During a speech on India’s Independence Day, India’s recently elected Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, called for gender equality.
In the past year, India has been plagued with a string of highly publicized gang rapes and violence towards women. As the country has been criticized by domestic and foreign critics for its safety and equality, Modi’s comments come at an unsurprising time. His words reveal the legacy Modi wants to create during his term as India’s Prime Minister. Modi is not particularly well known for women’s rights advocacy, but he has begun to align himself with activism groups recently.
Tackling long-standing patriarchal attitudes, Modi has encouraged parents to raise their sons and daughters alike.
Additionally, directing his attention specifically towards boys, Modi encourages families to raise their sons to respect women.
Though Modi’s advice is promising, the attitudes of many generations will not change after one speech.
Compared to the rest of the world, India’s gender gap is among the largest. With many sexual assault cases being improperly handled and survivors being blamed, attitudes toward violence have reflected India’s patriarchal culture.
Modi has described the violence as “India’s shame,” and has underscored the double standard of female and male children. Parents rarely scrutinize their sons to the same extent as they do to their daughters. While the law convicts the criminals, Indian society can help prevent the attacks.
The hope of women’s rights advocates and sexual assault survivors is that Modi will pursue justice for women in India. With his first Independence Day speech including comment on the struggle for women’s rights, it will be interesting to see how Modi rectifies the situation.
– Kristin Ronzi