By Sharon Tindyebwa
Gender politics in India have been thrust into the spotlight with a recent string of gang rape cases, including a high profile arrest in northern India’s Punjab district this past Sunday.
On Jan. 13, Indian police reported they had arrested six men in connection with the rape of a 29-year old woman on Jan. 11. Police say the woman was the lone passenger on a bus travelling to her home in the northern Punjab district of Gurdaspur.
The bus driver and bus conductor both reportedly refused to take the woman home despite her pleas and took her to a remote location where she was attacked.
The two bus officials were joined by five other men who allegedly took turns raping the woman throughout the night before dropping her off at her village the next day, said the Huffington Post.
That attack followed news of the violent rape and subsequent death of a 23-year old student aboard a bus in December in the capital, Delhi – an attack that set off protests and sparked international talks on India’s rape culture.
However, some are arguing that the Western media has unfairly pinned India as a country uniquely plagued by violence against women.
“It is disturbing the way mainstream media has portrayed what happened in India, that it is somehow indicative of rape culture,” said Mythili Rajiva, a professor in the institute of gender studies at the University of Ottawa.
“If you look at statistics on violence against women worldwide, you would see that India is not that different from most countries, including many European and North American countries,” she said.
For example, Rajiva cited the alleged gang rape of a 16-year-old girl by a group of football players in Ohio in August– a case that, she noted, did not make international headlines.
“The Steubenville case in Ohio hasn’t received much publicity. What happened in India is all over the news but we don’t hear much about the Steubenville case of the 16-year-old girl who was gang-raped by members of the local football team… this seems almost as severe as what happened in India but we are not talking about it,” Rajiva said.
Kalywan Sunvaram, executive director of Canada-India Foundation in Oakville, Ont., said he was happy with the international coverage of the gang rapes in India as they can serve as a wake up call for people in other countries.
“The whole nature of the violence is an event of, it’s something of global significance, everybody has to wake up and take a really good look about why this happened, and what can be done in various societies to avoid, correct and punish these perpetrators. I think that is the value, the benefit, that comes out of this,” he said.