It is well known that violent rape and other forms of extreme assault against women are commonplace in parts of The Philippines where the shabu (meth) epidemic is at its worst. Philippine President Duterte himself once spoke with sorrow of an incident where a drug user broke into a poor family’s home and proceeded to rape a three year old girl before turning on her elderly grandparents. Duterte’s tough crack down on narcotics traffickers, dealers, users and their once easily bribed allies in law enforcement and politics has benefited all normal, law abiding Filipinos, but due to the violent sexual assaults that shabu users commit against women, it is fair to say that vulnerable females have been the biggest beneficiaries of Duterte’s approach to the narcotics problem.
But while liberal international media outlets and even the controversial UN Human Rights Council have repeatedly condemned Duterte for his war on drugs, while many pundits have also heaped scorn on Duterte for kissing a woman during a political speech and telling the odd rude joke, in India, a crime wave against women and girls is taking place while much of the world looks the other way.
In January of this year, Asifa Bano, an eight year old Muslim girl was kidnapped by a gang of Hindutva extremists where she was gang raped and murdered inside a Hindu temple. This horrific incident became symbolic of a crime wave against minorities in India where women are often the foremost victims of horrific sexual assaults.
Today, it was reported that five female activists in the Indian state of Jharkhand who were attempting to document and stop human trafficking in the region, were themselves kidnapped and gang rapped at gunpoint.
The seriousness of the rape epidemic in India is compounded by the fact that powerful political figures and so-called “philosophers” have not only justified but endorsed rape as a political and social weapon against minorities, including and especially Muslim women.
According to Pakistani-American journalist Riaz Haq,
“It is hard to say how many of the rape victims were Muslim. What is known, however, is the exhortation by iconic Hindutva leaders to rape of Muslim women. Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, one of founders of right-wing RSS who Prime Minister Modi describes as “worthy of worship”, is among them. After getting elected as to the highest office in India, Modi paid tribute to Savarkar by laying flowers at his portrait that hangs in India’s Parliament.
VD Savarkar, in one of his books titled Six Glorious Epochs of Indian History, elaborates on why raping of Muslim women is not only justified but encouraged.
Savarkar has used revisionist Hindutva history to exhort his followers to rape Muslim women as payback for historic wrongs he believes were committed by Muslim conquerers of India. ‘Once they are haunted with this dreadful apprehension that the Muslim women too, stand in the same predicament in case the Hindus win, the future Muslim conquerors will never dare to think of such molestation of Hindu women’, he writes”.
What one is witnessing in India is more than an average crime epidemic but is part of a wider systematic breakdown in society that has seen Muslim men lynched for allegedly slaughtering a cow for beef, entire Muslim families murdered for allegedly eating beef, Muslim women and children raped because they are considered subhuman by Hindutva extremists and other minority groups as well as so-called Dalits – members of Hinduisms “untouchable” caste treated much the same.
The political atmosphere in India which has seen the Hindutva BJP take power at a national level, is one where the systematic scapegoating of Muslims has trickled down to the streets where many criminal types have seen the government’s anti-Muslim attitude as a covert signal that justice will favour leniency towards the aggressor rather than justice for the victim. While cases of mass rape in India predate the ascent of the current government, matters have become decidedly worse since 2014.
While India’s domestic situation is ultimately a matter to be solved internally, the scope of the problems Indian society is currently facing means that if there was ever an issue tailor made for not only media attention but for the attention of the United Nations, the Indian rape epidemic is one such issue.
It beggars belief that Philippine President Duterte’s life saving war on drugs is being mischaracterised as grossly violent, when a war on Indian women led by men with extremist beliefs is causing unspeakable pain to victims and their families, even as many of the horrific crimes remain unreported and therefore unpunished.
Once again, major media outlets, the United Nations and the so-called international community has failed to address a matter of extreme seriousness, while instead focusing on condemning Rodrigo Duterte for fighting and stopping the kinds of crime that are now spiralling out of control in the country that is often called “the world’s biggest democracy”.