- Sudhir Krishnaswamy, Shishir Bail and Rohan Kothari
The gangrape of a Delhi physiotherapy student in December 2012 has sparked a national debate1 on the incidence and causes of rape and other sexual offences in India. One strand of this debate is the assertion that acts of rape and sexual violence occur with greater frequency and intensity in urban rather than rural India. Mohan Bhagwat, Sarsanghachalak (Supreme Chief) of the Hindu-nationalist Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) observed that: “Where Bharat becomes India with the influence of western culture, these type of incidents happen. The actual Indian values and culture should be established at every stratum of society where women are treated as mother”. Statements like this rest on two distinct claims: first; the empirical claim that the incidence of rape in urban India is higher than rural India, second; the sociological claim that culture best explains the differential rate of incidence of such crimes. The second claim that culture best explains higher rates of rape and that ‘westernisation’ displaces the morals and values of rural India results in a divisive political debate. While both these claims deserve intense critical scrutiny, the response so far has been modest and misleading.
The full text of the working paper is available here.