I never thought I would have anything good to say about Narendra Modi, but I guess I have to. In his first major address he spoke out about rape and violence against women.
In speaking out, Modi challenged citizens and government alike to change the way that rape is thought about. “Today as we hear about the incidents of rapes, our head hangs in shame,” he said in his wide-ranging address. “I want to ask parents when your daughter turns 10 or 12 years old, you ask, ‘Where are you going? When will you return?’ Do the parents dare to ask their sons, ‘Where are you going? Why are you going? Who are your friends?’ After all, the rapist is also someone’s son. If only parents decide to put as many restrictions on their sons as they do on their own daughters.”
Wow. That’s the kind of thing that gets a person branded a “radical feminist” (and not in a good way) around here.
Though only time will tell whether the Modi government acts on the rhetoric seen in his speech, Tanvi Mandan, head of the Brookings Institution’s India Project told ThinkProgress in an email, the fact that they are even being talked about in this way is significant. “This is the first time that a prime minister has spoken about violence against women in this fashion, especially using such a prominent platform – the closest American equivalent of the Indian PM’s independence day speech would be the president’s State of the Union speech,” she wrote.
“Moreover, Mr. Modi spoke of an aspect of this that Indian civil society has helped highlight publicly over the last couple of years – that this is not just a legal issue, but a societal one; not just about having the right laws in place, but also about changing culture,” Madan continued.
That kind of thing. You can’t talk about “culture” over here in the US without getting a hail of obloquy and epithets and assorted insults.
Modi also used his speech to speak out against the practice of Indian family’s selectively aborting females in the woman or abandoning female babies once they’re born. Earlier this week, the Indian government announced that the sex ration among children 0-6 — standing at 927 girl children per 1,000 boys — is the lowest it’s been since India’s independence in 1947.
“Have we seen our sex ratio? Who is creating this imbalance?” Modi asked. “Not God. I appeal to the doctors not to kill the girl child in the mother’s womb. I request the parents not to kill daughters because they want a son. Don’t kill daughters in the womb, it is a blot on 21st century India. I have seen families where one daughter serves parents more than five sons.”
Modi of all people. It’s disorienting.