Volume 2, Issue 2, 2014
Invoking Religion in Violent Acts and Rhetoric
Mackenzie Brown, Nupur Agrawal
The Rape that Woke Up India: Hindu Imagination and the Rape of Jyoti Singh Pandey
This essay was inspired by the gang-rape of 23-year-old Jyoti Singh Pandey in Delhi, India, on December 16, 2012. Thirteen days later she died in a Singapore hospital from injuries caused by insertion of an iron rod by her six attackers. The authors first analyze the remarks of politicians and religious leaders that invoked religious- nationalist ideals to diminish the responsibility of the attackers, to exonerate traditional Hindu ways of life, and to blame the victim. The essay next examines cultural and religious contexts of gang-rape, in particular, the positive and negative images of women in traditional Hindu mythologies and scriptures.
Theories about why some men rape and why some rapists mutilate the genitalia of their victims are considered. The essay includes results of interviews and surveys of Indians in India carried out during the summer of 2013. Questions focused on religious issues such as the extent to which the mentality that women transgressing traditional limits are responsible for what happens to them fosters a rape-tolerant atmosphere. The authors conclude that parts of the sacred
tradition can be useful for enhancing the status and safety of women in India today, while other, clearly misogynistic parts must be recognized, critiqued, and rejected.