Outrage in India—
and the Global Capitalist Culture of Rape

January 13, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us


December 16, 2012. Late into the night, a young woman and man—naked, bloody, and barely conscious—are dumped from a bus onto a dusty street in Mahipalpur, a district of south Delhi, India. After an agonizing wait of close to an hour while they lay bleeding in the street, they are finally taken to a hospital.

The woman had moved to the sprawling mega city of Delhi from her impoverished state of Uttar Pradesh. Her family had spent and sold everything they had so she could study medicine. She dreamed of returning to the village where she grew up and opening a hospital.

But the two young people had been lured onto the bus by a gang of drunken men, out to attack women. The men quickly disabled the woman’s companion and beat him. Then they began a savage assault on her that continued as they took turns driving the bus through the crowded streets of Delhi, beating and raping her mercilessly. When she was dumped onto the corner in Mahipalpur, she was suffering massive blood loss and severe damage to several internal organs.

At the hospital doctors discovered that her intestine had been so badly torn apart with a metal rod used to rape and beat her that the organ had to be surgically removed. Several days later she was flown to a hospital in Singapore that specializes in treatment for multi-organ trauma. After undergoing three abdominal operations, she died on December 28.

Simmering Rage, Righteous Fury

News of this horrific outrage struck a deep chord among millions of people throughout India and thousands —women and men—poured into the streets in angry protest. They were viciously attacked by police with water cannon, tear gas, and batons. One young woman shouted to the police who were dragging her to jail, “Shame, shame, you beat us while rapists roam free.” At an anti-rape protest in Imphal, in northern India, a journalist was killed when the police fired on demonstrators with live ammunition.

But the protesters persevered. Massive demonstrations have continued in Delhi and other Indian cities into the first week of 2013. A 22-year-old woman who had traveled five hours to be at a Delhi protest told reporters that it was “impossible to imagine that the country will sit back and say chalta hai [all is going to be fine].... We are not a chalta hai generation.”

The fury and duration of the protests have triggered a crisis in Indian society and within the Indian government. In the face of government attacks, thousands, especially young women and men, have continued to take to the streets—expressing their determination to not let this go on, to bring out into the open the horrible crime of rape in society that is usually covered over and tolerated.

In response, the government has now charged five of the six men involved in the savage bus attack with murder, and is threatening to use the death penalty against them. Meanwhile, different political forces are working to find ways to suppress and channel people’s anger into ineffective efforts aimed at reforming the police and the political and legal systems to supposedly “better protect” women.

A Seismic Fault Line

This brutal rape and the courageous mass protests against it have revealed a seismic fault line that exists not only in India, but throughout the entire world: The oppression of women that concentrates one of the most basic social divisions in a world dominated by the system of capitalism-imperialism.

This oppression takes many different forms. The horrors it inflicts are universal. And it affects every woman and girl. Half of humanity is subjected in some way or another to the threat and reality of assault, degradation, rape, murder, enforced prostitution, and daily, never-ending abuse. All of society is bombarded with a whole culture, social relations, and ideas that constantly demean the worth of half of humanity. As we wrote about the state of women in 2012:

“In today’s world, whether you live in the so-called ‘enlightened democratic’ West... where women are systematically discriminated against and turned into sexual commodities; where prostitution, pornography, and strip clubs are ‘just part of the culture,’ where the patriarchal relations of the family mean women are brutally beaten, even murdered by their husbands and boyfriends. Or whether you live in a country where feudal traditions and backward religious strictures mean women are required to cover themselves head to foot, not even allowed to be seen, where they can be given the death sentence for choosing whom they want to marry or deciding they want to get an education...

“The capitalist system has engulfed the entire world... the system of imperialism turns everything and everyone into a commodity... this system has created a situation where all over the world, half of the population is systematically denied their humanity.” ("Women in 2012: The Horrible Fate of Half of Humanity Under Capitalism-Imperialism" Revolution #290, January 6, 2013)

And every single second, a woman somewhere in the world is raped—brutalized, degraded and denied her humanity in this way. And then, so many times, she is “raped again”—humiliated by the police who interrogate her, implying that “she asked for it”; told it was her fault because she wore the “wrong clothes,” was in “the wrong place”; accused in court of being a “loose woman” and so she deserved what she got.

Much of the fury of the protests in response to the rape in Mahipalpur has been directed at the inaction, indifference, and hostility from the Indian government, beginning with its top officials and extending through the government bureaucracy, the police, and the army. The massive and continuing protests have brought official participation, encouragement, and complicity in crimes against women into the light of day. For example, at least six Indian legislators are currently facing rape charges in different cases; and in the last five years India’s leading political parties have nominated 260 candidates facing charges for crimes against women. In Indian society, rape is used as a weapon of domination by the military, the police, and upper castes against lower castes and classes, and the rapists in such cases usually go unpunished. But it is also true in Indian society—as it is all over the world—that women of all economic and social standings are threatened by and subjected to the brutality of rape, whether it is in a dark alley at night, date rape, or rape within marriage.

All this and much more amounts to a permanent state of war on women and girls, driven by the chaotic dislocation and exploitation of global capitalism-imperialism, and fueled by feudal, patriarchal ideologies and the proliferation of high-tech pornography. The infuriating prevalence of rape is one monstrous expression of the deadly environment in which females exist from before they are even born until their death. It is a crime embedded deep in the nature and workings of the capitalist-imperialist system—including in the ways that this system has incorporated feudal and semi-feudal social relations and traditions. And no amount of reforms, of getting rid of bad police or throwing out rapist politicians is going to “fix” this horrendous problem.

In India, simmering rage at the groping, the leering, the insults, the assaults—the rape that is excused or condoned and determined to be “the woman’s fault”—exploded in righteous fury on the streets of Delhi and other cities, and reverberated throughout the world. A raw nerve had been touched.

Kavita Krishnan of the All India Progressive Women’s Association said on Democracy Now! that “this incident was particularly graphic violence, but there have been other terrible incidents, as well, including incidents in Delhi. But I think it was a cumulative effect and a cumulative feeling of anger and outrage at the impunity enjoyed by perpetrators of sexual violence and at the imposed insecurity, at the restrictions that insecurity imposes on women.

“And it all burst out in this, perhaps because this young woman was doing something so normal: She boarded a bus to go home after watching a film with her friend. And I think that somehow struck such a huge chord.”

Liberation of Women, Emancipation of Humanity

“The question of the status—the oppression and the struggle for the liberation—of women is objectively coming to the forefront in today’s world and posing itself ever more profoundly and acutely.”

Bob Avakian,
“Unresolved Contradictions,
Driving Forces for Revolution”

The Revolutionary Communist Party’s A Declaration: For Women’s Liberation and the Emancipation of All Humanity (March 8, 2009) summed up the process through which capitalism both inherits and deepens the oppression of women as part of its fundamental workings:

“‘Modern’ capitalist society—or in reality the global system of capitalism-imperialism—has inherited the oppression of women from past societies out of which capitalism has emerged, and while changing some of the forms in which this oppression takes place, it has not eliminated, and cannot eliminate, this oppression; it has incorporated pre-capitalist forms of this oppression, in various parts of the world, particularly the Third World, into its overall, worldwide system of exploitation and oppression, and it perpetuates all this through the fundamental relations, the ongoing process of accumulation and the overall functioning of this capitalist-imperialist system.(Emphasis in original)

The “ordinary functioning” of this system has had devastating, horrifically life-draining impact on India and the rest of the world. Capitalism-imperialism has deepened and intensified the great divisions in the world between a handful of people who accumulate obscene wealth off the labor of millions, and a mass of humanity deprived of life’s most basic needs; between nationalities of people who are deeply oppressed and nationalities who benefit from that oppression; between women and men.

Why Are There So Many More Men Than Women In India?

India today is one of several countries whose population shows what scholars Siwan Anderson and Debraj Ray call in their 2012 study a “suspiciously low” ratio of women to men—94 women to 100 men. What does this one stark statistic reveal about the conditions of life and death for women in India today, and the horrific, profound oppression they face?

The ways this goes down, across boundaries of class, caste, culture, and religion, are as varied as they are horrible. Infants killed because they are female and not considered as valuable as males. Women’s “injuries” while giving birth that “appear to be indicators of violence against women.” Ultrasounds to detect female fetuses for abortion are used even in parts of India without access to modern healthcare (let alone among more “middle class” people), due to social and financial pressures to bear sons, not daughters.

Girls from poor families who die of infections, parasites, and other preventable diseases at higher rates than boys because the welfare of boys takes priority over the welfare of girls. Young women harassed, brutalized, and murdered or driven to suicide by husbands and in-laws over dowry demands. (Dowry is money, property, and gifts a bride’s family must give to the man she marries and his family, often causing her own family terrible financial hardship.) Older women prematurely dying of poor health worsened by lifetimes without access to medical care. India is one of many countries where acid attacks are a common form of violence by men against women: acid thrown in a woman’s face—blinding, disfiguring, destroying her life—is a punishment for refusing a man’s overtures, for seeking a divorce, for disobedience.

Self-immolation—suicides by women who are made so desperate by the conditions of their lives that they burn themselves to death. But murder, too: women murdered by their own husbands and in-laws—who douse the woman with gasoline and light the match (often these cruel crimes are then reported as “kitchen accidents”). In 2001 alone, more than 100,000 young Indian women were reported killed by fire, with many of these deaths tied to domestic abuse.

Anderson and Ray note there is “little doubt” that the number of deaths of women and girls is higher than they conclude, “for the simple reason that the under-reporting of deaths for women is higher than for men.”

Their conclusion is a chilling indictment of the world imperialism has created: “Indian women face the risk of excess mortality at every stage of their lives.”

In the sprawling cities of India—a country proclaimed by Western imperialist leaders and by its own leaders to be the “world’s largest democracy”—alongside and intermingled with the islands of high-tech entrepreneurship, glittering shopping malls, and heavily guarded luxury apartments, is the degrading squalor of teeming shantytowns and slums, filled with people caught in a never ending struggle to survive.

Here, in India, there is an extremely sharp coming together of different things. Increasingly, women are entering into the job market, as super-exploited wage laborers or as part of the more middle strata “techno” workforce or with higher-end skills, such as medical technicians or doctors. All this still exists within a largely feudal superstructure—where traditional patriarchal practices and ideas are enforced upon all women, even those who may have attained a high educational and professional status. Women are still subjected to arranged marriages and the patriarchal dictates of the family. Female children are profoundly devalued and there is a common practice of aborting female fetuses. This is one reason there is a disparity in the population in India, where there are 15 million more men than women. And RAPE is a part of all of it—fueled by the underlying patriarchal oppressive relations, the grotesque misogyny, the violence, and the degradation of women.

Look around the world. Any continent, any hemisphere: In Cairo, Egypt, fundamentalists and other reactionary forces have declared open season on women on the streets... in Juárez, Mexico, a state of kidnapping, rape, and murder of women has existed for over a decade with the active complicity of all the established authorities... Amnesty International reports that women who report rape to authorities in Scandanavian countries “have only a small chance of having their cases tried by a court of law. The result is that many perpetrators are never held to account for their crimes.” In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, tens of thousands of women are survivors of rape that is endemic to the reactionary military forces operating in service of different capitalist-imperialist interests... Different cultures, different particulars, but a global horror.

Everywhere on earth where people yearn for and are beginning to lift their heads to fight for liberation, the question is posed: will the fight be to break all the chains of exploitation and oppression? Or to break all the chains but one—the one of women’s oppression and the outlook of patriarchy that justifies and helps perpetuate it? This will be a fundamental determinant of whether or not people will be able to break free of capitalism and begin building a revolutionary new world where humans consciously transform the world and themselves, working through all the challenges and obstacles to lay the basis for a world in which exploitation and oppression no longer exist.

The liberation of women can never come about in a capitalist society. But capitalism-imperialism has created the basis for a revolution—a communist revolution—that can put an end to all exploitation and oppression, can dig up the roots of them so the basis for them coming back in another form is gone. And to do this, this communist revolution takes up as one of its central components the emancipation of women.

A courageous, heroic uprising of women and men following the brutal rape on the bus in Mahipalpur has convulsed India, and sent tremors throughout the entire world. The righteous fury unleashed on the streets of Delhi, and the anger burning in the hearts of millions at the anguish inflicted on the woman who was trying to take a bus ride home, is a harbinger of the future and a concentration of one of the most decisive and fundamental questions of our time.

Will this fury be beaten down and suppressed?

Will it be channeled into ineffective reforms that leave the system of capitalism-imperialism grinding on unscathed, and the outlook of patriarchy and male domination fundamentally unchallenged?

Or—will it be unleashed as part of an epochal battle to liberate all women, and emancipate all humanity?



A Call to Action

We are told that “equality for women has been won” and that “there are no limits to what girls can achieve.” BULLSHIT!

Every 15 seconds a woman is beaten. Every day three to four women are killed by their partners. One out of four female college students will be raped or sexually assaulted while in college.

In recent years, pornography has become increasingly violent, cruel, degrading towards women; women are referred to as “cumdumpsters” and “fuckbuckets”; the “money shot” (ejaculation in a woman’s face) is standard; humiliating cruelty—like violent “ass-to-mouth” penetration—is normalized, and racist bigotry is sexualized. Meanwhile, the broader culture has been pornified: pole dancing is taught at gyms, “sexting” is a national phenomenon among teens, and the strip club is the accepted backdrop to “male bonding.” All this is tied in with, and reinforces, the trafficking of millions of women and girls as literal chattel in the international sex industry.

This is NOT society becoming more comfortable with sex. This is society becoming saturated with the sexualized degradation of women. If you can’t imagine sex without porn, you’re fucked.

At the same time, a Christian fundamentalist-driven assault is imperiling abortion, birth control, real sex education and women’s lives. Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered (LGBT) people who do not conform to traditional patriarchal gender and sexual norms are demonized and threatened. Abortion doctors are killed. Women who seek abortions—or even birth control—are stigmatized. 2011 saw the largest spate of legal restrictions on abortion since Roe v. Wade in 1973.


Fetuses are not babies. Women are not incubators. Abortion is not murder.

Women are not objects. Women are not things to be used for the sexual pleasure of men NOR are they breeders of children. WOMEN ARE HUMAN BEINGS CAPABLE OF FULL EQUALITY IN EVERY REALM!

It is long past time that this new generation stand up, reject, and RESIST this culture of rape and pornography; this culture that labels women “selfish” if they choose not to become mothers; this culture that reduces women and girls to sexualized objects while denying their full multi-dimensional humanity (including their right—as one essential part of this—to explore their sexuality without shame or stigma); this culture that demonizes and bullies LGBT people.

Our purpose is NOT to lobby for new legislation to ban pornography (“decency laws” have always served to further repress homosexuality, boundary-challenging art, and scientific sex education). We oppose the criminalization of women in the sex industry. Our mission is to challenge the new generation in particular to reject this culture of rape and pornography, to resist the shaming of women who have sex and/or abortions, to wage fierce cultural and political resistance to wake others up, and to bring forward a liberating culture that celebrates the full equality and liberation of women.

Contact stoppatriarchy@gmail.com with your questions, comments, ideas, and interest in getting involved. Get flyers to hand out, bring a speaker to your campus, ask your toughest questions. The future of women depends on YOU!



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