Lose-Lose Situations: South Asian Attitudes Towards Women




Last week, a member of the gang involved in the 2012 Delhi gang rape, which resulted in the death of 23-year-old Jyoti Singh, was interviewed and immediately his shocking remarks became viral.

“You can’t clap with one hand – it takes two hands,” he declared in the interview. “A decent girl won’t roam around at 9 o’clock at night. A girl is far more responsible for rape than a boy. Boy and girl are not equal. Housework and housekeeping is for girls, not roaming in discos and bars at night doing wrong things, wearing wrong clothes.” (Source)

Now, the rapist who stated the above is well…a rapist. His skewed views on women became clear the moment he decided to partake in raping a woman. In response to his statement, many people have come forward and said things like, “Not all Indian men think this way!” or “He is one the of uneducated masses, they haven’t been taught or exposed to anything better.”

To these sentiments I agree. Yes, not all Indian men think like this at all, this is true. And yes, he was one of the uneducated masses in which gender equality is not even considered an issue in terms of day to day life. What I think is being overlooked however, is what the gang’s lawyer (AP Singh) said in court during the trial.

“If my daughter or sister engaged in pre-marital activities and disgraced herself and allowed herself to lose face and character by doing such things, I would most certainly take this sort of sister or daughter to my farmhouse, and in front of my entire family, I would put petrol on her and set her alight.”

For the record, he not only said this but he has stated that he “stands by [it]”. (Source)

So yea. Vande freaking mataram.

This brings up a bunch of questions for me:

1. So it’s acceptable to burn someone alive rather than sleeping with a boy of my choice before marriage?

2. Should I be more scared of being burned alive by AP Singh or taking the bus home with one of his clients on it?

3. Why isn’t AP Singh condemning his sons or brothers to a fiery death if they are caught with a girl?

The 2012 Delhi rape case is not a definition of Indian/South Asian men, but rather a reflection of South Asian social norms in which both men AND women raise their daughters to respect others while raising their sons to expect respect from others.

Why does Indian society insist that women are the ones to blame for ‘ruining a family name’ or ‘inviting rape.’ Why do we insist that our daughters don’t go out at night when it is our sons that are making them prey? Why are there educated lawyers in India who threaten to burn women alive for having sex while those same lawyers defend the dignity of men who raped and murdered a woman?

The 2012 Delhi rape case is a long needed wake up call to many South Asian families regarding their sons’ attitudes towards their female peers. We need to uphold our sons to the same standards we instill in our daughters. We cannot perpetuate the attitude of raising women to be a ‘good wife’  unless we also focus on raising our men to become ‘good husbands’ one day.

Rape is a result of a someone preying on women because they see us as the lesser sex, not because we should be at home washing the dishes rather than spending time out in the city. South Asian attitudes towards women can only change if we start the conversation about them changing.

Talk about the 2012 Delhi rape and Jyoti Singh. Let’s stop whispering about it in front of our family members and friends and state it loudly for what it is.

Be safe out there ladies and gents, take care and always love one another.



Being Indian-American: Straying from the ‘Big 4’

The Big 4: Doctor. Engineer. Dentist. Pharmacist.

If you’re Indian-American and reading this right now then there is a very good chance that you have either pursued, are pursuing, or have been encouraged by your parents/family to pursue the aforementioned career fields. Our culture has a deep value for these professions, not just because of their noble nature but largely due to their financial and social stability. I mean this makes sense, what parent doesn’t want a stable future for their children?

**And before I get into the heart of this  article, let me preface by saying that I believe pursuing medicine, engineering, dentistry, or pharmacy are all noble pursuits; props to those of you who are actively pursuing these fields.

While these are great careers to pursue, oftentimes our families have trouble comprehending that they aren’t the only careers worth pursuing.

Most of us have observed the following scenario:

A family immigrates from India to America in pursuit of better opportunities. Better opportunities for not only the adults but for their children. Children grow older and are encouraged to pursue careers in the same field as their parents or other family members because “it’s stable and proven to work.”

This is what confuses me: families move to the “land of opportunity” and instead of encouraging their children to explore and take advantage of these opportunities, they let tunnel vision take over and oftentimes push their children to pursue one of the 4 paths mentioned above.

Even if you weren’t necessarily pushed into one of those aforementioed fields, anything straying from those paths is a oftentimes a major struggle for us to convince our parents to let us pursue.

Film Degree? “So what job are you going to get?”

International Relations? “Good…so then you’re applying to Medical school?”

English? “But Pharmacy is such a stable career for a woman!

Now I’m not exactly the poster child of this cause; I studied engineering by choice, wasn’t pushed into it. But along the way I realized that this wasn’t the field for me. After graduating I’ve decided not to pursue a career in my studied field and would rather explore elsewhere, this hasn’t exactly been seamless…many family members and friends ask “But what about stability?”, “You’ll have time to pursue what you want later. Why stray from what you studied?”, or “You could be making more money.”

It takes a while, but I’ve come to terms with choosing to pursue what drives me sooner rather than later. No matter what spurs excitement within you, take the plunge and put your heart into it.

This sounds very naive and optimistic, I know; but our parents did it. Many of them moved to a different country with little or no money, some of them learned English along the way, all had to apply for citizenship and go through hoops just to enter/work/stay in this country, and they learned an entirely new system of government, commerce, and social etiquette in a foreign country. All of this while working and creating a better life for themselves, their children, and family members back in India.

If our parents could risk it all and pursue the unconventional route then we can too. We can stray from the fields that are considered “safe”, we can pursue our crazy goals and dreams, and we can dare to be whatever we want. While tradition and society don’t always align with our hybrid Indian-American upbringing, who says we aren’t allowed to try?

So go out there and make that “crazy” decision to forge a path in what you think is worthwhile. Remember, crazy doesn’t mean irrational, so still create a general plan for your “crazy” career trajectory and pick up some mentors along the way!

It comes down to having a plan and having an open channel of communication with your family. Because if you won’t fight for your dreams, who will?


Have a story that aligns with this or a personal experience you’d like to share? I’d love to hear it! Please share in the comments below.