Fri | Jan 18, 2019

Benign patriarchy is deadly

Published:Sunday | January 6, 2013 | 12:00 AM
Members of the student wing of India's main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party try to break through a police cordon during a protest after the death of a young woman who was recently gang raped in a moving bus in New Delhi, India, last week Sunday.

Glenda Simms, Contributor

ON DECEMBER 16, 2012, a 23-year-old unnamed female medical student was brutally raped and excessively tortured by six men on a bus in Delhi, India. The horrendous description of what this young woman endured galvanised the entire world and when she succumbed to her injuries in a hospital in Singapore not too many people were surprised.

 Indeed, how many young women can survive the injuries caused by a metal pole that was rammed into her intestines after the human animals violated her body with their inadequate penis tools?

This incident became the defining moment in the struggle of Indian women for dignity, justice and equality in a society which is considered the largest democracy in the British Commonwealth of Nations. It is, therefore, not surprising that thousands of Indian women and their supporters have been continuously marching on the streets of Delhi demanding justice and real action from their government.

This tragedy in Delhi is part of the blue print of the benign democracies that in 2012 take pride in saying that they are civilised societies and that within their established bodies of legislation rooted in the Westminster Model, the majority of their people are fairly treated. This belief system is merely a façade and a cover up for the atrocities that continue to be meted out to women and girls on a daily basis in all countries of the world.

War against women

When we look at the issue of rape as the main tool of war against women and girls in the entire world we are forced to question the meaning of democracy and the reasons why justice for women and girls continues to be illusive under patriarchy.

Daily, in all societies, every woman needs to remind herself that rape is the deadliest of all crimes. It is a crime with a gender and one that has a long history, and most importantly, women must come to realise that it is men who rape and the laws that deal with rape are developed mostly by men in all societies. Essentially these are laws that are designed to defend the male prerogative.

To put these ideas in context we are reminded of what Suzan Brownmiller says in her book Against Our Will: Men, Women and Rape. She argues that:

"Man's discovery that his genitalia could serve as a weapon to generate fear must rank as one of the most important discoveries of prehistoric times, along with the use of fire and the first crude Stone Age axe. From prehistoric times to the present, I believe, rape has played a critical function. It is nothing more or less than a conscious process of intimidation by which all men keep all women in a state of fear."

These sentiments are reinforced by many news stories which are being carried about the rape of the Indian medical student in both printed and electronic media.

For instance, The Huffington Post in the December 27, 2012 edition reported another high profile and disturbing case of a 17-year-old Indian girl who was gang-raped during the Diwali festival and who committed suicide when she realised that she could not get justice in the land of her birth. It is reported that when this young woman tried to bring her case to the authorities she was advised by the police officers to marry her rapists or take a financial settlement from them. She then made that final decision to end her life - a rather courageous and bold step in dealing with such injustices.

In 2003, another young Indian woman was raped and her face permanently disfigured by acid. So horrendous was her appearance that she appealed to the High Court to be euthanised in order to end her pain and grief. The rapists in this case were found guilty and sentenced to nine years in jail. They were granted bail when they appealed to the High Court and were eventually set free.

It is, therefore, understandable that the most recent horrible case of rape in Delhi has galvanised the entire Indian society and one outcome from this horrible incident is the revision of an anti-rape law in Delhi. The Indo Asian News has reported that the minister of state for human resources development has been advocating that this law be named after the 23-year-old woman who was brutally gang-raped and tortured on a bus in Delhi.

In the glare of international and national outrage over this most inhumane act of violence, the young woman's relatives and friends are calling for the six rapists, which include a minor, to be hanged.

The victim has remained anonymous in accordance with India's laws; however, all over the world women do not need to know her name. They understand her pain and her final memories as she struggled for her life. She resides in the experience of far too many women who live in so called democracies. Indeed, India has always been described as the world's largest democracy firmly rooted in the "best" traditions of the Westminster Model.

Like other members in this exclusive Commonwealth club, the power brokers of India take great pleasure in informing the world that they have ratified the majority of the United Nations Human Rights Treaties including the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and have faithfully submitted their periodic reports to the UN bodies.

In the case of CEDAW, India would have proudly provided sex-disaggregated data on the progress of Indian women as they broke the frontiers in both the private and public sectors. We also know that a woman has served in the capacity of prime minister in India. Unfortunately she was assassinated by the men around her.

Wife beating acceptable

In spite of the impressive reports on the status of women, in 2011 the Times of India which is a relatively credible newspaper reported that 57 per cent of the Indian men between the ages of 17-25 thought that wife beating is quite acceptable. As surprisingly as this might seem, 53 per cent of women in the same age group also agreed with and accepted wife beating as the norm. The Times of India also posted "that over the years rape has become institutionalised in India and the authorities have either turned a blind eye or have been involved". The Times of India also argued that the security forces in the North India States of Jammi and Kashmir have used rape and molestation as punitive measures.

Like all the democracies in the British Commonwealth of Nations, India has been present at a number of Commonwealth parliamentary conferences held in a wide spread of nation States (Sir Lanka, United Kingdom, Kenya, Tanzania, Malaysia). In these fora the topics discussed and articulated by the graduates of the Ivy League Schools of the Americas, Europe and Asia include the following:

  • 2008 - Democracy and Global Peace - An International Order
  • 2009 - Coalition Governments - Parliamentary Democracy in Dilemma
  • 2010 - Nurturing Partnerships for Peace, Democracy and Development
  • 2011 - Climate Change
  • 2012 - Empowering Future Generations through Access to Health and Education and Vocational Training.

There is no doubt that volumes of proceedings, outcomes and recommendations have been produced and circulated amongst the upper crust and power brokers of all Commonwealth nations.

In spite of these events and outcomes there have been as many as 635 cases of rape reported to the Delhi Police between January and November 2012 - the highest in the past five years. Sadly there has only been one conviction, government data show.

Government data also show that the nations reported rape cases rose by nearly 17 per cent between 2007 and 2011. Official figures show that 228,650 of the total 256,329 violent crimes recorded last year in India were against women.

In short, the world's largest democracy is the perfect example of a benign patriarchal society which is characterised by a veneer of decency and economic development over a deep seated structure of historical and contemporary hatred against women and girls.

Glenda P. Simms PhD, is a gender expert and consultant. Send feedback to