By Abhishek Jha:
While following the debates that started after India’s Daughter was banned by the Indian state, I found myself repeatedly being directed to a Quora question. It hit the news soon. A professor had denied an internship opportunity to an Indian student citing India’s rape problem. Although the professor has formally apologised, there is a need to look at this incident.
Students from the sub-continent do face a lot of racism abroad. There is a possibility that a person of colour, a Muslim, or a bearded person could be profiled, discriminated against, assaulted, or believed to be a potential terrorist. The assumption of the professor that rape is an Indian problem is a racist one. Leslee Udwin herself said repeatedly in her interviews that the reason why she was drawn towards making a documentary on this particular incident of rape was because of the students’ protests that followed it; and one may add, they required no popular ambassadors to draw the attention of the masses.
To just give you a perspective, a UN Women report from 2012, which compiled surveys across countries, shows that 40% women in Germany have faced physical and/or sexual violence from partners or non-partners in their lifetime as compared to 35.4% women in India. Without getting vengeful (for the surveys in the compilation also belong to a different year, and there could be other surveys too), we can admit, at the very least, that violence against women happens all across the globe. The difference of a few percentages between countries is neither a ground for jingoistic chest thumping nor for generalised discrimination.
Rapes and sexual assaults are rooted in patriarchy and patriarchal customs and practices that are deeply entrenched in societies across the globe.
This leads to another interesting observation. The professor’s generalised comments almost assumed the “rape-problem” to be an Indian problem, from which Germany and its society can protect itself by banishing Indians. This is not very different from how some people responded to ‘India’s Daughter’. Just like the professor, some people committed the mistake of assuming that the rapist and his lawyers are a monstrous ‘other’, because of their comments.
The truth is that these very comments are made or have been made inside homes all across the world, and by people in positions of power all over the world. What we probably need to do is shed our prejudices and re-examine our understanding of things.