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News Opinion

New Delhi rapes have their counterparts in America

In my teens and early 20s I lived in Chennai, India, where despicable and lewd male behaviors were lumped together under the umbrella term "Eve teasing" ("Defendants' lawyers in the spotlight in Indian rape case," Jan. 13). I remember walking down a street with a friend, engrossed in a conversation, when out of nowhere a male biker appeared and grazed against my friend, grabbing her breast just for the heck of it. The man disappeared as quickly as he appeared, leaving my friend shaken and sobbing.

A desperate fury at our helplessness overwhelmed us then. We were only 16. Yet such violations of the female body by strangers are common in India. The prevailing culture tolerated or ignored the casual, callous and stealthy approach that men employed to get their kicks on crowded buses and streets. It encouraged the cowardice that masqueraded as audacity and the male dominance that kept Indian women walking quickly to their destinations with heads bent, as though the streets of India didn't belong to them.

I walked zig-zag on the sidewalks then. If I saw a roving gang of male hooligans on one side of the sidewalk I would cross to the other side. I learned to hop around as I navigated the Indian urban jungle, giving potential molesters a run for their money.

I could smell them out from a distance. Women called them "Road Romeos" to express their contempt. There was nothing romantic about those Romeos, who haunted the streets to torment women with sexually explicit language and lecherous expletives.

It seems that little has changed in India. Women continue to be treated as chattel by the political class and by law enforcement. The latter have made few efforts to rein in the hooligans and rapists through the rule of law. Discussions about this dismaying state of affairs among Indian intellectuals always returns to the same causes: sexual repression of men, oppression of women, class and caste divisions and gender wars. The lower classes are smarting for revenge against the more affluent, and marginalized, disaffected men are keen to show successful women who is boss. Sex is a mere tool in that process.

After the violent gang rape of a woman on a bus in New Delhi that resulted in the victim's death, multitudes in India staged massive protests. Meanwhile, Steubenville has become America's New Delhi. The hacker group Anonymous reported that a young female high school student in an intoxicated stupor was dragged from party to party and systematically raped by the team's football stars, who videotaped their "adventure" while bragging about the assault on their friend.

Before that, at Piedmont High School in California, the media exposed a "fantasy slut league" in which boys scored points for their sexual exploits, counting up the winners and the losers as they enjoyed their merry caper. To many adults this was just another case of "boys will be boys" and "girls should have known better."

In 2010, The Sun revealed that the city's police department had a systemic problem in how it recorded and reported rape cases, sweeping several under the rug as though they never happened or were mere fabrications. Many victims were wronged by the, whose only purpose apparently was to keep the departments statistics looking shinier than they actually were.

And now we have a new American term for violent sexual assaults — "legitimate rape" — coined by a former member of the U.S. Congress.

Sex trafficking, child pornography, pedophilia, pederasty, statutory rape and all forms of malevolent and exploitative sex crimes thrive in our nation of laws. The media are saturated with sex, so we are hardly a repressed nation in that respect. Therefore, sexual repression cannot be driving the violence against women in this country.

Many Indian men think of women as property to be owned and abused. Sex crimes in the U.S. may differ from those of India in the methods used but many American men have the exact same attitude toward women as property to be owned and abused.

Usha Nellore, Bel Air

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