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.

Related:
India in 2013: Another year of paralysis?

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

- Women's power: A story with a sharp divide

- What happened to 'Incredible India'?

Topics: India • What in the World?

soundoff (529 Responses)
  1. 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
  2. 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
  3. 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
  4. 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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