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Why the Upsurge in Sexual Harassment of Women in India?
Friday March 13, 2015 9:54 PM, Kaleem Kawaja,

In the last few years the Indian media has reported hundreds of instances of rapes and molestations of girls and women. Two years ago in December 2012 occurred the horrible rape-murder of Jyoti Singh the bright and promising 23 year old girl who was studying to become a doctor, whom the rapists picked up in a public bus in the evening from a street in a busy section of New Delhi, the mega modern metropolis and the capital of India. She was brutally gang raped and assaulted by six men in the bus as it traveled on the streets of the city, and was then thrown naked on the street to die. A few days later she died. The public protests and media coverage of the ghastly event shook up the nation. Suddenly the Indian nation realized that they had a major social and law & order problem that they had been ignoring for years.

Soon after the above incident the mainstream media that had been mostly ignoring the instances of sexual harassment of women until then changed its attitude and started reporting them. What followed was a flood of daily reports of molestation of women from all across the country, big cities and rural areas alike. Most of the even well-educated Indians who were in denial of the magnitude of the problem and thought of them as isolated instances, were jolted when the reality stared them in the face.

Obviously the proliferation of the problem of sexual harassment of women has been there in most Indian cities for decades and the culprits are men in whose perception one of the primary functions of young women is to cater to their sexual urges. But if you look at the social mores of the Indian society you immediately see a dichotomy and contradiction of the roles of women. Ask any young woman who has ever traveled in a commuter public bus or train in any major city and she will tell you of her years of miserable experiences of men groping her body or rubbing their body against her. Or of making lewd calls on them in the streets. Or of ogling and staring at them viscously with obscene eyes. In my recent visit to New Delhi I observed that young women feel so threatened that they hesitate to ride alone not only in taxis but also in elevators and look for other women to accompany them.

At the same time in the Indian culture the social status of women has been sky high from ancient times. India's legends and mythologies are full of the exalted status of goddesses as the protectors & redeemers of the oppressed; of the super-high status of mothers in society and the huge credit given to them in the lives of their children and families; the tremendous bond of affection for sisters; the unparalleled vital role of daughters in the lives of their parents.

Yes the significant sexual harassment of women in public places in India has been around for years. However, cut back about thirty years to mid-1980s. That was before the advent of globalization and global economy and the modern culture and social mores that came with it to India about thirty years ago. The globalization culture suddenly made the media, TV, newspapers, magazines full of social reports and advertisements of products, the style of women's' garments etc far more permissive than what was ever seen before. The media started presenting a much more sexualized image of the female form than before and as being within the reach of the ordinary men. Suddenly the scenes on the campuses of colleges, the shopping centers and streets, the sporting events, the movie- houses changed dramatically and one could see India's own young women enthusiastically adapt those styles that one expected mostly from the Western White women.

Look at India's major century old English language respectable newspapers and see how they have adopted the style of tabloids, liberally showing on front pages women in permissive dresses titillating the imagination of men and flaunting the permissive lifestyles of starlets from Bollywood movies and TV shows. The electronic media has also embraced the permissive culture in a race with the print media.

Along with the change in clothing and media similar changes occurred in the Bollywood produced movies and TV shows. For sure Bollywood movies that used to make lovers sing songs to express their affection for each other broke the barriers and started showing intimate scenes between them. And the young women in movies and TV shows started wearing more provocative and revealing garments with matching lifestyles and come-hither looks. Bollywood movies and TV being the major source of entertainment in India, the new more permissive Bollywood products had a huge impact on the psyche of the ordinary Indian men in hugely increasing their sexual expectations.

Now the Indian man on the street is seeing not only the firangi women in firangi movies and TV shows and magazines, dress and act permissive; now they are seeing their own Desi woman try to match the permissiveness of the firangi women. Also soon the new boyfriend-girlfriend phenomenon jumped several notches among the young people on the college campuses, parks, streets etal in most cities.

Now most young men not only fantasize about having a girlfriend they are thinking of it as a standard way of life; the way it is in the firangi countries like America or Europe. As the media pushed the concept that India should make economic progress like the firangi countries, the young men started thinking also of the byproduct of having a firangi lifestyle, where intimate relationships among young men and women are considered normal. Not only the upper and middle class young men, but also the young men from the low income class have also developed similar expectations.

But as the imaginations of millions of young men in India took fancy flights, the ancient Indian traditional roles of mother, sister, daughter and goddesses stared them in the face on a daily basis. The dichotomy and contradiction between what they considered normal and what has been the millennia old traditions could not be more stark. Their bodies overpowered their minds. That is how many more young and not-so-young men in India started to make improper physical advances to the women in their vicinity and started justifying it to themselves as the normal behaviour of men in a resurgent nation.

Yet the number of women who considered more free and promiscuous lifestyles acceptable remained far smaller than men. The result is that today in India while a very large number of young men want to have a girlfriend ahead of marriage, a large number of young women do not want to have a boyfriend and instead want to wait for marriage to have relations with the opposite sex. As the Bollywood dialogue goes, "Hur murd ko bistar mein aurat chaahiye". In my recent visit to medium size cities like Lucknow and Kanpur in tradition- bound Uttar Pradesh I saw many 18 to 20 year old young men and women roaming freely on the streets in boyfriend-girlfriend manner. Only thirty years ago this scene could not have been imagined in these provincial cities.

The upshot of the imitation of the widespread firangi and modern culture is that in India more and more young men and not-so-young men are forcing themselves on the women on the streets and in their vicinity by any means available to them. The moral barriers of religion are falling off in this context. The perpetrators are from all religious, ethnic and economic communities. To the men, a woman is a woman and they are ready to exploit any situation that becomes available to them. Since in most instances the young women are not available, the men use force. Thus sexual molestation and rape is a tool that quite a few men are ready to use. That is why in the last five to ten years the incidence of rape and molestation of women has exploded across the country.

If you watch the recent BBC documentary "India's Daughter" and watch how non-chalantly Umesh Singh, one of the rapists and killers of Jyoti Singh in New Delhi in 2012, tells Leslie Udwin, the producer of the documentary, without any remorse that the victim should have cooperated with the rapists, it will blow your mind. You will be forced to think if it is the same India where countless idols of many of the revered goddeses in countless temples receive daily homages and prayers from multitudes of men seeking redressal for their sufferings. You wonder what has happened to Laxmi and Saraswati and Durga.

Clearly the Indian nation is aghast at this mushrooming of sexual violence against women and does not know how to control it. Regardless of how many and how stringent the laws may be, this awful situation cannot be brought under control until a basic change is brought into the attitudes of men. The primary onus to improve the situation lies on men. Yet the women also need to help in this situation by controlling the extent to which they adopt the permissive styles of dress and behaviour of the firangees. The media, TV and Bollywood should also put limits on the permissiveness in women's' dresses, behaviour patterns etc that they display daily in movies and TV shows..

It will be wrong to lay the blame for this awful situation on the firangi and modern countries. To some extent the problem lies with the very rapid transformation of India from a traditional country to a modern country. The nation is experiencing the pains of the hurried transformation. It should be noted that the transformation of gender- permissivity, women's' garments and media in the firangi countries occurred over almost a hundred years. Thus men had years to gradually adjust to it and not go berserk with sexual lust. Also in India very few people have respect for the laws of the land and believe in doing whatever they want as the implementation of laws is very lax It should be noted that a large number of people in the firangi countries disapprove of the extent of permissive behaviours and womens' dress styles that it has reached today. The firangi countries are also suffering its ill effects and many people are trying to tone it down.

Unfortunately permissive culture is a byproduct of the transformation to a liberal society that India is reaching into in a hurry. For sure none of the Indian institutions and society were ready for this byproduct as they hankered for the third world India to quickly transform into a first world country.

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