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Soraya Nulliah: The West’s View of India’s Female Gendercide is Sometimes Racist!

December 3, 2012

Sorya NulliahIn regards to the western response… [to India’s female gendercide] I think there are a few factors at work.

Indians in the west, even the feminists and scholars, don’t speak out about the violence in their families and communities.There is such deep denial.

I also think that Western feminists don’t really grasp the issue, because the Indian female genocide is subversive, invisible and cloaked in the most insane form of denial. I think it’s almost impossible to grasp the numbers, the inhumanity and the insanity of it all.

Those from the west who know of it are perhaps hoping for some magical way to stop this because to accept the reality is too frightening.

I think there is also an element of racism and colonialism when it comes to viewing violence against women in other cultures. The western view of the female gendercide in India is that it is a “cultural’ issue and not a human rights one. For some reason we can all agree that Auschwitz and Rwanda are a human rights violation but when genocide is gender base, people seem to think otherwise. This points to the fact that, regardless of what we may say in the west, female lives simply aren’t as valuable as males’.  And when those female lives are not white then they are perhaps of even less value – so misogyny gets compounded with racism.

Soraya Nulliah is an Indo-Canadian, feminist artist who uses her art as a medium to raise awareness about pervasive violence on women and girls within Indian communities in the west. In 2006, her solo-exhibition Shakti was held at the Nina Haggerty Centre in Edmonton, Canada.  You can read our earlier interview with her here. Her website is www.sorayanulliah.com and she tweets @sorayanulliah

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9 Comments leave one →
  1. December 3, 2012 4:45 pm

    I think if you want to know what a Western Feminist thinks about female gendercide, then you should ask a Western feminist rather than speculating. Gendercide of any kind is a human rights issue, no matter what the race is. I can’t speak for anyone else, but I do not see gendercide as a “cultural issue”.

    • December 3, 2012 7:54 pm

      @April — Having being raised in the west, Soraya is a western feminist (of Indian origin). She has been actively campaigning about the violence on Indian women in the west and the female gendercide in India. And she is talking about the resistance she comes across in both Indian and western feminists. We do know that in the Indian feminists there is massive denial! But you will be amazed how often campaigners like Soraya, and indeed the campaign founder Rita Banerji, find that western feminist groups don’t even want to acknowledge this as a human rights violation. Here’s another article that an Indian feminist wrote on our blog ‘Racism in Western Feminism is Hurting women like me’

    • December 3, 2012 8:51 pm

      April — I have interviewed Soraya, and it was interesting for me that we both had similar experiences with western feminist groups. Let me tell you about one particular experience I had with one major group called ‘Women Under Siege’ that I believe was founded by Gloria Steinem, and that writes a blog on genocidal violence on women around the world, but refuses to accept that what’s going on in India is a female gendercide. In fact it has chosen to ignore this mass scale violence against women entirely on its blog even when prodded and asked why. Here is my account of what happened. “Ask Women Under Siege What Hides the Dirty Secret of India’s Female Genocide” Do read and tell me what you think.

  2. Sanjay saxena permalink
    December 3, 2012 5:08 pm

    Pl don’t blame westerners and don’t link this problem to any race,caste or creed as its global problem

    • December 3, 2012 7:49 pm

      @Sanjay — She is not blaming westerners for the female genocide in India or in the Indian diaspora population. What she is saying is that if this was happening to western women, western feminists would regard it as a genocide. But Soraya, as indeed Rita Banerji, the campaign founder, both of who have been campaigning about the female gendercide in India for a long time, have said, they’ve repeatedly come up against a wall of denial and resistance among western feminist and human rights groups. That if the same was happening to western women, they’d would call it a ‘genocide.’ But because it is happening to women of color — it is not acknowledged, even as a gross human rights violation. Do watch the video of the speech Rita Banerji gave to the UN on Nov 26: Six forms of femicide in India.

  3. December 3, 2012 6:07 pm

    This is an interesting take on the subject. I don’t converse with feminist here in the states (at least not knowingly or for the purpose of feminism) so I can’t confirm or deny your thoughts. I know the US went through similar issues in the 1970’s fighting for women to be valued the same as men. No, we didn’t have the same level of gendercide or female feoticide but women were beaten, abused, etc. It’s still legal in some places to beat your wife if done in specific circumstances which is a shame on America.

    Anyway, I see what is happening in India now as similar to what happened here in the 70’s. Women began to speak up, stand up and fight for their right to be equal under the law. It was the first step in making the public treat them equally. It was the beginning of a long fight that we seem to be winning here. I have the same hopes for India and I do my best to support women’s empowerment.

    From an outsider view I think part of India’s problem is cultural (and this too is no different from the US). Culture isn’t the root of the problem, but cultural views complicate this issue. Even some women in India still promote the archaic view of it being okay to beat women, isolate them at home, etc. They hold onto the traditions, not realizing that those traditions were built and made by men over time. Women were once valued and appreciated for these roles whereas now it seems to be thought that they are doomed to them. I believe it was this way in the US before the 70’s as well (based on history textbooks and stories from family). It can be difficult for women in this generation in the US to see that India’s history in this regard is similar to our own.

    Inevitably, you are right. This is not a race issue at all. This is a gender issue only. And it permeates throughout the world, not just India.

    • December 4, 2012 7:53 am

      American Punjabin — Yes, violence is internalized in women in all cultures, which is why violence on women is harder to address and stop than violence on people based on other factors like race, religion etc. However, what Soraya is discussing here is not the average women, but Indian women in the women’s movement, women’s ngos and female academics writing on women’s issues. And I agree with her, that the violence is internalized by these women which makes it harder to address it for Indian women in general. There is tremendous denial of the scale of violence and there are kinds of excuses made for it. In India for instance, women feminists have said, you shouldn’t call ‘honor killings’ barbaric, or you cannot call ‘sati’ murder. In the west, where I also have lived, Indian women are often not able to go to the women’s ngos there for help, because their first priority is to protect culture instead of protecting women. It’s something that Jasvinder Sanghera, a British Indian writer and feminist, also said when she was trying to escape a forced marriage in the UK, and she said she felt safer going to the western ngos for help. See this post: Culture worship by Indian feminists is killing Indian women. What I am discovering is that a lot of women in the Indian women’s movement have experienced domestic violence or witnessed it at home, but haven’t faced it. That is why the continue in denial — blaming other things, pointing to the slums (when it is just as prevalent in middle and upper class homes). And unless these women face up to it in their own homes and lives, they will continue to bring this very warped approach to violence on women. It’s not the way forward.

  4. February 13, 2013 7:09 pm

    Majority of western population had never been to India , so their view is based on generalization only. With regards of ethnic groups living in the west , they tend to live isolated in many aspects and therefor are not center of attention from the majority of population. I agree with those who say that , no matter where Indians settle they bring their cultural garbage on how they view women. Its difficult to uproot such gender violence as all generations are brought with it .One should closely analyse many so called blind cultural-religious traditions which are accepted per see due to being tradition.
    It seems that about 20 years ago mentality in the west changed. I would say that majority of population in the west don’t care any more , if population in India or Africa kill each other or eat each other as long as they do it over there. So hoping that western governments will get involved is not very likely..

  5. November 3, 2013 11:59 am

    I think a lot of feminist and non feminist think of India as a country full of “cultural” problems and they just dont know what to do about it, India is a scary country full of fake “spirituality”, rape, abuse,caste systems, racism, sexism, I mean is crazy, India is one of the most abusive countries in the planet yet it claims to be “spiriual”, Ive being hearing about gendercide for a long time, yet I cant believe some parents are sill paying dowry, is only up to indian parents to stop forcing their daughters to marry and really only up to them

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