09 January 2013

Mad World

Yesterday "Mad World" by Tears for Fears came up on my shuffle and I nearly cried. Had it been the version of the song from Donnie Darko, I probably would have cried. Events of the world have been weighing heavily on me lately. Mostly in India, but the United States, Central Africa, and Afghanistan/Pakistan have not been to far from the front of my mind either. Hearing the song made something "click" and I suddenly felt like I knew better how to express some of what I've been feeling lately.

By now the world has heard about the young woman in Delhi who was gang raped and subsequently died from the assault injuries. But she is just one small piece of the women's issues here in India. Here is a sampling from today's newspaper:
A spiritual leader said that if the Delhi woman had prayed and asked for mercy from her rapists, they would not have raped her and perhaps divine intervention would have prevented her from getting on the bus in the first place. He later said that he didn't say those things and offered to apologize if he offended anyone. 
A politician was arrested for crimes including hate speech, which is a capital offense, but law scholars are arguing that the death penalty should not be considered for rapists. 
Under the headline "21-point resolution for women's protection passed" the first line of the article is "A 21-point resolution for protection of the fairer sex was passed at a seminar on sexual violence against women conducted by the Andhra Pradesh Judicial Academy [emphasis mine]." 
A 16-year-old girl was gang raped but it wasn't reported until she tried to commit suicide by setting herself on fire. She's in critical condition at a hospital. 
A top state-level official Chhattisgarh (if not the governor, then someone nearly as high-ranking) blamed "planetary positions" on the current increase of assault on women. According to him, "Only astrologers can explain this."
It's like this every day. It's exhausting.

In in my own Indian microcosm, this wasn't in the paper but I heard that a five-year-old girl in our neighborhood was lured to a construction site with candy. Whether there was a rape or attempted rape is unclear and doesn't really matter. It's horrible either way. It might have been one of the little girls that Muffin sometimes plays with in the neighborhood park and that hits too close to home.

And what feels like the last straw for me, our housekeeper's husband has been beating her and her daughter and she refuses to go to the police about it. I can't report it for her due to the wonderful intricacies of the Indian legal system; they hardly care when a (poor, lower-class) woman reports abuse herself, let alone when an expat does it on her behalf. There's even a Women Police Office not far from her home, full of female police officers whose job it is specifically to protect female and child victims and investigate women-specific crimes. She has her reasons for not going and all I can do is ask her every day if she's reported it or not. I'm getting tired of hearing the same answer though. I urged her to make sure her daughter has the phone numbers and knows where the WPO is in case she's ever in trouble on her own. I'm hoping her daughter, a 19-year-old university student, can grasp the situation a little differently than her mother and will seek help. I know this is not a problem specific to women in India; I know women in the United States are abused and do not go to the police for a variety of reasons. I can't help but think though that in the United States a woman has a better chance of being protected and supported once she does seek help.

I'm not sure what my purpose is in sharing all this. I think I needed to let people in on what's been on my mind lately; share some of the headlines you won't see on CNN. I also needed to purge some of these thoughts from my head. I feel a little guilty making myself feel better, though, when that's not going to help any of the women and girls in these stories. I can extend a little influence on my housekeeper and I can protect Muffin and myself. That's about it. I feel better, writing it out, but not good.


Deanna said...

I fully understand the way you feel. Ironically, just within the last hour, I started drafting a similar blog post which I hope to finish later today. It can definitely be overwhelming...

Dani said...

I hear you! Between the rape scandal, the corruption scandals, hitting the 5 month mark at post (almost) and the holidays, I've been feeling a little down on India the last few weeks too. At least the weather here in Delhi is not too bad, i think that's the saving grace right now!

Karen said...

Writing this material on your blog DOES help these women, even if in a very small way. Bringing these issues out into the open to the rest of the world is very important. Sometimes I think as "western" women we can sit in our happy little worlds without realising what's going on around us. The more exposure these crimes get, the more disgust is felt and hopefully these crimes can be dealt with. Hopefully too, the crimes become less and less.
Yes, it is hard to think and talk about, but as women, WE MUST do just that to help begin protection to other women and girls.

Clare said...

I read your blog aloud this evening at the dinner table. It was an eye opening look into the everyday issues facing India's women and girls. You did a great job covering the simplicity yet magnitude of their problems.

Elaina said...

Just catching up on some reading: This is EXACTLY why I didn't enjoy India as much as I could have. There was a lot of talk about how the caste system was no longer in place and women are much better off and there was this element of dismissal like, "See- we're just like the rest of the world, so back off." Meanwhile, I was seeing injured animals and women begging on the streets with their injured babies (is that a fake bandage or did you cut her up this morning?) and the time we stopped on the side of the road to take pictures of the astoundingly beautiful mustard fields and a motorcycle with 2 guys on it stopped and they got off and started walking towards the 3 female tourists. At the time, I said from the safety of the car, "what the hell did they think they were going to do?" And then I heard about the woman raped in Delhi and my brain went to a very dark place. India has so much further to go than I think it realizes. I hope to see it improve in my lifetime to the point that I can go back and actually enjoy myself.