India has a huge problem; one that has always been there, but has come to the fore after the sad death of the student on a bus. That many people around the world have pointed the finger at the conditions in India that have made this possible must not take away from the fact that it is India that must make the changes. That we see a woman on TV stating that she would never go to an Indian police station to report a rape of other sexual harassment issues at night without a male accompanying her, speaks for itself. That of course is not something India has on its own. Even in little New Zealand there have been issues, but the difference is that we all hear about it and are able to force change in the ‘culture’ of our police force. We have a way to go however.
For India the problem is endemic, and despite progress in reforming the vast police force in India, there needs to be a breakthrough in the way this diverse nation sees the position of women. No amount of liberal thinking will change this unless the issue of women in society is viewed and reviewed at all levels of society. Religion and long-held views on social position (casts) will be difficult to change.
There is a wide gap between what the law guarantees and the actual day-to-day life of Indian citizens. Putting into practice the ‘articles’ of Indian laws and constitutional rights has two very different faces. Any nation will have these ‘discrepancies’ but in a larger one comprising over one billion people, with a fragmented political system, albeit supposedly ‘democratic’ in nature, will be unwieldy in the enforcement of so-called rights.
There is a new energy in India; one that is demanding transformation to these long held beliefs and systems. The pathway to change is going to be fraught with danger and many people will become victims of this rapid process. There will be a ‘kickback’ from those unwilling to accede to these changes; often violent. But the tide will turn and a ‘new India’ will emerge; this time, one of their own making, but the rest of the world will be watching. Other nations will take heed of India’s progress and force change in their own countries. I suspect there are many despotic regimes and political forces that will be looking over their shoulders too.