When women in India are in the spotlight, it’s often for an unfortunate reason. In 2012, gender specialists proclaimed India as “the worst place” for women among the G-20 countries. Many people will not question this data.
One example of India’s gender-based violence is the 2012 gang rape and murder of a woman, who was referred to as Nirbhaya, or “fearless one.” Nirbhaya’s murder brought about large protests and drew international attention, particularly because of its gruesome nature and drawn-out court case. The case also stirred a national conversation about rape, which is a subject still considered taboo in India.
Madhumita Pandey was finishing her master’s degree in England at the time. Like the rest of the world, she asked, “What prompts these men? What are the circumstances which produce men like this? I thought, ask the source.”
To get to the source, she interviewed 100 convicted rapists in India for over three years for her doctoral thesis in the criminology department of Anglia Ruskin University. Pandey conducted her interviews in Delhi’s Tihar Jail. She reports that most of the men she talked with were poorly educated, and most of them dropped out of school before the fifth grade.
“When I went to research,” she said, “I was convinced these men are monsters. But when you talk to them, you realize these are not extraordinary men, they are really ordinary. What they’ve done is because of upbringing and thought process.”
Pandey mentioned being surprised when she noticed herself beginning to feel sorry for these men.
“As a woman that’s not how you expect to feel. I would almost forget that these men have been convicted of raping a woman. In my experience a lot of these men don’t realize that what they’ve done is rape. They don’t understand what consent is. Then you ask yourself, is it just these men? Or is it the vast majority of men?”
To give a glimpse into the thought processes of these men, she spoke of one man in particular. While he did express remorse for raping a 5-year-old girl, it wasn’t what many might expect the remorse to entail.
“He said ‘yes I feel bad, I ruined her life.’ Now she is no longer a virgin, no one would marry her.’ Then he said, ‘I would accept her, I will marry her when I come out of jail.’”
Pandey’s work clearly displays that fixing this problem lies within changing Indian society’s view on women, rather than just punishing the perpetrators of sexual crimes.
She wrote that “right from childhood years children ought to be sensitized to respect women. A child should be taught to respect women in the society in the same way as he is taught to respect men. Gender equality should be made a part of the school curriculum.”
Hopefully, Pandey’s work shows others that society must change in order for women’s rights to progress.
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