There is a school of thought in India that believes that anything in India is worse than anything outside. The most vocal supporters of this point of view are in effect agents of external powers, funded by NGOs with vested interests. Their reports of social problems in India need to be taken with a very large pinch of salt.
Violence against women falls into this category. Certain NGOs had a field day during the recent Gujarat riots, making irresponsible statements about rape as a deliberate and planned instrument of oppression. Similarly, stories of dowry deaths in India: no, folks, every second bride isn’t burned to death!
There is violence against women in India. But then this is true even in highly liberated America. The percentage of American women murdered by husbands and boyfriends is greater than the percentage of Indian women done in by husbands and in-laws. Since the population of India is three times greater than that of the U.S., the absolute numbers are large, but relatively speaking, it is a bigger problem in the U.S.
Of course it is not okay for men to harass women in India just because Americans do it too. I simply want to provide some perspective. Based on the fact that women are generally weaker physically, economically, and politically, all societies in the world are unfair to them. In the U.S., a woman only makes 70% of the salary for doing the same job as a man. Yes, after all these years of feminist rhetoric.
A problem in India is that because of economic backwardness and prudish Victorian ideas of segregation, women are not present in schools and offices to the same extent as men, so that there is little chance for many men to establish peer relationships with unrelated women. Therefore, when hormones act up, they harass women on the streets.
Indian society inherently is far more woman-friendly, because of Hindu ideas (with all those powerful female deities and the very concept of Mother India), than Christian societies (Eve as the easily tempted one who caused the fall of mankind) and Islamic societies (women as worth exactly half of a man, expected to be completely subservient). Furthermore, in India, it is an observed fact that it is matriarchs who wield power in families.
While there are surely instances of molestation and harassment as well as real violence, some of these will disappear with economic prosperity; others when there are more opportunities for young men and women to interact as equals in the workplace and colleges. Indian men, contrary to popular demonisation, are not violent, sexist pigs.
Rajeev Srinivasan wrote this opinion from Palo Alto, California.