The economic liberalization of India has allowed Indians to have access to the global consumer market, leading to unprecedented levels of growth and investment. Now, India stands proudly with other rapidly developing countries, such as Brazil and China, showing promise as a potential superpower. However, there are times when India's ability to grow economically and culturally is challenged, such as during the Delhi rape incident. Similar cases, dealing with both native and foreign women, have emerged onto the national and international stage, suggesting that India can no longer hide its violence-against-women issues. While a few moderate changes have been made, India may risk appearing culturally backward to the outside world and to many of its own people.
The latest in a string of violent events is the murder of a 23-year-old man and his 20-year-old girlfriend in the Rohtak district in the state of Haryana. They were young college students with dreams of settling down and living their lives together. Their lives were cut short because they had made one mistake: love.
They were of the Jat community, Haryana's majority cultural group, which almost always consults with elders before any marriage proposals are made. Unfortunately, the girl's family was against the match from the start due to caste differences, leading the couple to run away from home on the morning of September 16, a Tuesday. By Wednesday evening, it was reported that members of the girl's family had brutally lynched and cremated her, and beheaded the boy soon after.
This incident is commonly known as an "honor killing," and has been the topic of great discussion and debate. Honor killings are very female-centered, especially because of their emphasis on a woman's virtue representing the honor of her family. In most cases, such as this one, honor killings are committed by the family of the female and other prominent members in society. There have been attempts to raise awareness regarding the dangers of honor killing, but there are still no exact statistics as to how many honor killings take place in the country.
Beyond the problem of honor killings itself, such events cause the international community to view countries in which they are practiced as culturally backward. Despite India's economic gains, its reputation as a country that cares about the well-being of its citizens might get worse if action isn't taken to correct them. A Times of London article from December, written shortly after the Delhi rape, described Indian men as having a "murderous, hyena-like male contempt" toward women, while a New York Times piece described India as lagging on rape-law reform due to its "misogynistic and patriarchal culture." Both are well-regarded and widely read papers carrying stereotypical and dangerous messages about Indian men. Ironically enough, they bear a sinister resemblance to the words of Katherine Mayo, author of the controversial and inflammatory book Mother India. Her deeply polarizing account of Indian submissive females and sexually aggressive males was the dominant portrayal of India for the Western world. Unfortunately, some of those thoughts have bled into the present day. While this honor killing has not received as much publicity as the Delhi rape and other acts of violence, it is important for the Indian government to start thinking of the consequences of little to no reform in the context of international relations.
Is Honor Killing Honorable?
Courtesy of Maps of the World