Why are Indian parents so conservative

equal rightsIndia's women: between tradition and modernity

"We want real change to save lives. What are our politicians doing? Where are they? Where is the judiciary? This extreme act has finally shaken us up. We are here, we are demanding change. We want justice. Enough. But it happens on! Every day! "

"This case is a medium for us. We raise our voices and we take the initiative. It is high time the government acted too. If it doesn't, it will miss the boat. Elections are coming up."

"Our schools only work according to the textbook and according to the curriculum. I know what I'm talking about. Sexual harassment, threats and harassment are part of everyday life for us women, there is no education. There is no sex education, not even at university. It it's only about grades, degrees and percentages, but never about social education. It's zero. "

"I am so shocked that this is happening in my country. Where is my India? And the rapes continue because the rapists are not afraid. There are rapists in our parliaments too. So why should perpetrators be afraid of the consequences when it is obvious Is routine? "

"First and foremost, it's about our mentality. If we don't change our mentality, nothing will change for us women. Moral values ​​must be taught in all schools."

The emotional mass protests are history. But the debate has not died down. The young, educated middle class in particular can identify with the life of the raped student who struggled through hard work and determined learning from a poor background. The social discussion today is no longer just about the death penalty for rapists, but about the role of men and women.

The unwanted gender

"Rape is the worst of all crimes. There is something in my life that I believe in and that is respect for the women in my family. Nothing is more sacred to me. It is humiliating when that respect is lost."

"You make goddesses out of women, but you don't give them power. You say the women in your family are at the top, but you don't give them the right to a self-determined life. You say: We men protect you women, we do it Yes. But that has nothing to do with equality. "

"The role of women as the weak sex is a wanted social construct. We are brought up to believe that we are weak."

"Rape is an act of oppression. The rapist forces you into the role he wants you to be. This pattern of enslavement pervades Indian society, in which a person takes the right to oppress another life."

India, the largest democracy in the world, is a country of extremes. In hardly any other state are the differences between powerful and without rights greater. India achieved its independence primarily through the non-violent resistance of Mahatma Gandhi, but contempt and violence run through society like a red thread. The girls and women in particular feel this.

"India has a very patriarchal and conservative, even feudal history. Women have always been property and have never owned themselves. Women were always only the second, the undesired sex, that is a fact. My parents were an island of resistance back then and they have resisted this attitude. My parents were visionaries. "

Kiran Bedi is short, well-trained and has a fashionable short haircut. The award-winning documentary "Yes Madam, Sir!" traces her early life story. The name of the film says it all: Kiran Bedi has conquered an Indian male bastion.

In 1972, Kiran Bedi became the first Indian woman to join the police force. Her rise through the ranks was so rapid that the United Nations made her an advisor to international police missions.

Today Kiran Bedi is 64 years old, divorced and one of the most prominent social activists in India. Without the support of her parents, her life would have been completely different:

"Our prayers during pregnancy usually end with the sentence: I wish you a healthy son. That's where it begins! We have to challenge our priests and tell them: wish me a healthy child! Whenever tradition questions our equality, we have to challenge them. "

Everyday violence against women

Projections assume that a woman is raped every 20 minutes in India. Most victims keep silent out of fear, shame - or because they believe that men have the right to do them violence.

"When men rape, beat and abuse a woman, it always reflects their image of women: that they consider women to be weak and without rights and that the woman's body is there for her pleasure."

According to a UNICEF study last year, 52 percent of all adolescent girls and 57 percent of all adolescent boys believe it's okay for a man to beat his wife. Jyoti Atwal teaches history at Nehru University in Delhi. The young professor deals intensively with the role of the sexes:

"As a woman, you constantly feel shame about your sexual presence. This prevents women from speaking openly about what is happening to them at home. Violence against women is considered normal by many, and that includes rape. Only when they do." Shame ends when women are free to move around at home and when boys at home experience that parents treat their sisters equally, there will be change. The starting point for social change in India is the family. "

In 2011, the Thomson Reuters Foundation surveyed almost 400 experts in the field of women and gender studies. The scientists came to the conclusion that India is the most misogynistic of all G20 countries. Because around half a million female fetuses are specifically aborted every year. Because domestic violence, sexual harassment and rape are far too often part of everyday life for women. And because the police and the judiciary all too often file sexual crimes as petty offenses with impunity. Historian Jyoti Atwal puts it this way:

"What we see in India today is just an external modernity. This modernity is based on economic development, on more wealth and consumption. But an internal modernity has not yet developed. A factor that affects the country beyond all class and caste and Religious barriers are connected by the fear of female sexuality. In public spaces we separate women from men. India's women grow up believing that they are different. "

The gender segregation is visible in many areas of life. Separate learning is also widespread in the Indian education system. According to the Indian government, only just over 50 percent of the female population can read and write, while it is over 75 percent for men. While the boys are encouraged as heirs and retirement benefits, many girls are seen as a financial burden because it is tradition that they leave their parents' home on the wedding day with an expensive dowry that has to be earned. Many young Indians have no chance of getting to know the opposite sex in a natural way. In the vast majority of cases, the parents choose the spouse. Jyoti Atwal:

"As soon as a girl reaches puberty, her body is controlled by the parental household and she no longer has access to public space on her own. The body of the Indian woman is surrounded by an excessive feeling of shame, while it is perfectly okay for Indian men to flaunt their bodies and pee in public on the street. Women, on the other hand, should always cover themselves and dress properly. And that is not only the case in India, but in all of South Asia. "

Conflict between tradition and modernity

India's highest court has ordered the country's politicians to enact stricter laws on the sale of acid to protect women. Acid attacks and honor killings sound more like Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh. But they also take place in India - a country where tradition and modernity clash particularly hard. India's opening and rapid economic development in the past two decades have created new freedom for women - and this is exacerbating the existing social conflicts, believes Brinda Karat. The left-wing politician is one of the country's leading women's rights activists. She is concerned about the rise in sexual violence:

"I'm 66 years old, I am not afraid for myself, but I am afraid for my younger sisters. There is a reason to be afraid. There actually seems to be a broad counter-movement from orthodox and conservative social forces that are not can tolerate that women, unlike in the past, participate more in public life. Women dare to assert themselves. They go to school and study more. They find work, especially in the cities. All of this creates a backlash from the conservative forces, which has always existed in India. I think we are seeing a clash in India between modern women and men who stand up for women's equality and conservative, orthodox forces who believe that women belong in the house. "

The influence of the conservative forces is also reflected in the legislation. After the gang rape of December 16, 2012, the government tightened the laws on acts of violence against women in record time. But although a specially set up commission explicitly advocated making marital rape a criminal offense, the government refused to approve the proposal. On the other hand, the same commission had warned against relying on the death penalty as a deterrent. But the government ignored the warning and extended the death penalty to particularly serious rape cases. The feminist Brinda Karat sees this as an attempt to draw a line in order to appease the public:

"We have around 24,000 registered cases of rape each year. But we also know that the number of unreported cases is extremely high. We know that domestic violence is widespread. Women are beaten, women are abused. We have called for rape in marriage, in vain finally criminalized. Experience teaches us that the death penalty does not deter criminals. I don't think the death penalty will reduce rape in India or anywhere else. "

Her personal conclusion after decades of fighting for women's rights: Politics must force society to become more democratic if it really wants to protect women. And in order to change society, politics itself must become much more democratic:

"India has to deal fundamentally and comprehensively with the concept of democracy and civil rights. If we all talk today about the fact that we have to change the way people think and attitudes, that means for me that we have to become more democratic is not about the question of whether men go on a green or a red light when they see a woman. No! It is about whether you really perceive and treat women as an equal citizen in the sense of the constitution. That is the basis of everyone Democracy. And this is exactly where the problem lies in India. "

Undemocratic caste system

Brinda Karat considers the religious and political groups that defend the Indian caste system as a natural form of society to be the greatest threat to Indian democracy. To this day, caste membership determines from birth whether a person is above or below the social hierarchy, which is mostly congruent with rich and poor. The Dalits form the lower class of the caste system. The vast majority of Dalits still live excluded on the very fringes of society. Dalit women are raped disproportionately often compared to women from higher castes.

The box thinking pervades all worlds. It is most visible in the countryside, where the majority of the population still lives. In the villages, men from the upper castes like Om Prakash set the tone. The father and grandfather lives with his family in the village of Dhakla in the northern Indian state of Haryana, which is considered particularly conservative and misogynist.

He can philosophize for hours about the structure and purity of his caste. For Om Prakash, the caste system is justified and inviolable for religious reasons. Just as inviolable for him is the unwritten law that daughters do not inherit - although the written law prescribes equal treatment of sons and daughters. Om Prakash has two daughters and two sons. He already signed his land over to his two sons while he was still alive.

"If I still owned the land, my daughters could claim their inheritance. The law allows them, but we would boycott them socially. They are no longer allowed to enter this house. The village would also ostracize them. Daughters inherit from their husbands, there are their rights. But they have no right to dispute the inheritance of their brothers. "

Om Prakash believes that he is a good father to his daughters. He sent them to school, he earned their dowry, he chose their husbands. The respected village elder and caste leader sees himself as a principled man. He believes India would be a better country if everyone lived like his family.

"When the gang rape happened in New Delhi, there were protests there. But we in the country saw things differently. The girl lived in the city to study, not to hang around at night with a young man in the cinema. Why was she out there so late in the evening? Here with us, such a girl is considered to be characterless. "

Priti, his 37-year-old daughter, nods at her father's remarks. She has been married for ten years, has two children and teaches home economics at a college for girls. She visits her parents' house regularly.

"Yes, the young woman was the victim, but her safety should have been her first priority. She shouldn't have been out this late at night. If she'd followed tradition and been home, she'd still be alive today. Here here men dominate social life. It is advisable that educated women also obey certain rules and learn to be calm and obedient at home. I live with my husband's family. I wanted to continue after the wedding, for example Drive a car, but my husband and his parents only allow me to do so if I cover my face. So of course I wear a veil as soon as I approach my husband's and in-laws' house. "

Many Indians still think like Priti and her father Om Prakash. Nonetheless, women's rights activist Brinda Karat believes that Indian society has experienced a lasting jolt after the gang rape in New Delhi.

"There is change. Violence against women is perceived by many more people as a serious issue that needs to be addressed socially and politically. Today, sexist remarks by politicians no longer go uncommented as they used to, but there are more people who are publicly angry about them Many feel that they have to demonstrate, that they have to resist, that they have to play a role in society. These are the positive changes within a very depressing overall situation. "