Women in India: Is It Still Cultural Appropriation When Lives Are at Stake? | Lifestyle.INQ

OCTOBER 27, 2022

Indian woman
Photo by Debashis RC Biswas from Unsplash

Internalized and normalized – recent New Delhi murder only underscores prevailing societal norms harming women in India



The brutal murder of 16-year-old Sakshi in New Delhi is the latest in the uptick in violence against women in India. The tragedy calls attention to prevailing “outdated” societal norms and the lack of action being taken to address them. 

It begs the question: If protecting women goes against long-standing traditions and beliefs, should we stop and do nothing? Where do we draw the line between cultural appropriation and saving lives?

Janak Raj, the girl’s father, shared with CNN, “It angers me to know that no one helped my daughter. If they had helped her, she would have been alive today. I also heard that the bystanders were busy filming videos of the incident. Even if they had screamed, it would have helped my daughter.”

The video of the incident shows bystanders around the scene of the crime, walking past unfazed and unconcerned as the brutal killing took place. Only one man was seen trying to intervene, but he fled after a brief attempt.

screenshot of a twitter post
Inaction equals to self-preservation according to Twitter user @eyeb111
screenshot of a Twitter post
@FirdausIsmail92 describes the perceived apathy he witnessed

Discourse online finds a number of individuals defending the bystanders. They claim that their inaction was an act of self-preservation – by refusing to intervene, they were keeping themselves out of harm’s way. But seeing the passers-by briefly look on out of interest only to go about their business – I beg to differ.

I saw eyes with barely an ounce of concern in them. Disentisized to what could be the norm there, it’s an issue that has become so ingrained in daily life in India.

Law and culture go hand in hand. Only when a nation fully buys into the laws being enforced upon them do they become truly effective. Rules when forcefully applied are constantly defied. In worse cases, violations are ignored and go unreported. In fact, the rise of recorded crimes against women is attributed to an equal rise in reporting – this leads me to wonder how much more is not reported to the authorities.

Yogita Bhayana, founder of People Against Rapes in India, shares with CNN, “Putting cameras and putting marshals is not going to be enough. The work has to be done on the mindset of the men and the boys.”

Education as with many other problems, is the solution.

But would it be just to mold the minds and hearts of impressionable young Indian men with foreign ideas and beliefs that many in the population do not subscribe to? 

The Indian government has continuously refused to recognize same-sex marriage. In a filing by the supreme court shared by Reuters, part of it read that they could not “change the entire legislative policy of the country deeply embedded in religious and societal norms.” In a country where the history of mistreatment against women goes back centuries, the same may be the case.

However, proponents of globalization believe that such ideological changes are natural. Increased connectivity propelled by technological developments has made it so that ideas are capable of seamlessly moving across territories. They believe that it will come to a point where it would minimize cultural differences between nations. This is an overstatement of course, but it’s a way of saying that societal norms found in a singular territory may find their way into others. 

In a nutshell, long-standing and engrained societal norms are bound to change, more so when there is tangible resistance facing these. However, this process cannot be rushed. So until then, one can only hope that there will be fewer Sakshis before such a change arrives.

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