Recently two disturbing stories have come out related to the rape or assault of women. A 30-year old American tourist from California was the latest prominent victim in the gang-rape epidemic which has shocked India and the world for its prevalence, brutality, and what it says about Indian culture. We have been following this thread with great alarm, and it is giving India an incredibly bad name at a time when the nation is trying to assert itself on the world stage. The gang-rape in Manali is just the latest in a horrific string of incidents that have taken place involving both tourists and local Indian women since last year.
Meanwhile, the US military has been exposed for being extremely lax in its responses to a pile of harassment, rape, and gang-rape cases by men against their female counterparts in uniform. According to one estimate a stunning 26,000 American soldiers, mostly female but also male, have been assaulted or raped by other soldiers just in the last year. A Senate hearing was held this week with the US military’s top brass to explore the problem and find a solution. But in this case too, the epidemic has been going on for many years without sufficient action. In 1991 the US Navy’s Tailhook scandal showed a widespread cancer in the system, and the same tired theme crops up well over two decades later.
In both India as a country and with the US military as an organization, the common thread is a culture of male chauvinism and a painful lack of action by either the community at large or the authorities.
Most would agree this is unacceptable behavior. Indian women usually work hard at home, in the fields, or at a job, give birth to children, and take care of their families. In many cases they are abused in the home by their husbands and in-laws. To have to endure the additional suffering of gang-rape or its very real potential on the street or while traveling is simply too much.
Just as despicable is the lot of the American women in uniform who are being violated by their comrades in arms. These women are not only the mothers, daughters, sisters and wives of American families who depend on them; they are placed in harm’s way in order to protect their country. For them to be treated so poorly in return by those who are sworn to have their back in combat and other dangerous situations is absolutely disgusting. Once the violation itself is over, they suffer the additional ignominy of watching the military’s pathetic investigation processes which have resulted in very few real convictions or consequences as commanders sweep the issue under the rug.
This behavior is not becoming for the world’s greatest military machine, nor the country that likes to think of itself as one of the great seats of spirituality globally. American and Indian women deserve better, as do the tourists who come to India to find the heart of a supposedly great civilization with ancient traditions successfully passed on until today. We should all be sick to our stomachs.
The path forward should be clear to resolve both sets of problems: swift justice in the form of hard and long prison sentences both for those who perpetrate the crimes, and those who would cover them up. They need to be made an example of. Only then will the cultures be changed.
The US military establishment has proven incapable of such action. Outside authorities with real legal teeth must be enlisted into the US services from the outside. In India’s case, special investigators must be appointed on a national scale to solve these crimes and take measures to prevent such behavior in the future. Women cannot be treated like dogs anymore in modern India.
We aren’t Neanderthals with our knuckles dragging on the goddamn ground. It’s the year 2013. I look forward to hearing about some results soon.