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Sunday, April 21, 2024

The false narrative of “pervasive rape in Indic culture”

I completely empathize with the Spanish woman raped in Jharkhand and strongly want the criminals to be given exemplary punishment.

However, this incidence is being used to create a narrative of pervasive “rape” in Indic culture.

My post is a rebuttal of this narrative.

My analysis is based on my publication [1] in a peer-reviewed international journal that has used scientific methodology.

A. What does the data say about the rape in India? The reported data says that rape in the Western culture is way more than that in the Indian culture. Here are the latest numbers available [2] about the annual number of rapes per 100,000 people. South Africa 72.10 Sweden 63.54 Australia 28.60 Belgium 27.92 United States 27.31 United Kingdom 27.29 New Zealand 25.85 Norway 19.21 Finland 15.25 South Korea 13.50 Mongolia 12.41 Germany 9.38 Bangladesh 8.21 Italy 7.64 Spain 3.42 India 1.81 Japan 1.02

B. These numbers could mean nothing as most cases are under-reported. Yes and no. Let us try to see to what extent under-reporting could happen. Even in the United States, one of the Government sources estimates (page 228-230 in [1]) that only 20% of the victims report their rape. The proportion can be even as low as 10 or 12% in other developing countries (e.g. South Africa).

An Indian study [3] shows that proportion to be 15%. For India, to be at par with the US regarding proportion of rapes, the reporting rate has to be as low as 1.5%, an order of magnitude below than what has been found in other countries of the world.

It is a remote possibility that the proportion of rape in India is greater than that in US.

C. Could it be the case that the laws in India are biased against women to register rape?

The short answer is that it is actually the other way round. Section 376 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) says that sex is rape if it is without the woman’s consent. Section 90 says that consent obtained via ‘misconception of fact’ is not really consent. Many lower and High Courts, and even the Supreme Court in one situation (Deepak Gulati vs. State of Haryana case in 2013) based on these two sections together, have held that consensual sex based on a false promise of marriage is rape.

A great proportion of the reported cases were actually by women who were a party to consensual sex [4]. Obviously, this pushes the rape statistics for India upward. This is not the case for western countries. In some cultures, rape could be alleged only with four male witnesses to rape. Naturally, that keeps the statistics down for those countries. Understandably, India does not suffer from all these issues.

D. What about the Patriarchy in Indic Culture? Let us explore the Indic culture’s understanding of rape. In the Ramayana [5], the villain Ravana has proposed marriage to Vedavati who rejected him. Ravana grabbed her hair and tried assaulting her.

He was cursed by her, which eventually caused his ruin. In the Mahabharata [6], Krishna killed Shishupala for his crimes. The prominent crime Krishna mentioned was abduction of two women out of delusion and desire by Shishupala.

In the third story [7] of Sri Chandi (alternatively called Durga Sapta Shati), the villains Shumbha and Nishumbha sent a messenger to Parvati, the Shero, to convince her to marry one of them. She replied that she had taken an oath to garland only someone who would be able to defeat her. The messenger warned her about the consequences and said that her honour would be violated.

She politely accepted the challenge and eventually killed Shumbha and Nishumbha. The Manu Samhita, the canon for Hindu law, prescribes death penalty (8:364) for raping a woman and cutting of two fingers (8:367) of the guilty for inserting finger into the vagina of an unwilling woman. Clearly, Indic culture, patriarchal or not, holds sexual assault to woman in deep contempt, unlike some other cultures in which the right to consent for women did not exist in many cases.

E. Do the high ideals of the Indic culture represent the ground reality? Not necessarily. But then again, the present day culture is composed of many centuries of coloniality and it is ignorant and shallow (if not ill-motivated) to blame the Indic culture and patriarchy for the crimes. Anecdotally speaking, in the Kumbha mela, about a hundred million people come but very few sexual crimes are reported. However, in the New Year Parties in posh metropolitan places, many cases are often reported in spite of attendance of a few hundred persons. Maria Wirth

@mariawirth1 is a German lady who has spent more than three decades in India, often travelling alone. She has candidly expressed her experience in her book [8]. She considers traditional India to be a safe place compared to the West. Any rape is simply one too many. However, the war should be against the crime not against tradition. Courtesy:


References: [1] Gangopadhyay, K. (2015). Sexual violence: a model of occupational choice and gender wage gap. Journal of interdisciplinary economics, 27(2), 219-244. DOI: 10.1177/0260107915583740

[2]…, retrieved 4 March 2024. [3]…, retrieved 5 March 2024. Excluded marital rape in the interest of parity with other data.

[4] Rukmini, S. (2014, July 29). The many shades of rape cases in Delhi. The Hindu. Retrieved on 15 December 2014, from…

[5] The Valmiki Ramayana, Uttara Kanda,…

[6] The Mahabharata, Sabha Parva (Shishupala-Vadha Parva). Chapter 267, Vol 2. In the BORI edition of the translation by Bibek Debroy.

[7] The Durga Saptashati, Chapter 5 to 10. [8] Wirth, Maria (2018). Thank You India. Garuda Prakashan.

(This article has been compiled from the tweet thread posted by @kausikgy on March 07, 2024, with minor edits to improve readability and conform to HinduPost style guide)

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