By Patricia L. Sharpe
Yes. It’s pretty disgusting that an Indian diplomat not suspected of narco-trafficking was strip searched, externally and internally, en route to jail for breaking a U.S. law. Better by far to have sent her packing back to India with a couple of messages. Don’t lie on visa applications. Don’t think you can treat domestic employees in New York the way you treat them in Delhi.
But the protest in India, where women are raped in shocking numbers and with shocking impunity, is hypocritical, to say the least.
It’s been a year since the ghastly mutilation by multiple rape of a young woman who innocently boarded a bus one night in Delhi. In many Indian states, after that horrific incident, laws against rape were passedand/ or strengthened, and Indian leaders pledged themselves to making public streets and public facilities safe for women. This week the anniversary of that horrible incident is upon us and, according to a report by BBC, rapes by the thousand continue to occur daily in India, while trials and convictions for rape continue to be statistically insignificant.
So much for consistency when it comes to respect for women. A breaking-and-entering penis on a dark street in holier-than-thou India isn’t worth prosecuting, but a drug-seeking probe by prison officials in New York rates a riot. Absurd.
An Indian woman who has been raped must choose between two unpalatable recourses. If she reports the rape to the police, who probably won’t prosecute, the world will know she’s been violated and no one will marry her. (Oh yes, maybe the police will advise her to marry the rapist.) If she doesn’t report the rape, she’ll live the rest of her life in rage and shame and fear. Damned if she does. Damned if she doesn’t. Either way, the rapists live to rape another day.
Another thing: Indians don’t care about how the rich and the middle classes maltreat domestic employees–especially the females who clean and take care of kids, the nannies and maids. Routinely very young girls are sent from the village to work for wealthy urban families, frequently with a vague promise of education and the better future that promises. What actually happens? Although they’re employed in a luxurious home or penthouse, the girls sleep on a mat in the hallway, they’re fed slop and not much of it, their work day will last fourteen or sixteen hours, largely unpaid, and they’ll have no personal freedom. A good word for these conditions is slavery.
This condition of domestic servitude is what the glamorous young Indian diplomat was trying to duplicate in the U.S. She declared on a visa application that she’d be paying her maid some $4000 a month. In fact, she paid about $500 a month. Even assuming the maid also received room and board, in New York that’s slave wages.
So the glamorous young Indian diplomat was arrested and given the normal prison intake procedure for falsifying information on a visa application. Not good. I’d have handled her case differently, largely because I’d like to change the way the American criminal justice system works for everyone. I’d like to see less brutality. I'd like to see less humiliation. Fewer strip searches. No perp walks. Etc. Given America's existing barbarous procedures, however, I'd have preferred, for the sake of U.S.-India relations, that the devious, callous, though extremely photogenic young Indian diplomat had been declared persona non grata and bundled onto a plane for New Delhi in 48 hours or less.
Meanwhile, I have a few words for those indignant Indians protesting in front of the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi. If you are really concerned about the violation of women’s bodies, do something about rape in India.