The brutal rape of a 23-year-old medical student on a public bus last month in New Delhi, followed by her tragic death, has not gone unnoticed in Saudi Arabia. News reports daily covered details of the crime and the subsequent moral outrage that engulfed India.
How did people in Saudi Arabia react to the events? What was their view on this sad episode and did it differ much than people elsewhere? Maha, a Saudi teacher in Sociology at a local girl’s college was horrified and saddened by the incident in which the girl found herself defenceless, save for her brave companion.
After muttering a short prayer in the deceased girl’s memory, she added: “I kept waking up at night from nightmares. What did those people do to that poor girl? Even animals show more mercy than that. It shakes my faith in humanity, but good will eventually prevail … I pray for it.”
An Indian physician working in the capital city added: “Over the years, we have become accustomed to such occurrences [in India] to the point that we [Indians] are left almost without feeling. Sad isn’t it? Women are being raped, harassed, molested or eve-teased every few minutes and many times these are not reported for fear from the perpetrators or society. Our society [in India] does not serve justice to the victims.”
Ramnaran, an accountant, felt that the new trend in Bollywood had something to do with it. “Look at the current fashion trend in our film industry. Half-naked actresses moving and shaking about seductively, as if encouraging or inciting the viewers to unrestrained excitement. Modesty has flown out of the window, replaced with sleaze and skimpiness. We were a modest culture. What is happening in our films, which, by the way, reach all small towns and villages, is an affront to our morals.”
Zamil, a trader said: “Is this what Indian culture has finally revealed to the rest of the world? We keep hearing about the economic progress in that country and their government through the media is always claiming that they have joined the first level of developed countries, but in view of the death of the poor girl, I think these are all empty words. And she is not the only victim. There are many more, except that they have not drawn as much media attention because they do not live in New Delhi, the capital.”
Gulzar, an Afghani technician claims: “There are daily reports of rapes and killings all over India; in small towns and villages too. But why there is so much publicity and media coverage in this [the Delhi rape] case? It is no different than many that go unreported. During the 2002 Gujarat riots, women were raped en masse and even the shameful actions were recorded on video. But was there a public outcry? Or is it because the victims were minorities? Yet, here the case has reached the international level. It is all politically motivated by politicians seeking an advantage.”
Sharma, a teacher adds: “Rape is often used as a political tool by opposing parties against the poor constituents. How many times has a national rape case drawn attention only for it to be quickly buried and forgotten because the rapist was an influential politician or the son of one? The guilty go scot-free while the poor victims have to shoulder that burden for their entire lives. Is this justice?”
Salma, an accountant said: “I feel for the parents and family of that poor girl. May Allah grant them the strength and patience to withstand their grief. May the victim’s soul rest in peace.”
Sumayya, a Saudi housewife, observed: “What disturbs me is how this crime could take place without any interference from the public. Were they all asleep? Or is it that they did not want to be involved? If that is so, then that is a greater crime. Someone would have surely noticed or heard the girl’s anguish. And yet, no one interfered save for her companion. It is a shameful badge of dishonour that the Delhi society must pin on their chests.”
India has had its share of such dishonour. National crime records indicate that 228,650 of the total of 256,329 violent crimes registered last year in India were directed at women and there has been an increase of more than 800 per cent in violent rapes since the 1970s. Many attribute the rising trend to apathy on the part of the politicians or the police in pursuing justice for the victims.
It would be unfair, however, to infer that India sits alone on top of the heap when it comes to such crimes. Rapists know no borders and no country is immune from such heinous activity. Even in developed countries in Europe or in the US, rape remains a scourge.
A fitting solution will be the castration of the offender once proven guilty beyond a shadow of doubt. Forget human rights! There should be no compromises when it comes to dealing with rape.
Tariq A. Al Maeena is a Saudi socio-political commentator. He lives in Jeddah,Saudi Arabia.