I have been in India for the holiday break, currently in Hyderabad, a major city in the southern state of Andhra Pradesh. As you may have heard, India has been in an uproar in reaction to the violent sexual assault and death of a 23-year-old female student in Delhi. Despite the somber circumstances underlying the pandemonium, I have been inspired and even empowered by the extent to which the people of India have raised their voices in reaction to this tragedy.
Sexual violence and sexism are obviously not unique to India – through my work with BARCC and within my personal life, I have met so many people who have been subjected to sexual violence and I’m attentive to the gravely imbalanced gender-based power dynamics presented in the American media – and yet I find the fervor here in India to be very unique: crowded protests are taking place all over every major city; in the media, politicians are being heatedly challenged and other manifestations of sexism are being highlighted and scrutinized; in the streets, everyone is openly talking about this horrific tragedy and its implications. Overall, the media has been dominated by passionate and intellectual male and female government officials and heads of women’s organizations vehemently discussing this issue of gender-based and socioeconomic injustice. To be honest, I wish the US (which i.e. has significantly less representation of women in power than India) would fight their own cultural climate of sexism and sexual violence with this much fervor and insight.
I see that this story from India is all over US news, which risks painting India as this “sexist” country, when in actuality, the reason why the story is so big is because a massive portion of the Indian population has bravely, passionately, and angrily raised their voices to prioritize this case and cause – and they’re not letting down. Let’s use their actions as a wake-up call to rotate the lens toward our own country to do the same.