A protester in India.
A protester in India.

Her name was Jyoti Singh Pandey, if you wanted to know.

Now, I’m not going to pretend to speak for the Indian people, or act as though I know all that much about the place.

My knowledge doesn’t extend far past what the common white man might know about the nation, but it sure doesn’t take a doctored anthropologist to understand some horrific attitudes emerging after the brutal gang-rape and murder of a 23-year-old physiotherapy student.

In a stunning echo of Todd Akin’s “legitimate rape” comments, Asharam – an Indian “self-styled godman” – said the woman now tragically the fixation of the world’s media ought to have “taken God's name and could have held the hand of one of the men and said, 'I consider you my brother'… then the misconduct wouldn't have happened."

He later reneged on this particular comment, saying "I only meant that had even one of the six accused taken 'diksha' [initiation into his religious teachings], the crime would not have occurred."

I struggle to understand the rationale behind this – probably because none exists.

It’s this kind of obscene irresponsibility that creates a culture of misogyny in the first instance; hatred always begets hatred.

Just yesterday a lawyer for one of the accused rapists – who faces death if found guilty in a fast-track trial – said Pandey and her male friend were “wholly responsible” for the attack.

In a quaint display of elitism he added, "Until today I have not seen a single incident or example of rape with a respected lady.”

Many honourable Indians took to the streets in horror, only to be met by riot police, and the Western media presented the ongoing saga as a foreign issue – someone else’s problem.

But this couldn’t be further from the truth, and I would like to ask this question as a result:

What would it take to have the Western world out in the streets in the same way?

(I’ve picked the United States as an example as they a largely considered the benchmark and guideline for ‘Western’ ideals.)

The US has a far larger proportion of non-believers than India (20% and 6% respectively), and yet no country has yet matched India’s guttural roar and rail against what seems to be a fear of women driven by religion.

So why, when a special education student in Missouri was repeatedly raped at school and later ignored by education bosses, were there no angry mobs in the street? Why no placards and bullhorns?

In comparison, barely a handful showed up to protest the acquittal of two New York cops who repeatedly raped a 27-year-old woman in the face of overwhelming evidence. Why only a handful?

It even took an entire documentary film – The Invisible War – before US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta decided that perhaps having rape victims in the military report to their superior officer (often responsible for the rape) was not the most sensible way to handle things. But why did Panetta not take further steps?

Proving to be a foul blend of macho sporting culture and internet abuse, the Steubenville Case of a 16-year-old repeatedly raped by star footballers provoked larger protests and an intervention by perennial vigilantes Anonymous. In-depth reports from the NY Times and Time magazine prompted mass attention, but very little else. Why is this?

I’m fearful of the answers to these questions, but these things need to be addressed however tough the truth might be.

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