An awkward moment that has turned into an awkward couple of years.

Indian American here.

After hearing redditors ask, Why would anyone want to go to India? What is it about India and rape? and the need to draw a correlation between rape and the country’s “shithole” status, I feel inclined to share insight. I am in my mid-thirties, raised in the US, and have traveled to India on over a dozen occasions. Perhaps to the bewilderment of some, I am India right now having an enjoyable vacation.

The obvious truth is, I still get culture shock when I come here for all of reasons you’ve heard about. The pollution, lack of infrastructure, poverty, low standards of quality and cleanliness to name a few. Bureaucracy and corruption to name a couple more. This stuff is changing slowly: the frustration can be compared to trying to watch yourself lose weight in the mirror. But I’ve also come to understand what I love about the country and what brings me back: joy is found everywhere here without a price tag. It humbles me every time I see a kid standing in a dilapidated field, holding a cricket bat and a beat up old tennis ball with a big smile on his face. It humbles me when I hear twenty and thirty-somethings who still live with their parents laughing and sharing stories as good as any of my own with friends in noisy, crowded streets. And it especially humbles me, when a friend or family member who knows he works a week to earn my hourly wage, greets me with a smile because I have come to his home to share something as simple as a meal and conversation with his family. This is the spirituality and warmth India is known for and what continues to draw people here from all over the world. Whether visitors to India hail their experience or berate it, none will claim they leave India with a lower appreciate for life.

On the flipside, there is a new India that has been selectively exposed to western culture without context, participation, or understanding, especially within the working class. I’m going out on a limb here, and this is not at all scientific, but I’d bet that the recent spike in gang rape behavior is rooted in pornography and the perception of sex and promiscuity outside of India. Kissing is non-existent in Bollywood, let alone public, despite the industry’s growth. Homegrown pornography is illegal altogether. Pre-marital sex is never discussed, even if it is happening, and marriage for males in poorer demographics has itself become a privilege due to skewed sex ratios. Cable TV, and especially the internet, are now prevalent in the country, and foreign pornography has become widely accessible through the growth of smart phones. It wouldn’t be a stretch therefore that the perception among a niche group of single, uneducated Indian men would make it seem like everyone everywhere is having sex all the time, except for them.

Does this resonate with Indians? I don't claim to have the answers, but I want to hear the conversation that no one is having, and fewer comments filled with vitriol and fear mongering, which are cringeworthy at best. The argument can be made by Indians to more effectively “ban” western influences in the form of pornography. Maybe. But a better answer might be to improve sex education in homes and schools and adapt it to the reality of 21st century India. What India desperately needs is a sexual revolution. One where Indian men and women can understand and develop their own sexuality, rather than feel the need to “catch up” to their perception of a western one. This is also true of Indian women who are held to impossible standards of purity, ostracized by their families at the hint of any sexual liberation, and discouraged from reporting rape out of shame. Fortunately the latter appears to have changed rapidly as a side-effect of recent rape headlines and the subsequent, and commendable, rise to action of both Indian men and women. The undereducated, undersexed single-male syndrome has received less, if any, attention.

The recent news of young Japanese woman on a spiritual journey being held captive in India and repeatedly gang raped for 3 weeks is sickening, sad and wrong. I can only take consolation this morning by the fact that the suspects have been caught, and justice may be served quickly due to the level of attention. However, it is one thing for Indians to rely on the legal system to bring justice and hope that the fear of consequence alone will eventually discourage rape in India, and another getting to the heart of the issue and change the mindset of these potential rapists. Indians need deeper conversations about sexuality and need to create a venue for them. Otherwise, Indians should not be surprised to see a re-branding of their country from a spiritually forward nation, to a dangerous backwards one, that isn’t worth the risk to visit.

TL; DR: People go to India for spiritual/cultural awakening. Ironically India needs one of its own. Gang rape in India is not an isolated problem, but likely exists as part of a deeper culture issues which can be fixed. Horrific stories of gang rape may continue until Indian men are educated about western sexuality, women can report rape without fear of reprisal, or better yet, the country experiences its own sexual revolution to bring both men and women’s issues to the forefront.

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