Picture the scene. A woman in a bar. Dressed up for a night out, drinking and having fun. A group of men at the other side spot her. She leaves her drink on the table with her friend and goes to the toilet. She comes back and finishes the drink. Gradually she becomes more and more giddy, as if going under an anaesthetic.
She wakes up in hospital with sharp stabbing pains in her groin and pelvic area. Her legs and arms are covered in bruises. Her left eye is so badly swollen she can barely see out of it. She has no recollection of the night before, what happened to her or how she ended up in hospital.
It transpires that her drink had been spiked. She was taken outside and gang raped by the group of men that had spotted her in the bar. Once they had finished raping her, she was left outside a club, unconscious. The club bouncers found her and called an ambulance. Through the help of the club’s CCTV, authorities were able to piece together what happened to her.
This account is the true story of an ex-work colleague of mine, and the horrifying ordeal that happened to her in the summer of 2008. The fact is, rape happens to women everyday, all over the world. The brutal gang- rape and murder of a 23 year old medical student in Delhi last month has got the whole world talking about rape. It has shone the light on a country where a rape is reported every twenty minutes. It has also highlighted the fact that India’s criminal justice system has abysmally failed its women in bringing rapists to justice (one comment I read by an Indian woman who had herself been raped claimed that you were lucky if the police didn’t rape you themselves).
But more specifically, the global media are pointing the finger at India and Indian men; and the treatment of women in the Asian sub-continent. This horrible crime is being hailed as indicative of ‘how depraved’ Indian men are. Indeed, most news articles, blogs and opinion pieces that I’ve read are screaming that Indian men are somehow more savage, more monstrous, even “hyena-like” than their Western counterparts and that’s why they did this.
Come on, lets not fool ourselves into thinking that rape is someone else’s problem. We in the West cannot afford to talk about this incident as if it were isolated to the Third World and its men. It’s not just Asian men that rape their women, its men from many walks of life and from many different societies and cultures.
Now I’m not defending the double standards that Asian women suffer. It makes my blood boil to see so many of my sisters, at best, considered the property of a man (our father’s first, then husband’s) and at worst, second-class citizens. Misogyny is rife amongst our men. But that is a separate (by no means smaller) issue. The woman in Delhi was treated as a piece of meat, a piece of rubbish to be tortured then thrown away, but this is no different to what happened to my colleague- (who, incidentally is English).
She too was raped and left unconscious on the floor while her rapists went off into the night. Thankfully she didn’t die. But what happened to her is just as indicative of an attitude towards women that seems to have been shared by men on opposite sides of the planet.
So come on, lets wake up and talk about rape for the universal issue that it is. Yes as Asians we need to deal with some attitudes that are systemic to our culture. But so too does the rest of ‘man’-kind.