European Media: From India Shining to India Tarnished

By Alpana Varma

Zurich, Jan 14 (IANS) The dire situation of Indian women is now under the spotlight in European media and daily incidents of violence are being reported with alacrity along with statistics and analyses to show India's disastrous record in ensuring women's rights.

"Too few women, too much violence", is the running theme of discussions as the long held deference for India's ancient culture and spirituality crumbles before the stark images of a country perpetuating a "rape culture".

While the heinous crime of Dec 16 has rocked the nation for its brutality, violence against women is part of daily life in India, according to Swiss daily Tages Anzeiger. The incident has clearly stirred a lot of emotion here as well.

For the last few years, the media here had been devoted to chronicle the rise of India as a growth engine, an economic power, with occasional negative reports of corruption at the time of the Commonwealth Games, the telecom scandal etc.

But since late December, it is just statistics, interviews and reports to prove that India is a misogynist society that has totally failed one-half of its billion-strong population in its stride towards superpower status.

Earlier trips to India for ayurvedic treatment or a visit to the Taj Mahal, while evoking shock at the poverty, were followed by a quick atonement, "but the poor in India are so happy".

Now there is a touch of neo-colonial patronising in the coverage, implying 'us', the civilised Europe, are different as such things do not happen and it is the 'other', the primitive societies which tolerate atrocities on women.

Even as figures emerge of high rape and low conviction rates in the US or UK, there are other reasons for India bashing - the skewed gender ratio in the population and the practice of dowry which is causing "parents to kill their daughters".

"If she has not been killed in the womb, she lives with the inevitable fate of being raped," Dagmar Hellman Rajagayanam, a professor of South Asia affairs at the University of Passau, was quoted as saying in the popular German magazine Focus.

Such a simplistic understanding of Indian society comes from an expert who has been visiting India for the last 40 years. Such is the confusion that often questions are raised about the rape victim's caste.

Dagmar, an ardent India basher, describes it as the world's most "anti-women" nation. "Nowhere in the world, not even in Afghanistan, Somalia or Saudi Arabia, are women treated with such contempt and brutality as in India," she wrote.

This remark drew many reproaches in readers' comments.

She recalls watching movies in India and discovering to her horror, "as soon as the rape scene began, all the men started jumping and clapping". She added, "Rape is not a crime in India, rather a peccadillo."

It is as if the dirty linen has been washed in public, as each day a new skeleton comes out of the cupboard with a fresh report of a gang-rape committed in some part of India.

Prime time Swiss news programme "10 to 10" showed a woman called Shabnam who had been gang-raped at age 17 and 10 years on is still awaiting justice. Her father, in the meanwhile, killed himself unable to overcome the sorrow.

The apathetic police and justice system all collude to maintain a patriarchal order and deny women their right to be free and safe, according to the report.

Some publications tread more cautiously and try to tone down prejudice by getting Indian writers to do the talking. Thus Der Spiegel Online, the English supplement of Germany's well known news magazine of the same name, carried an article by Kishwar Desai on the subject. As did Tages Anzeiger, by carrying a full-page interview with writer Sonia Faleiro.

Both writers described the harrowing experiences that women undergo daily, especially in Delhi and other parts of north India, with explicit lechery, lewd remarks and the groping and rubbing.

Eve teasing, the Indian euphemism for all this, is also inviting only jeers in the media here, as it implies that women provoked their harassment, much like Eve tempted Adam.

Tages Anzeiger carried a report about women workers at construction sites near Delhi, saying how the sign says, 'Men at Work' but all that one sees is women at work while their children are playing amid heaps of cement and other building material. The report adds that women construction workers in India earn wages far below the men even as they are far more vulnerable to exploitation.

Clearly, 'Incredible India' has suddenly slipped into an area of darkness and it may require a huge effort and considerable time before India can restore its image and launch another tourism campaign.



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Comment on this article

  • Sam, Mumbai

    Sat, Jan 19 2013

    Come on guys, open your eyes. What the article mentions is ABSOLUTELY right. India is a messed up country.

    DisAgree [1] Agree [1] Reply Report Abuse

  • Abhishek, Ranchi

    Tue, Jan 15 2013

    Well, have you considered the converse? Indian media used to consider Europe a land of romance. For 2 years now, every newspaper carries daily headlines on the European crisis. Today this European country is about to collapse, tomorrow that one...

    DisAgree [2] Agree [1] Reply Report Abuse

  • arin,

    Tue, Jan 15 2013

    who are they to decide how we are? Crimes happens all over the world. In some countries student bring pistol and starts open firing at school. What’s about that? If we start analyses their black spots , they will be nowhere.

    DisAgree [2] Agree Reply Report Abuse

  • shane, mng/dxb

    Tue, Jan 15 2013

    Who are they to indulge in an internal matter of any civilized country. Hello there is a democratic govt. in India to handle the situation at any point of time. Which country has Zero rape history in world....?
    Better to mind there own business. If you point one finger to other, the other all fingers are supposed to be pointing towards yourself.

    DisAgree [2] Agree Reply Report Abuse

  • jyoti, jaipur

    Tue, Jan 15 2013

    This article presents the Indian scenario from the view point of an outsider and when looked from inside it will come off far more worse.Just because we don't want to agree with the west doesn't mean that the facts will be reversed or decremented.In this context its true and we have to accept it and try to improve the situation.Each person's mindset plays the most crucial part here.

    DisAgree Agree [5] Reply Report Abuse

  • Roshan Braganza, Udyavar / Mumbai

    Tue, Jan 15 2013

    Who cares what western media thinks about India?!. Its hightime to stop analysing ourself from their angle and stick to our own beliefs. Crimes are happening ( both against men and women ) are all over world .

    DisAgree [9] Agree [2] Reply Report Abuse


Title : European Media: From India Shining to India Tarnished


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