In the weeks since a woman was viciously gang-raped on a New Delhi bus, the misogyny and parochialism of India’s mostly male, mostly rural politicians have been on full display. Senior politicians blamed the rape on Western culture, on Westernized women, on modern city life, even on bad karma. The government’s mishandling of the popular outrage made the situation worse: Police in New Delhi used tear gas and water cannons on female protesters, many of them college students.
As the entire country monitored the health of the young woman—who died in a Singapore hospital on Dec. 29—Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said something that made sense. “The emergence of women in public spaces, which is an absolutely essential part of social emancipation, is accompanied by growing threats to their safety and security. There can be no meaningful development without the active participation of half the population, and this simply cannot take place if their security and safety are not assured.”