Mumbai’s Shame
January 2, 2008 8:31 AM   Subscribe

As two women were molested by a mob of 70 to 80 men on New Year’s Eve in Mumbai, all Mumbai’s top cop has to say is—it happens everywhere, and admonishes the media for making a mountain out of a molehill. This, after a similar incident had taken place at the Gateway of India, exactly one year ago.
posted by hadjiboy (65 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

 
Also, it's being said that the two women were NRI's (Non Residents of India, from California), but I'm not sure if they were Indian NRI's or American.

By the way--isn't Time Square teaming with something like a million people close to New Year's Eve, and you never get to hear about incidents like this ever happening--do you?
posted by hadjiboy at 8:34 AM on January 2, 2008


"Kay karel..."

::spits::
posted by Gyan at 8:39 AM on January 2, 2008


Times Square is heavily policed on New Year's Eve.

Crowd control is tight, too. I suspect if you had a group of dozens of men getting rowdy and menacing, the cops would break it up pretty quickly.
posted by jason's_planet at 8:45 AM on January 2, 2008


(I use the verb "suspect" because I haven't been to the Times Square celebrations in years.)
posted by jason's_planet at 8:46 AM on January 2, 2008


By the way--isn't Time Square teaming with something like a million people close to New Year's Eve, and you never get to hear about incidents like this ever happening--do you?

Not too often. America has these crazy ideas about equality between the sexes. Some American men actually view women as equals! Not just as an equal vote, but as human beings of equal value and deserving of respect - just like another man. It's like this in some other countries too. Here in Stockholm, for example, women can walk ALONE IN PUBLIC or in crowds without fear of being molested and groped. It's quite amazing.
posted by three blind mice at 8:55 AM on January 2, 2008 [6 favorites]


Third link It happens everywhere: Mumbai top cop on molestation.
Fourth link Party animals strip girl, molest her in public view.
posted by adamvasco at 8:56 AM on January 2, 2008


Police were present, but no charges were laid. What an ugly euphemism teasing is. A couple of your links are b0rked, I think 'similar incident' should go here (an excellent blog, by the way).
posted by tellurian at 9:03 AM on January 2, 2008


Also, it's being said that the two women were NRI's (Non Residents of India, from California), but I'm not sure if they were Indian NRI's or American.

Is this relevant?

isn't Time Square teaming with something like a million people close to New Year's Eve, and you never get to hear about incidents like this ever happening--do you?

There was a story in the Guardian last week where a woman told how she went into London for Millennium eve and on leaving a tube station was in a crowd so packed she couldn't even raise her arms. She was sexually assaulted, as was her friend, and from the shouts she heard from other women in the crowd she thinks other were as well. Unfortunately I can't find the article but IIRC she couldn't see who was molesting her and didn't report it to the police, this didn't mean it didn't happen merely that it wasn't reported, presumably as she felt nothing could be done. This highlights a couple of points, one, that it isn't always possible to police dense crowds, two, that just because you don't hear of things like this happening in Times Square doesn't mean it doesn't happen.
posted by biffa at 9:08 AM on January 2, 2008


Well christ. I just spent like 10 minutes googling for the story we had here a few weeks ago about, IIRC, the Jets stadium entrance where any women coming in had to show their breasts or get pelted by cups and stuff. This was intended to be illustrative of how the US isn't exactly 100% up to snuff either (which doesn't excuse Mumbai--this was more in reference to the Times Square remark). It turned out to be more illustrative of my degenerating googling skillz, which will no doubt be underscored even further by the next comment, which will link to exactly what I'm talking about.
posted by DU at 9:24 AM on January 2, 2008 [2 favorites]


Here DU.
posted by Benjy at 9:29 AM on January 2, 2008 [2 favorites]


23 ways to prevent molestation in public - "The bitter truth - This can happen to any girl or woman anywhere in India." FFS - how to prevent!
posted by tellurian at 9:30 AM on January 2, 2008 [1 favorite]


I've been watching The Amazing Race for years, and they always go to India, often showing cases of the female contestants being manhandled or threatened with such on trains and in some public areas. This is, of course, much worse, but in a similar vein.

What do you expect when society is so repressed sexually that a kiss in the media is a big deal?
posted by cmgonzalez at 9:37 AM on January 2, 2008


America has these crazy ideas about equality between the sexes. Some American men actually view women as equals! Not just as an equal vote, but as human beings of equal value and deserving of respect - just like another man.

Bullshit. That might be what we say, but just look at American advertising for examples of just how "equal" women are. "Just like another man" -- gee, glad I can measure up to be just as good as a man.

Another example of the same issues with women's safety in public places: What about the "wilding" attacks on about 50 women at 2000 Puerto Rican Day parade in New York that led to 175 arrests? There were police there, too, and in many cases, they refused to help.
posted by runningwithscissors at 9:50 AM on January 2, 2008


runningwithscissors, I think you need to re-read that (or not, I can't quite tell) [I do know it's 'teeming' though].
posted by tellurian at 9:59 AM on January 2, 2008


"By the way--isn't Time Square teaming with something like a million people close to New Year's Eve, and you never get to hear about incidents like this ever happening--do you?"

It does happen, but it doesn't make the news. Some of the videos of 'sideshows' in Oakland where everyone is 'gettin hyphy' involve mob groping. there were a few on youtube, but seem to have been removed. One included girls being dragged out of their Escalade by a mob, slapped around, clothes torn off, and the mob was laughing about it. No news reports about it, just a home video found on youtube.

It happens here, it just gets ignored by the media.
posted by drstein at 10:13 AM on January 2, 2008


I think the real underlying cause of this is not sexual repression (that's more of an attempt to cope with it, I believe), but that a generation of selective abortion of so many girls in India (supplemented by female infanticide) in favor of boys has produced a critical mass of young men who have no hope of having exclusive girlfriends or wives because the women for that simply do not exist.

The only hope for consensual heterosexual sexual contact for these men is prostitution, and that will further reduce the number of potential wives and girlfriends.

It doesn't take that many wild young men determined to have sex with a woman even if they must commit rape to do it to completely destroy the possibility of any real participation by women in ordinary public life; as these incidents show, these men form into spontaneous mobs at any momentary opportunity, and they are almost impossible for police to control.

The solution I fear India will come to, and China as well, because of a similar problem there, is to force these men into the army and provoke border wars to reduce their numbers. Not only would such an approach result in death, destruction and carnage and potentially stimulate a nuclear arms race which is already smoldering, it would make the military a much greater political force than it is now, and that political force will have strong overtones of frustration and bitterness against civil society-- altogether a recipe for utter disaster.
posted by jamjam at 10:14 AM on January 2, 2008 [5 favorites]


runningwithscissors: Drawing false equivilancies is not particularly helpful. Yes, the USA has a problem with sexual harrassment, rape, and so forth. No, the problem in the USA is nowhere near the level it is in India, and claiming that it is does little but make you look foolish.

jamjam I fear you are correct about both the causes (at least in part, we can't ignore the rampant sexism in India either), and the possible outcome.

However, a military expansion and war isn't the only other possibility. Many scholars have concluded that a sex imbalance in China amplified, if not caused, the horrors of the Cultural Revolution.
posted by sotonohito at 10:27 AM on January 2, 2008 [1 favorite]


gee, glad I can measure up to be just as good as a man.

Wait, what? Your definition of equality involves women being considered better than men?
posted by davejay at 10:28 AM on January 2, 2008


Wait, what? Your definition of equality involves women being considered better than men?

More likely that men not be used as the yardstick by which women are compared to and instead, a more neutral measure.
posted by cmgonzalez at 10:32 AM on January 2, 2008 [2 favorites]


And by men there, I meant men's accomplishments, men's abilities, men's standards, etc. Being equal to men is the goal, but maybe we can measure that with a non-gender specific standard.
posted by cmgonzalez at 10:35 AM on January 2, 2008


jamjam says: 'I think the real underlying cause of this is not sexual repression'
'prostitution, and that will further reduce the number of potential wives and girlfriends.'
'they are almost impossible for police to control'
'force these men into the army and provoke border wars to reduce their numbers'
No, wrong, no and WTF.

posted by tellurian at 10:35 AM on January 2, 2008


Fucking mob mentality; it consistently amazes me how ratcheted up a crowd can get just based on the perception "hey, look at what the guy next to me is doing, it must be ok!"

Perfectly normal and rational people, most of the time anyways, can be reduced to animals in minutes.

I hate that shit.

That said, I wonder how places like Mumbai would deal with it if the rolls were reversed: If dozens of women descended on some poor hapless male, tore off his cloths and groped him without permission.

Who am I kidding, their tourism would probably skyrocket.

posted by quin at 10:42 AM on January 2, 2008


quin If you want to imagine a genuinely equivilant situation imagine a group of *homosexual* men decending on a man, ripping his clothes off, and groping him. Most men, if you said "hey, a group of random women want to grope you" would say "sure!". Make it abuse of men by homosexual men and you get a better picture of how the women feel.
posted by sotonohito at 10:45 AM on January 2, 2008 [1 favorite]


The first link describes what the women were wearing: "one in a black dress, the other in a jeans and top." I know very little about Indian culture. Does this seem like inappropriate dress for the event or for a public place? It seems like mentioning their wardrobe is implying that they somehow brought it upon themselves.
posted by desjardins at 10:57 AM on January 2, 2008


Wait, what? Your definition of equality involves women being considered better than men?

More likely that men not be used as the yardstick by which women are compared to and instead, a more neutral measure.

...And by men there, I meant men's accomplishments, men's abilities, men's standards, etc. Being equal to men is the goal, but maybe we can measure that with a non-gender specific standard.


Yes, thank you, cmgonzalez -- that's what I meant.

I wasn't very clear in my post; I got all ranty and quickly dashed off something. Aside from countering three blind mice's comment about women being viewed as equals in America, I wanted to point out that we do have some of the same problems as pointed out in the original post: women aren't valued in many cultures; we just don't hear about it (or it doesn't trigger as much of an outcry when it's in our own backyard, perhaps).
posted by runningwithscissors at 11:07 AM on January 2, 2008 [1 favorite]


I thought that too, desjardins.

On a different subject, I'm reminded of the work of the feminist artist Valerie Export who put herself into a box with a little curtain in front and walked around in public allowing men to reach into the box and grope her. Here is a worksafe photo (link to google books, the photo is on the second half of that page). There's a different, much more disturbing photo (which I can't find) of the same event showing several hundred men crowded around her in the street.
posted by The Loch Ness Monster at 11:18 AM on January 2, 2008 [1 favorite]


From tellurian's link:

23 ways to prevent molestation in public

1) Do not go walk around in any crowded public place (meaning - packed with people)


I've never been to India, but doesn't that pretty much eliminate most of the country?
posted by gottabefunky at 11:43 AM on January 2, 2008


I am surprised that "Move out of India." did not make the list.
posted by Mr_Zero at 11:59 AM on January 2, 2008


A bit more about Valie Export's "Tapp und Tastkino" can be found
here (including a short film clip from the event).
posted by effbot at 12:00 PM on January 2, 2008 [1 favorite]


gottabefunky Yes, it does, and that's actually the point. Its called "barrier harassment", and its purpose is, as its name implies, to throw up a barrier to any woman attempting to interact in the public sphere. The goal is to drive women out of the public sphere, back to small, atomized, spaces where they can be more easily subjugated.
posted by sotonohito at 12:02 PM on January 2, 2008 [3 favorites]


The whole business is disgusting, especially the Police Commissioner's response.
posted by caddis at 12:10 PM on January 2, 2008


I'm not at all surprised. Molesting, eve-teasing, whatever you want to call it, is just a massive problem for women in India. Part of it is general sexual repression, and part of it is the skewed sex ratio, but I think a big contributor is the simple desire to control women. I spent five months living in the quite conservative city of Jaipur, and I quickly learned what public behavior was allowed by women, and what would result in harassment. If you dress conservatively, don't make eye contact, cover your hair and preferrably your face with a scarf, don't speak to men you don't know well, go everywhere accompanied by a male or older female relative, and don't make physical contact with anybody, you will not be bothered. If, on the other hand, you dress the way you like, go out by yourself, act unafraid-- then you can expect to be groped and propositioned constantly.
posted by bookish at 12:39 PM on January 2, 2008


The first link describes what the women were wearing: "one in a black dress, the other in a jeans and top." I know very little about Indian culture. Does this seem like inappropriate dress for the event or for a public place?

Seems like Western-style dress, which from my (10-year-old) memories of India, would be relatively uncommon: saris tend to be the standard.

For those comparing this to Western countries; obviously there is sexism and sexual crime in the US, etc, but I suspect it is far worse in India, with much more going unreported. (The Western dress implies to me that these women were maybe middle-upper class, so more likely to have a voice in the media - would any Indian Mefites be able to confirm/deny that?).
posted by Infinite Jest at 12:44 PM on January 2, 2008


From 23 ways to prevent molestation in public:
“13) Any woman who sits in a restaurant alone or is in fact even walking alone is considered a fair target by road-side romeos. By this I mean that there will be eve-teasing.”

My wife can draw and hit three targets center mass in just over one second. I’m just sayin’

So...folks over there haven’t discovered masturbation? I found when I was younger a “jerk off, then re-think it” mentality saved me a whole lotta trouble. Of course, alcohol nearly always insures you end up in bed with someone you might not have otherwise considered.
But given jamjam’s (et.al) assessments, that’s probably not the problem.
I don’t know. Not to make light of it, but I suspect I’d be Costanza-like if I didn’t even consider having sex anymore. I suspect it’s not only the sexual repression, but the sexual tension as well - there seems to be a lot of phallic festivals in India.
Hindi (et.al), really Indian culture in general is loaded with sublimated sexuallity (say, isn’t that where the Kama Sutra came from?).
So there’s this whole STOP!GO!STOP! thing going on.

...these people have atomic weapons, you know that....
posted by Smedleyman at 12:56 PM on January 2, 2008


What jamjam and others are talking about (link):
Nearer home, the recent marriage practice adopted by the Gujjar community of Rajasthan could well spread into the larger context, if States like Punjab, which has 793 girl children in the zero to six age group, to 1,000 male children, Chandigarh (845/1,000), Haryana (820/1,000), Gujarat (878/1,000), Maharashtra (917/1,000) and Orissa (950/1,000), fail to check the free fall of the female to male population. Not many parents of girls in the Gujjar community are willing to give their daughters in marriage to Gujjar males owing to various reasons.

The practice adopted by the Gujjar males to counter the unavailability of women is to have the most eligible brother bring home a bride who could be from a different community. Eventually the woman is shared by up to four brothers. She keeps house for all of them and bears their children too.


The same article mentions that in China, boys aged 0-4 outnumber girls by 20%. And I agree that the outcome here is enormous military enrollment.
posted by Pastabagel at 1:07 PM on January 2, 2008


India has oh so many ways in which to humiliate women.
posted by caddis at 1:20 PM on January 2, 2008


I'm gonna go with the top cop -- it *does* happen everywhere.

The mob mentality (throw in a bit of booze, just to assure disaster) isn't unique to any culture. Drunken assholes will be drunken assholes and I've catered some pretty ugly bachelorette parties.

This doesn't excuse the lack of sensitivity on the part of the Mumbai police, but I wouldn't be too quick to put a "cultural" connotation on the incident itself.
posted by cedar at 1:22 PM on January 2, 2008


Most men, if you said "hey, a group of random women want to grope you" would say "sure!".

sotonohito, your male friends must be one or more of the following: in their early to mid-20s; single; not getting laid; socially awkward; or perhaps just very promiscuous. At least, those are the perspectives I imagine would lead one to think you'd be OK with mob assault (it's by women so it's awesome!).

I don't think you should project your willingness to be groped by mobs of strangers onto the rest of us men. I for one--and nearly all of my male friends, excepting the single ones in their mid-20s--would most certainly object to being groped and stripped in the street by mobs of sexually frustrated women. I find it hard to believe anyone can think that would be in any way a positive experience unless one is absolutely desperate for female attention.
posted by LooseFilter at 1:33 PM on January 2, 2008 [2 favorites]


By the way--isn't Time Square teaming with something like a million people close to New Year's Eve, and you never get to hear about incidents like this ever happening--do you?

It does happen here too, not just in the developing world. This story reminded me of this incident in 2000, where up to 50 women reported being assaulted in Central Park during the Puerto Rican Day Parade and were ignored by police on the scene. However, I do hear many anecdotes about how much worse groping and such are in places like India and South American countries. I won't postulate as to why, but I doubt it only stems from their lacking our "crazy ideas about equality between the sexes."
posted by wowbobwow at 1:51 PM on January 2, 2008


India is infamous, but this happens in a lot of places, unfortunately. I first learned a lot about proactive self defense during visits to Tijuana in college, and let's just say my friend Lisa and I have some lovely memories of being cornered by a group of Penang, Malaysian men, tiny peni in hand (their hands not ours). And Egypt has had some sadly common problems with public groping as well.

When I talk to my guy traveling friends, I tend to feel insanely jealous that they don't ever think about having to navigate around that stuff. The just don't relate to it. By necessity, potential assult or rape is always in the back of your mind when you travel alone as a woman, though. Although it doesn't always work, the biggest proactive deterrence I've found is sunglasses because at least you're saved from accidental eye contact... in some places, one glance into the wrong direction and it can feel like you've swam into the jellyfish nest from Finding Nemo.

Fortunately, in some places it gets easier as you get older though. In my 20s, Italy was really stressful due to the harrassment and pinching I'd get. I had one guy actually SIT on me in a park and refuse to move. Nowadays Italian men mostly just wonder aloud if I have a daughter.
posted by miss lynnster at 1:54 PM on January 2, 2008 [1 favorite]


LooseFilter, I'm single and in my mid-20s, and I would object. I hate strangers touching me, and a lot of strangers touching me sexually would be terrible, even if they were attractive women.
posted by sonic meat machine at 2:00 PM on January 2, 2008


No, wrong, no and WTF.
tellurian, you got anything more substantive than this on this? It's pretty uncontroversial that there are knock-on effects stemming from severe gender imbalances in social groups, and I don't know if you just don't believe that at all, or don't accept jamjam's conclusions.
posted by bonaldi at 2:00 PM on January 2, 2008


Y'all quoting the gender ratio imbalances have it backward. That's the symptom, not the cause (admitting it certainly doesn't help the situation). As much as I couldn't help rolling my eyes at the naivete of TBM's "crazy ideas about equality between the sexes" statement, those crazy ideas really are a large part of the picture. Such large imbalances would not occur if both genders were equally welcome.

Despite the perfectly appropriate gut reaction of 'OMG, heathens!', I do not personally believe that the over all situation is in decline. Eve-teasing existed long before the adorable little term for it was coined. The improvement is in the fact that you hear reports and related discussion... and this probably applies ten-fold if you happen to be male.
posted by zennie at 2:59 PM on January 2, 2008


LooseFilter Did I piss in your Wheaties this morning or something?

Yes, I left out the phrase "of that type" when I wrote "most men", sorry about that, I assumed it was a given due to the way quin phrased his last comment.

My point, my only point, was that if you want to try and get that sort of thug to actually empathize with the situation, its best to play to his (likely) fears. Its a technique I picked up from a person on one of the radfem blogs I frequent. She said that a (large, muscular) male friend of hers told her that he always thought rape was kind of funny because he couldn't imagine a woman forcing him to have sex. So she suggested that he consider how it'd be if a few big men raped him, and he suddenly stopped seeing rape as funny.

The point is if you want to try and shake up that kind of man's thinking, you can't just say "well, what if a bunch of women did it to you", becuase they'll pull out the "heh, it'd be great dood!" line. So hit 'em from a different angle, and poking their homophobia buttons is a good angle. That's my point, and I'd appreciate it if you stopped being such a jackass about it.
posted by sotonohito at 3:46 PM on January 2, 2008



As a long-time New Yorker, I have to say that the street harassment here has dropped dramatically since the 70's and that's not just because I'm no longer 13. Back then, if you walked near a construction site and were female, you really had to be prepared for a huge barrage of comments and perhaps some gropes.

Certain neighborhoods including Times Square just felt unsafe even if you were dressed in the most boring clothes imaginable. Men would leer from doorways and due to the crime rate, it actually *was* pretty dangerous.

Now, I see gorgeous young girls walk past lines of construction workers in silence. And the Puerto Rican Day Parade incident a few years back was the source of much outrage because such things actually have become quite rare here.
posted by Maias at 4:18 PM on January 2, 2008 [1 favorite]


This is my first post on the blue, so Hi MeFi.

This story touched a nerve. As a woman who grew up in Mumbai in the 80s and 90s, I agree with most of the suggestions in tellurian's link.

We moved to a new neighborhood when I was seven and I put up with "teasing" by some local louts , a few years older than me, for the next seven years. This is not the oh-so-cute pulling pigtails from commercials. They would relentlessly yell my name, ask me out, block my way and follow me. I would dread leaving and returning home.

My parents tried to intervene, but it did not work, they couldn't be with me all the time and I resented not having any independence. The longest respite I had was when I punched one of them for touching me and knocked him to the ground. I was about 10 and the most dire threat I could utter was next time I would stomp on him. But after that they didn't bother me for months and after that, only in groups. It finally stopped when they got jobs.

I always found retaliating helped. I always carried a divider ( the pointy thing you use in geometry class) and an umbrella. A swat on the hand with the plastic end of the umbrella or a sharp jab would make wandering hands withdraw very quickly. My rule of thumb regarding crowds has always been, can I swing my umbrella?

We all found ways to cope. All the tips they give in the US for women to be safe in parking lots and at nights, I had figured them out by the time I was 10. It took me a long time to relax my guard, even after I came to the US. It was almost two years before I stopped counting the number the people within shouting distance, surreptitiously checking if anyone's shadow seemed to be gaining on me, etc.

I can predict my relatives' reaction in India. They will blame the victim. "what were they doing there at that time of night?" This has more to do with putting as much distance between the victim and yourself, rather than lack of empathy. They all know it could be them, or someone they love, next. A few years back there was a wave of burning/ throwing acid on women who had rejected the perpetrators. Each time, the only way I could leave the house the next day was convince myself that the victim must have done something to cause it.

The shameful part here is not just the fact that it happened, Mumbai really was a very safe city once. It is the attitude. Some other comments point out that this happens elsewhwere, but when it happened in NYC, 175 men were arrested. There will be no such arrests here. These miscreants are not being punished, they don't see what they did as wrong. It was all in good fun.

I am sorry if this was too personal for the first date. And on preview, way too long. While I do not consider myself a victim, the way these women are, I thought this point of view was missing from the discussion and hence the rambling post.
posted by avaa at 4:50 PM on January 2, 2008 [22 favorites]


Anyone know why do the newscaster and papers keep referring to them as "girls"? Is that normal in India? Or were they really girls, (like under 15 or so)?
posted by small_ruminant at 5:41 PM on January 2, 2008


Most men, if you said "hey, a group of random women want to grope you" would say "sure!".

Bullshit
posted by caddis at 5:52 PM on January 2, 2008


In the 10 years I lived in India I generally found the men to be deeply respectful, considerate and comfortable to be around and observed that women of all nationalities and ages also felt basically the same way. It was the safest place I have ever felt as a female anywhere on the planet and that was among the many reasons I loved living there.

After traveling across Turkey, Iran and Afghanistan, where there was a constant danger of being raped, it was astonishing to arrive in India and see women in a rainbow of colored saris with their sexy bellies bared and men in a rainbow of colors too. Women and men seemed to honor each other in India. I loved that.

I lived alone for 6 years in a remote village, trekked alone, traveled the entire length and breadth of the country numerous times with almost no problem.

Once in 1985, while working in the fashion business in New Delhi, I got groped by a teen, while I was walking back from the market, in broad daylight. It was a shock. And once on a trek to Spiti in 1980, right on the Tibetan border there were two separate instances within 2 days in which men tried to rape me. One was a Tibetan nomad and when I started praying he burst into tears, stopped harassing me on the spot. The very next day 3 Sikh truck drivers approached me while I had high altitide sickness and had taken refuge in a roadside hut. When one of the drivers entered the hut and started to molest me, the others looking on, I said the word "Baghawan" (which means God), several times and they left.

Not having pornography or easy sex in India did not, in my experience, make men more lascivious. Men routinely call women "sister' and women call men "brother". It was such a relief to live in a country in which everything is not so blatantly sexualized. People could just be people with each other, have friendly, non-sexualized conversations. I've missed that intensely living outside of India. News of this gang groping saddens me and I think jamjam made a good point about the female infanticide.

I think of India as an advanced civilization in many ways and I hope this new generation finds a way for males and females to live together peacefully and happily.
posted by nickyskye at 8:26 PM on January 2, 2008 [1 favorite]


This shit used to happen (and maybe still does, though I haven't heard any stories recently) at Caribana in Toronto.
posted by chunking express at 8:56 PM on January 2, 2008


I don’t know where to start exactly; I’m sorry for posting this and not being able to follow up on it, until now. nickyskye, thankyou as always for your invaluable perspective, it means a lot to me. Like you, I arrived here in India as a foreigner too, about 15 years ago, and having grown up on Western Media (American mostly), I was surprised by the way my classmates (and people in general) treated each other. There was a yearly tradition of tying Rakhi at my school, which I thought was just a cute way of getting close to the girl you liked, but I was quickly educated on what it means to be a Rakhi Brother. People here took it seriously. There was just so much of love and respect for one another; it felt nice. Of course, that didn’t mean that we didn’t have cases where women were badly abused—like avaa points out (those cases of jilted men throwing acid on their targets, and scarring them for life). But, three blind mice’s post about “America and Stockholm” being some paragons of male virtue towards their female counterparts is laughable. I’m not saying that all Swedes are women abusing lotharios, but for three blind mice to imply that women are any less safe in India as they are anywhere else in the world is ludicrous—women are, and have been targets of men in every society, everywhere on earth, and for an incident like this to happen here just reinforces that.
posted by hadjiboy at 10:35 PM on January 2, 2008


Seven held in Mumbai molestation case

Top cop faces Deputy CM wrath

Police to collect all photographs of Mumbai molestation case

Couple speaks out about horror
posted by hadjiboy at 10:41 PM on January 2, 2008 [1 favorite]


Is this relevant?

Not sure, I mean if you’re a tourist planning to come to India, I thought you might like to be aware of this stuff, along with all the other good stuff that’s out there.

Also, the dresses that they were wearing—I’m not sure why they mentioned that either—whether it was for context or did they mean something else by it. Although, the journalists were the first ones to alert the cops to what was going on, and it seems like whenever something like this happens, they’re always there to capture the moment and make sure that word gets out that stuff like this is taking place here.
posted by hadjiboy at 10:47 PM on January 2, 2008


When I talk to my guy traveling friends, I tend to feel insanely jealous that they don't ever think about having to navigate around that stuff. The just don't relate to it

It took me years before I felt safe enough to not feel the need to constantly look over my shoulder and wonder if there's someone following me (boys get molested too), so I know how it feels.
posted by hadjiboy at 10:58 PM on January 2, 2008


hadjiboy, Your comment prompts me to examine the differences in comfort I feel as a woman in America and in India.

In India I felt safer as a woman because it was a matter of honor (such as virginity, having a valued role within a family such as a wife or daughter, mother or grandmother, religious person who took a vow of chastity) that I should not be violated. I felt that my value as a woman was largely dependent on being perceived to be a person of honorable character, as a sister or a lady.

Here in America as a woman it feels like I have a right as a person, of any gender, of any character, not to be violated.

When men are bound by honor, in my experience, they behave more like gentlemen, more like adults, more mature, more caring. But it is a fragile basis. The moment a female is not perceived as a lady, she may be fair game in their eyes to be raped, harassed, molested. As if "she deserved it".

And there is also mob behavior, which is another, ugly mindset as well in any part of the planet.

In the West, where honor is no longer a social demand the way it used to be, women get a lot more routine harassment by men. It's exhausting. If men had an iota of an idea of what it feels like to receive the constant barrage of ugly, demeaning verbal sniping every day, week after week, year after year, decade after decade I can only hope they would realize how awful it feels and why women get angry about it. And yet women in the West can walk alone, stay out late at night, have much more freedom, not live in such fear they will be judged for not being a lady, not a virgin, not married, not a mother, not tied to a man or a family.

Each country has its benefits. In India it is common for people to treat each other with loving respect. In America there is greater freedom. Ultimately, it would be lovely, imo, for men and women to treat each other with honor, not based on their utility or family position but who they are as people, value each other more as people and less as services rendered to each other.

I'm hoping that men and women learn to love and understand each other better in the time ahead.
posted by nickyskye at 11:24 PM on January 2, 2008 [5 favorites]


Well said nicky:)
posted by hadjiboy at 11:33 PM on January 2, 2008


The moment a female is not perceived as a lady, she may be fair game in their eyes to be raped, harassed, molested. As if "she deserved it".

And I think that's the crux of the problem here; men still believe that they have a right to express their will on women without them having any say in the matter.
posted by hadjiboy at 11:36 PM on January 2, 2008 [1 favorite]


There is only one reason that such nonsense happens in urban India. This is also the same reason why there is corruption, why politicians don't mind getting filmed taking bribes, why rabble-rousers continue to get crowds agitated on ethnic and religious lines, and why, say, dowry-deaths still persist even after some forty-odd years of laws against them.

It's called 'lack of consequences'. Not a heightened sense of morality, not repressed sexuality, not maladjusted male-female ratio[1]. It's plainly, a lack of consequences. Urban kids know they can get away with just about anything these days; they have connections, they own the police, they can get their court cases postponed ad infinitum. They know they will suffer no consequences for doing this, and therefore, they will persist.

Here's the most damning thing about it all: you know, the police chief, he's right. He can't provide policemen for every corner; this was in South Bombay, perhaps the richest locality in all of India, crime-rates should be extremely low, you'd want police coverage in other crime-prone areas like, I don't know, Ghatkopar or places where there will be crowds, like BandStand or some place.

That, you see, is the exact fucking problem; it's not just that the police is overwhelmed, but that there is virtually no social cost that these neanderthals would pay, no neighbours ostracising them, no elders driving that old code of etiquette, tehzeeb, no peers driving that other great social inhibitor, sharam ('shame'). Welcome to urban depravity, India, it's going to get rougher than this.
--
[1]- I don't have numbers on me right now, but if I'm not wrong, I don't think _Bombay_ as such has a skewed ratio; rural Punjab and Haryana yes, but as a general rule, the ratio gets better as you go down south (where ' skewed' would be anything approaching, or less than 900 women for every 1000 men)
posted by the cydonian at 12:46 AM on January 3, 2008 [1 favorite]


cydonian, the problem is that consequences will never come without a corresponding adjustment in attitude and in the perception of these sorts of crimes. My guess is that even if some renegade politician was able to pass a law cracking down on this sort of behavior, unless everyone is willing to get behind it, it will never be enforced properly and the politician will be booted out of office in short order for making trouble. You have to get people thinking, hmm... maybe we shouldn't be doing this (heightening their sense of morality), remove their motivation (eliminate sexual repression), and work on society's views of women's equality (I agree with zennie that the male/female ratio is a symptom rather than a cause) and only then will somebody bother to pass and enforce laws. Otherwise we just have a bunch of people from the west saying, man, they should put those people in jail.
posted by The Loch Ness Monster at 5:40 AM on January 3, 2008


“I for one--and nearly all of my male friends, excepting the single ones in their mid-20s--would most certainly object to being groped and stripped in the street by mobs of sexually frustrated women.”

There’s an old woman on Division street (or used to be) who would grab your package. Grabbed mine, I didn’t even see her. (pretty amazing really, people don’t sneak up on me)
I was ready to defend myself and here’s this old woman laughing at me. I suspect because - wtf can I do really? She’s an old woman.

“They will blame the victim. "what were they doing there at that time of night?" This has more to do with putting as much distance between the victim and yourself, rather than lack of empathy. They all know it could be them, or someone they love, next. A few years back there was a wave of burning/ throwing acid on women who had rejected the perpetrators.”

I suspect there’s the line. I grant we have some of the same cultural issues in mobs. But much of the U.S., at least in terms of the legal system, no longer blames the victim. And indeed, the number of reported cases of “date rape” (really just rape) and other sexual assaults have been on the rise for some time.
Sounds counterintuitive, but it’s a good thing. It doesn’t necessarily mean it’s happening more, it means it’s being reported more. Which means more women feel comfortable coming forward. Which means they’re getting, at least some more, social support.
But a mob is a mob is a mob, for the most part.
Still, someone threw acid on my daughter I’d burn down and destroy neighborhood after neighborhood slaughtering anyone who vaguely fit the discription of the perpetrators. And their fathers. Now everyone’s a victim.
...course, that tends to skew the demographic the other way (Sicily, say, where it's all older women because all the men are dead from vendettas)
posted by Smedleyman at 12:10 PM on January 3, 2008



Actually, I believe sexual offenses of all types are *down* in the U.S. in recent years-- wasn't there a more porn/less rape thread here somewhere on those stats?

Ah yes, here it is.
posted by Maias at 2:11 PM on January 3, 2008


you mean here
posted by caddis at 2:18 PM on January 3, 2008


An update.
posted by cass at 8:05 AM on January 4, 2008


It's encouraging to see arrests on this. My general ignorance of India notwithstanding, I can see how these long-sought-after consequences might have positive effects, and not just on the minds of potential perpetrators and actual victims. If any significant portion among the general passersby and onlookers are uncomfortable with the trend of casual groping, I would suppose many of them avoid giving even subtle signs of disapproval because they assume that no one else around them cares. This new development might create some healthy shame not only through direct threat of legal retribution and publicity, but through newly awakened eyes of immediate observers.

I'm sorry if I'm being unduly optimistic, and I'm sorry if I'm being obvious.
posted by Anything at 11:41 AM on January 4, 2008


Loch Ness Monster: Apologies for the late reply, but YES, if you read my post closely, that is the exact point I was making myself.

It's not just laws, or law-and-order mechanisms that we're talking about here; it is about a _breakdown_ of the old social structures that kept civility and public behaviour in check. The old ways in which society was policing itself ('social consequences') is fast unravelling itself, both because of demographic reasons (half of India is 25), and for historical reasons. That, I think, is a bigger problem for communities in India; the old social structures are gone, without anything else in its place. Enter chaos in the vacuum.

I'm optimistic about India's, say, economic growth, but I'm very very pessimistic about its urban spaces. No easy answers here, certainly none that can fit into a thread that's about to close. :-)
posted by the cydonian at 8:51 AM on January 10, 2008


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