India’s Daughter

After watching the documentary film India’s Daughter a few weeks ago, I’m still at a bit of a loss for words. The attitudes towards women in general, and rape in particular, seem hard to credit. ‘Rape is bad and you shouldn’t do it’ is not a universal sentiment. I know that. But listening to the justifications given by Indian men in the film is like watching a slow-motion train wreck: horrible, but so fascinating that you can’t look away.

The film caused significant controversy in India and around the world. Having read numerous critiques of the film, I can understand some of the practical, cultural and legal reasons for not showing the film (or at least for delaying its release). I don’t know that I agree or disagree with these arguments, but I’ve got a bit of a handle on them now.

But in searching for an explanation for the sudden rise in rape (an increase of 9.2% in 2011 alone, with kidnapping and abductions up 19.4%) I came across a very plausible explanation: sex-selective abortion. India has one of the worst cases of gender imbalance in the world, in some parts of the country as high as 830 females to every 1000 males. Millions of Indian men will never get married, never have a family. In Indian society, family means status and wealth, baby boys are prized, and brides cost money.

The combination of social pressure, prenatal screening, and abortion-on-demand allows Indian couples to simply abort little girls. And they have done so with abandon. It is estimated that India is missing one hundred million (100,000,000!) baby girls. A gaping demographic hole. And the girls who are left tend to go to the highest bidders, because most marriages in India are still arranged. Thus, the burden of ‘mateless-ness’ falls disproportionately on a poor underclass.

Not being able to ‘get any’ is probably the worst excuse for rape imaginable. Which is saying something, because every excuse for rape is utterly inexcusable. But I don’t think that’s what’s really going on. Maybe the attitudes towards rape shown in India’s Daughter can be explained after all. This isn’t just a case of ‘rape culture’: it’s way worse than that. These men are products of their society. The scarcity of girls makes Indian women both desirable and unattainable. But abortion makes Indian women disposable.

How could Indian men not see women this way?

Having one hundred million (100,000,000!!!) baby girls just ‘disappeared’ because they were girls? In India, violence against women starts before they’re even born.

Somebody needs to make a film about that.

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