What Scares Me Most About Living in India: Rape

I have spoken facetiously about things that scare me about India, but have never talked about my actual fears.  I was reading an article in the Times of India this Sunday about rape, and rape statistics in India which made me assess my own situation here.  I have realized that if I am hurt in India, I will most likely be sexually assaulted.  If I am sexually assaulted, it will most probably be by a well to do, educated Indian male who is either an acquaintance or a friend of a friend who I have made angry/wants to punish me for being..me.  The most tragic thing is that I have a feeling most people (possibly even my own family) will think that I brought it upon myself, and I will be left humiliated, shunned,  and alone- without a justice system in place to make sure that the perpetrators will never commit the crime again.

People say that big cities are unsafe- and I agree, but not for the reasons people think.  Logically speaking, people at lower socioeconomicl levels (i.e. auto drivers,  taxi drivers etc…) have more to lose if they take advantage of someone like me. I have friends and family who will raise hell, the media will eat it up, and I am pretty convinced justice will be served.  If they wanted to sexually assault a female, they have access to people who…don’t have the power to make it more difficult.  Its a harsh thing to say, but I believe its somewhere in the realm of the truth.

The thing that scares me most about big cities is the well to do, educated males population who have insecurities to hide.  This segment of the population has been forced to accept the ever growing role of women in a historically male sphere in a very short amount.  For many men, it’s fine.  But for the select few that begrudge women for infringing on their space, they are ticking time bombs who have no outlet to express their aggression.  The other thing about me is that I tend to express my feelings freely.  If I like something, people know about it.  And if I don’t, people also know about that too.  In the US, I said what was on my mind- especially to guys who I felt were pretentious, cocky, and generally awful people. That didn’t happen often (mainly in clubs, parties and other places where said interaction was probably mistaken for flirtation), but it did happen when it needed to. In India, this also tends to happen, but I can feel the tension in the air because they aren’t used to the abuse.  And that’s when I know I’ve gone too far- but by then its too late.  Sadly, I am starting to realise that I need to censor myself, because if I don’t, I will be the loser in the end.

Here is why it was fine for me to say what I wanted to say in the US, but need to censor myself in India:

In the US, we have a great justice system that takes rape very seriously.  More importantly, in front of a US jury, I would undoubtedly be seen as the victim.  This is how an American court would look at me:

  • Star student who was loved by friends and family
  • Didn’t party a whole lot, didn’t drink, didn’t smoke, didn’t sleep around
  • Upstanding citizen with a stable job
Basically, there would be no way anyone could portray me as anything but a victim in this case.  I would get a conviction.  Justice would be served.  People would think twice before committing the crime.
But in India, for doing the SAME things as I do in the US, this is how I would be portrayed:
  • She goes out to parties
  • She dresses…sometimes ok but sometimes…
  • She goes out at night
  • She doesn’t live with her family- she lives by herself instead- with male roommates
  • She is “independent” and “liberal” and loud
  • She swears and says things which you shouldn’t really be talking about
And even then, it’s all fine because there are other women like me in India.  It’s all fine- until you get hurt.  Or I get hurt.  And I make someone upset.  And he lashes back.  Gets retribution.  Punishes me.  And then what?
It doesn’t matter what HAPPENS at any of these events or it doesn’t matter what else I do or say- I have been typecast.  I am the person that doesn’t fit in.  But it’s more than that- I am the person that doesn’t fit in and goes against what is “supposed” to be.  Essentially, I would be portrayed as someone who “brought it on herself”.  
And that’s when I would be alone.  I’m that girl that shouldn’t have been doing what she was doing.  She deserved what was coming.  If she didn’t go out, if she weren’t so loud, if she weren’t so outspoken, if she weren’t so…Independent…it would have been fine.  The saddest part is that I don’t even know what my own mother would say.  What do I think her first question to me would be?  “What did you do?”  What did I do?  What did I do to deserve this?  I don’t know mother.  I didn’t know ANYONE did anything to deserve this.  But this is the Indian mentality.
I doubt that the case would never even make it to court.  I will be humiliated.  And shamed.  And most tragically, alone.  Alone during the time I need people the most.
Basically, if I just changed the essence of me, I would be fine.  Maybe I need to.  Maybe I can’t do everything I did in the US and be ok.  I don’t like changing who I am because I feel like its a lie.  But maybe I underestimated India.  Because I can feel it.  I can feel the tension in the room when I say something.  I can feel the tension when I tell my banker I don’t want to go out with him.  I can feel the glares when I try to ride a motorcycle.  I can feel the tension when I tell men something about typically “male” things, and I’m right.   I feel tension when I call men out on things.  So I try to tread carefully. Because I don’t have any security if things go wrong. And men know that.
But how long can I do that?  Should I have to do that? Is that the compromise I have to live with for living in India?  I really want to believe that India is as forward as I think it is-as I HOPE it is.  It talks a lot of talk.  But does it really live up to it?
I don’t know. I don’t have a good answer for you.
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5 thoughts on “What Scares Me Most About Living in India: Rape

  1. I completely and totally agree Anu. In America, I am allowed to be a feminist. To stand up for being a woman. In India, it’s thought of as improper, out-of-place, mannerless and stupid. It makes me sick for the state of society, because there are men in my family who would be right behind me getting me married and making sure I do everything the way they say to do it. I see my grandmother, my aunts, and other female family members literally at the intellectual mercy of their husbands and fathers and it makes me sad that they have no right to power. Rape is disgustingly commonplace in India, and the media sensationalizes it – and even the women who stand up against it are seen as either unfortunate proponents of a lost cause or as sluts for speaking up for a woman’s sexual rights. Thank you so much for writing this!

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    • Wow- I’m glad to know I’m not the only one who feels this way! I thought maybe I was crazy, but I’m glad there’s at least one other person who also thinks this is a problem! I used to think that it was an education problem, but now I realize that it’s much, much deeper than that. And its sad, and scary at the same time. Especially knowing that deep down, some people that I really care about would probably not support me at all if I should be unfortunate enough to be in that situation. Thank you for the support 🙂

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  2. It’s a tough feeling…I started dressing very modestly in India and then had to follow a lot of “rules” laid down by my male Indian bosses when I was there: no going out after dark, don’t go to certain parts of town alone, no traveling in autorickshaws–it was frustrating!

    But even the justice system in the US is not as woman friendly as you might think. the burden of proof is on the victim, not the accused…

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    • Yes, totally true. I guess that I know that the US justice system would probably be more friendly to me than the Indian justice system. And I now know what everyone else on the other side must be feeling like.

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