For those of you who are here for the first time, maybe reading Feminism Counterpoint 1 will give some context. In that post I raised the point of judging one another by our clothes and how instinctive that behaviour is. Today we’ll take on another commonly held myth among feminists (evidenced by the buzzfeed responses, one of which is pictured above): That if India becomes more feminist, the number of rape incidents will come down.
What this post is not
Before we begin, this post is not about whether rape is good or bad. We all agree that it’s heinous and that it should go away. This post just questions whether more widespread feminism will do anything to control occurrences of rape. I’m only interested in producing data, asking questions and drawing conclusions, whatever they may be. Often we shy away from making harsh conclusions because they clash with our cherished beliefs. I will try and not do that. If you disagree with anything I say, as always, the comments section is at your service. But only civil debate, please. I’d rather not get into trading insults.
The myth about rape in India
There is a common misconception that India is a ‘rape country’, that crimes against women are worse in India than in most other parts of the world. We often make fun of ourselves – and are made fun of by others – that we treat our women badly. I wanted to see if there is any statistical backing for that. (You can look up the full page here.)
A few things that I noticed:
1. India stands at number 51 (or thereabouts) in the world when ranked in decreasing order of rape numbers per 100,000 people.
2. From 2004 to 2010, the number went up from 1.6 to 1.8. So irrespective of what the media would like us to believe, there is no significant increase in rape incidents in the last decade. (I concede that this may have gone up between 2010 and 2014.)
3. From 1990 to 2008, though, the number has doubled from 0.9 to 1.8. One could argue that 1990 – the start of the decade in which India became liberalized – is also the time in which feminism took off in the country with more women coming into the workforce.
What most surprised me is that there doesn’t seem to be any correlation between ‘feminism’ and rape in the top fifty countries. The United Kingdom, a country we would normally associate with equality and safety for women, stands at number 6. Australia, another ‘developed’ nation, is at 8. New Zealand, a country in which I lived for ten years and which is often cited as crime-free and safe, is at 13. The United States, the one country that India looks up to like perhaps no other, is at 11. All these countries have upwards of 25 rapes per 100,000 people, so it’s not unfair to say that rape is at least twelve times more prevalent in these countries than it is in India.
What does this data tell us?
Let’s take the United States as a comparative example. Straight off the bat, it tells us that feminism will not curtail rape. I don’t think anybody will deny that the U.S. is more ‘feminist’ than India. Indeed, most of the feminism that we wish to see here in our country is imported from the West. How come, then, that rape is more common in the United States than in India?
More alarmingly, are all of us misguided in thinking that feminism will make rape go away? If anything, it appears that as India becomes more feminist in her thinking, the prevalence of rape will only go up. This is borne out by two piece of evidence: 1) rape numbers from other countries who are more ‘feminist’ than ours, 2) our own rape numbers (which have doubled) since we began to take our first steps towards feminism in 1992.
The issue of under-reporting
One of the main arguments to this point is that rape in India is under-reported. The counterpoint to that is that rape is under-reported everywhere in the world. Do we have any evidence that the level of under-reporting is higher in India than it is in other countries? Even if we grant for a moment that it is, is it high enough to offset the factor of twelve? In other words, is the relative ‘under-reporting’ variable twelve times higher in India than it is in the U.S.?
(As an example, a study in Canada in 1992, where 12300 women participated, found that only 6% of sexual assaults were reported. So this is a universal problem. Not just India’s.)
I doubt it. In any case, this is an unfalsifiable hypothesis. It’s a statement whose veracity we cannot possibly check. We can ask similar questions on just about any other data set to question its validity. But the most we can do is go by reported numbers. It’s what we do for murders, road deaths, robberies and other crimes. If reported numbers are good enough for all other crimes, it ought to be good enough for rape.
The correlation between feminism and rape
One of the first things they teach you in Stats class is that correlation does not imply causation. I will not therefore argue that feminism causes rape or vice versa. But there is clearly a correlation. Is there something about the brand of feminism embraced by the West that encourages rape? Or is rape just a consequence that we must put up with in exchange for feminism? These are important questions, I think, because wittingly or not, India is already on that slope. And we seem to have gotten it into our heads that more feminism equals less rape. When the opposite is true.
If we delude ourselves into thinking, on the other hand, that the cure for rape is more feminism, we’re likely to continue to be disappointed as we frantically chase more, more and more feminism, only to see rape numbers steadily climbing.
And finally, is there a brand of feminism that we can adopt consciously to ensure that our rape numbers do not go up?
Image Courtesy: Buzzfeed