Guevara

@ Cherub

All of these threads seem to be bringing out the Judean People’s Front tendencies of identity politics arguments. On one of the others we’ve seriously got someone debating with Sunny on whether a white woman trumps an Indian man on the subject. And all of this “it’s culture no it’s gender well that’s racist well that’s sexist” horsecrap.

It’s very obviously culture AND gender. Trying to isolate a single cause is always a mistake.

10. Iram Ramzan

“Culture does play a part but focusing on culture alone will lead you down the wrong path and also demoralises South Asian men in the process. Indian men are out there in huge numbers protesting.”

no one said that, in fact I even said that women can be their own worst enemies

“If there are much higher incidents of rape within India (not much evidence of this)” well if women do not report rape then how is there going to be evidence?

“As someone living in Manchester, UK, a quick flick through local newspapers confirms to me that rape is not something that uniquely ‘South Asian’ men do”

did not say that – I even said Owen Jones was correct to point out attitudes towards rape in the UK – as the rape happened in India, the focus is going to be on India, obviously.

“Five pieces on the same subject, Sunny? Do you guys seriously never get bored these obsessions?”
I wrote this piece in response to someone commenting on one of Sunny’s pieces, saing “aren’t thre any women who can write for the LC or do these women need men to protect them”
which I certainly don’t I can speak for myself.

“This article is a typical attempt by someone “on the inside” trying to be heroic and criticising their “own community”…These Asian commentators often go with the flow, and enjoy the attention they get for their “heroic” stance!”

If we speak out, we’re criticised, if we stay silent, we’re criticised – so we’re damned if we do and damned if we don’t. I’m not trying to be brave or ‘heroic’, and it shows that you don’t appreciate just how difficult it is for some people to speak out against long-held values and beliefs.

“This article, and the similar one by Sunny are a disservice to women, the world over. They distract from the real issue: men having an utter lack of respect for women.” That is exactly what I said throughout the article, that there is a lack of respect for women, what part of that did you not understand?

There is a problem with going from personal experience and that of your pals down at the Gurdwara to making sweeping generalisations about an entire culture. This is a particular problem when it comes to something as complex as the reasons behind rape. Yes, there are issues within the Asian community, but as you have not lived in any other community you have not witnessed the almost identical issues prevalent in other communities. Speak to a police officer about rape in your local area. Speak to the victims of rape (of all races) – the victims will provide very similar narratives. Victims often don’t report rape to the police because of the humiliation (this is not a uniquely Asian problem) and they are afraid of being shunned by society (believe it or not, many people in Britain still believe that girls who are raped were “asking for it” – again not a uniquely Asian issue. The rapists motives for raping are not due to any culture values or upbringing (carry out a study, interview rapists to understand why they did what they did, you will see that the black, brown, white and yellow rapist have their own sick reasons for doing what they did).

Without familiarity with centuries worth of feminist literature, studies by criminologists, psychologists and law enforcement officers your opinion is only the opinion of an ordinary person with little knowledge beyond personal experience.

I was always find it interesting that is such cases, the experts are often unanimous in their opinion that race/culture was not a factor – the issue is far more complex than merely mothers spoiling their sons. It is the politicians, journalists and ordinary people with limited expertise that come up with all sorts of unsubstantiated theories linking race/culture with certain crimes.

Most commentators are well meaning, although ultimately misguided. But there are some who use instances such as the Indian rape case as an opportunity to make a name for themselves.

I am a big fan of blogs such Liberal Conspiracy. Before the internet age, the mainstream media didn’t provide much opportunity for ordinary people to voice their opinions. This blog does that. The only downside is that this often leads to poorly researched articles being published online.


Reactions: Twitter, blogs
  1. Liberal Conspiracy

    Why ignoring Indian culture does a huge disservice to Indian women http://t.co/B6Q3Y93d

  2. Jason Brickley

    Why ignoring Indian culture does a huge disservice to Indian women http://t.co/MGP5QEXy

  3. Simon Barrow

    Why ignoring Indian culture does a huge disservice to Indian women http://t.co/B6Q3Y93d

  4. Rhys Needham

    Why ignoring Indian culture does a huge disservice to Indian women | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/9ZB3lyRn via @libcon

  5. Sunny Hundal

    By @Iram_Ramzan: 'I was stalked for 2yrs but didn't report it for fear I'd be told by family their honour was at stake' http://t.co/9CbtX4hA

  6. Dave Harris

    RT @Iram_Ramzan: 'I was stalked for 2yrs but didn't report it for fear I'd be told by family their honour was at stake' http://t.co/jCMfrRuP

  7. Simon Edwards

    By @Iram_Ramzan: 'I was stalked for 2yrs but didn't report it for fear I'd be told by family their honour was at stake' http://t.co/9CbtX4hA

  8. seddaka

    Why ignoring Indian culture does a huge disservice to Indian women …: by Iram Ramzan. Many commentators have w… http://t.co/JMmnoXtV

  9. Tasmia Akkas

    By @Iram_Ramzan: 'I was stalked for 2yrs but didn't report it for fear I'd be told by family their honour was at stake' http://t.co/9CbtX4hA

  10. MsLoves

    By @Iram_Ramzan: 'I was stalked for 2yrs but didn't report it for fear I'd be told by family their honour was at stake' http://t.co/9CbtX4hA

  11. leftlinks

    Liberal Conspiracy – Why ignoring Indian culture does a huge disservice to Indian women http://t.co/xDZJU9CQ

  12. Sunny Hundal

    By @Mari_Nazmar: 'I was stalked for 2yrs but didn't report it for fear I'd be told by family their honour was at stake' http://t.co/9CbtX4hA

  13. Bella Caledonia

    Liberal Conspiracy – Why ignoring Indian culture does a huge disservice to Indian women http://t.co/xDZJU9CQ

  14. James Stanhope

    By @Mari_Nazmar: 'I was stalked for 2yrs but didn't report it for fear I'd be told by family their honour was at stake' http://t.co/9CbtX4hA

  15. Alex Watson

    By @Mari_Nazmar: 'I was stalked for 2yrs but didn't report it for fear I'd be told by family their honour was at stake' http://t.co/9CbtX4hA

  16. Cllr Ralph Berry

    By @Iram_Ramzan: 'I was stalked for 2yrs but didn't report it for fear I'd be told by family their honour was at stake' http://t.co/9CbtX4hA

  17. Betty Kane

    By @Mari_Nazmar: 'I was stalked for 2yrs but didn't report it for fear I'd be told by family their honour was at stake' http://t.co/9CbtX4hA

  18. Félicien Breton

    By @Mari_Nazmar: 'I was stalked for 2yrs but didn't report it for fear I'd be told by family their honour was at stake' http://t.co/9CbtX4hA

  19. Saab

    By @Mari_Nazmar: 'I was stalked for 2yrs but didn't report it for fear I'd be told by family their honour was at stake' http://t.co/9CbtX4hA

  20. SorryI'llGetMyCoat

    This is the sort of #rape and "honour" culture #Labour's *multiculturalism* imported into this country for years. http://t.co/a9NCvOWT

  21. Vicky Stonebridge

    Liberal Conspiracy – Why ignoring Indian culture does a huge disservice to Indian women http://t.co/xDZJU9CQ

  22. jameswaston

    By @Mari_Nazmar: 'I was stalked for 2yrs but didn't report it for fear I'd be told by family their honour was at stake' http://t.co/9CbtX4hA

  23. 50ShadesOfBeige

    By @Mari_Nazmar: 'I was stalked for 2yrs but didn't report it for fear I'd be told by family their honour was at stake' http://t.co/9CbtX4hA

  24. Paul Rae

    Why ignoring Indian culture does a huge disservice to Indian women | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/50JfIvw0 via @libcon

  25. Tim Easton

    By @Mari_Nazmar: 'I was stalked for 2yrs but didn't report it for fear I'd be told by family their honour was at stake' http://t.co/9CbtX4hA

  26. Arthusbella

    Why ignoring Indian culture does a huge disservice to Indian women http://t.co/B6Q3Y93d

  27. Hoemomie

    By @Mari_Nazmar: 'I was stalked for 2yrs but didn't report it for fear I'd be told by family their honour was at stake' http://t.co/9CbtX4hA

  28. Charlie Hussain

    By @Mari_Nazmar: 'I was stalked for 2yrs but didn't report it for fear I'd be told by family their honour was at stake' http://t.co/9CbtX4hA

  29. Hoemomie

    Why ignoring Indian culture does a huge disservice to Indian women | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/50JfIvw0 via @libcon

  30. Angie Pedley

    Why ignoring Indian culture does a huge disservice to Indian women | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/Qzd0IfeJ via @libcon

  31. Ria Foster

    Why ignoring Indian culture does a huge disservice to Indian women | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/Qzd0IfeJ via @libcon

  32. Raza Saab

    By @Mari_Nazmar: 'I was stalked for 2yrs but didn't report it for fear I'd be told by family their honour was at stake' http://t.co/9CbtX4hA

  33. Tom Midlane

    Nice piece by my mate @Iram_Ramzan: I was stalked but didn't report it for fear I'd be told family honour was at stake http://t.co/YMPca2dN

  34. 50ShadesOfBeige

    @Andrew_In_Stre http://t.co/mX3RmrK6

  35. 50ShadesOfBeige

    @Sharm33n http://t.co/mX3RmrK6 here you are

  36. 50ShadesOfBeige

    @Ex_Idiotarian @Lejla_Creative http://t.co/mX3RmrK6 some guy dismissed be as "trying to be heroic" lol. clearly burying head in sand

  37. Matt Barker

    http://t.co/cmf4fgtR #fb

  38. Jim Early

    @monakareem Sunny,I thought,did a good job answering that argument. http://t.co/8gVFXA7a





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