India rape protests
January 7th, 2013
09:43 AM ET

Is this the start of India's 'Arab Spring'?

Watch "Fareed Zakaria GPS" Sundays at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET on CNN.

From Global Public Square staff

The recent school shooting in Connecticut looked like a tipping point in U.S. public consciousness.

Americans have been asking themselves some tough questions: why does this happen so often and so much more in America than in other countries? What does gun violence say about us as Americans and what measures can we put in place to stop it?

A similar bout of public soul-searching was on display in India recently. Across the country, tens of thousands of people took to the streets to express outrage over the rape and death of one unnamed woman.

The latest on the case

The national attention over her death is shedding light on how unsafe Indian women actually are. According to the national crime records bureau, there were more than 24,000 registered rapes in 2011. That's one rape every 22 minutes in India. And those are just the ones we know about. By some accounts, only a tenth of all such crimes in India actually get reported.

Why such a shockingly high rate of violent crime? Indians are debating the reasons.

The reality is this: This is one more example of a government that simply does not deliver. India has a broken public safety system, little to no public surveillance and CCTV systems, and a corrupt police force.

According to the U.N.'s Office on Drugs and Crime, South Asia has one of the lowest ratios of police officers to civilians in the world. It also has among the fewest prosecutors as a percentage of the population.

There could be other factors. India has a demographic crisis. According to its 2011 census, there are only 9 women for every 10 men in urban India. That's one of the worst sex ratios, and that doesn't happen naturally. It happens because tens of thousands of Indians opt for abortions if they know they're having a daughter.

But these conditions are not unique. Some of them exist elsewhere, too. Perhaps, most of all, rape happens so often in India simply because it is allowed to happen. There is a culture of impunity. After 600 rape cases reported in Delhi last year, only one has led to a conviction.

That's why the current set of sustained protests are something of a silver lining.

People are genuinely upset. The rise of India's middle class has activated a powerful civil society. One that is now demanding better government. It did so a year ago regarding corruption.

Now it's asking for basic rights for women. In a way, this is India's Arab Spring. But it needs to sustain itself and to lead to real reform and change. This Indian spring will only work out better than the Arab Spring if its national leaders recognize the need for radical and thorough change in their country.

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'She could have been me' | End culture of rape

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Topics: India • What in the World?

soundoff (530 Responses)
  1. AMP

    Two Indian soldiers were kidnapped and beheaded (Mutiliated) by Pakistani Army. Why CNN does give any coverage on this?

    January 12, 2013 at 10:29 am | Reply
    • DRP

      Only two? That is peanuts with a population of 1,5 Billion useless people. They should have done more.

      January 12, 2013 at 12:17 pm | Reply
    • Gorda

      A gang r-aping nation like India should be vaporized

      January 12, 2013 at 12:18 pm | Reply
  2. Rick S

    Padma lakshmi and Fareed Zakariya smell like masala farts

    January 12, 2013 at 1:51 pm | Reply
  3. Mr.Correct

    India's "Arab Spring" occurred during the 1940s when they kicked the British Raj out of India.

    January 12, 2013 at 3:59 pm | Reply
    • Mazal Rosenthal

      Thanks to M.A. Jinnah of Pakistan....hindus got their independence !!!

      January 12, 2013 at 6:09 pm | Reply
  4. Danny

    It was no Spring. More like a regression or winter. The countries have switched to more repressive regimes more intolerant of minorities and more backward then ever before.

    January 12, 2013 at 4:49 pm | Reply
  5. Wastrel

    What on Earth is this about?!! There are no Arabs in India, nothing there has anything to do with the Newton school shooting, Americans are not soul-searching about women's rights in India because it's none of our business! Geez. Farheed, write about whatever you want, but don't try to make irt seem that everything is a global issue.

    January 13, 2013 at 12:05 am | Reply
  6. Descarado

    Pray tell, what has the US media's concoction,"Arab Spring," accomplished thus far for women's rights, universal suffrage and democracy?

    January 13, 2013 at 11:14 am | Reply
  7. Vishal

    I think the Arab Spring analogy just refers to the rising political/social awareness amongst the masses, that up until the last decade was completely disengaged from the political process. The analogy does not equate the amount of political freedom in India to that in the Middle East. For those of you claiming that Fareed Zakaria is anti-India (since he is a Muslim or otherwise), Zakaria is one of the most pro-India international journalists. If you do not believe me go check out the video him interviewing (and sometimes heckling) Pervez Musharraf.

    January 13, 2013 at 4:26 pm | Reply
    • CitizenJP

      I agree. Mr Zakaria takes great pride of his Indian heritage. But it is not that Mr. Zakaria is a pro-india journalist, he is a true hard core journalist and asks the right questions. In my opinion just because someone is speaking out against the Govt. of India or asking tough questions of it, would not make him anti-India just as if someone is not asking hard questions of the Govt. where it should be asked, would not make him pro-India. I think all Govts. are answerable to its people no matter where they are. If Mr. Zakaria were to ask tough questions of Indian Govt. will certainly not mean that he does not pride in his Indian heritage, which most definitely does.

      January 13, 2013 at 8:30 pm | Reply
  8. Person

    In the end us women will be forced to wear burqas like Muslims. We are not better than the middle Easters. How can our country praise women in Hinduism, yet hurt them so much.

    January 16, 2013 at 2:10 am | Reply

    We are Hindus from India,
    And we like to put on the Bindiya,
    We are mostly Haris,
    But we like to put on the Saris,
    Sadly, we are nothing but Bhikaris,
    Sadly, we are nothing but Bhikaris,
    We take the Americans to Heart,
    But get nothing in return except a F@rt,
    So we tend to kiss the American @ss,
    Again, we get nothing in return except the American gas,
    We are nothing but Bhikaris and are Indians No Mas.

    January 16, 2013 at 3:40 pm | Reply
  10. jayakumar

    Definitely not an indian arab spring. We are not fighting for freedom or liberty both of which we have had for millennia (except briefly when we were ruled by the british). Our democracy (inspite of all its corruption and nepotism) is still better than many so called democracies that the US has helped develop in the middle east and in Pakistan(if you can call that a democracy). Hence not an Arab Spring.. but perhaps an awakening of the soul and rewriting our moral codes on which our society needs to develop further on. So in that respect, we can call it a Male awakening.

    January 17, 2013 at 11:23 am | Reply
  11. PRN

    Who are we kidding! India is no democracy. All these years after independence, we are still ruled by the one family. With over a billion citizens, dont we have a single capable person other than Rahul Gandhi who can lead our country out of corruption and poverty in the new century?
    We are better than a lot of countries , true! But do we want to compare ourselves to the likes of Pakistan? I think not. I look forward to the day we become a true and mature democracy. I look forward to a day when Manmohan Singh can do his job without being a hand puppet of Sonia Gandhi!

    January 19, 2013 at 8:29 am | Reply
    • Hindoozie

      You are right in that the true comparison of India is to the likes of Bangladesh.

      January 20, 2013 at 3:58 am | Reply
  12. dadguy

    The real risk in an Indian "Arab Spring" is war with Pakistan when the protests and response turns ugly, which it will.

    January 20, 2013 at 12:36 am | Reply
    • Hindoozie

      The problem is that Pakistan has a 3 second strategy to strike and wipe out India.

      January 20, 2013 at 4:00 am | Reply
  13. Simone

    India has failed as a nation.Does not contribute enough to world prosperity. Darwinism imples implosion of India.

    January 20, 2013 at 4:02 am | Reply
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