Why the German Prof. is wrong, India is not a country of rapists

Image source: IANS

A German professor at the University of Leipzig has raised hackles in India by citing the “rape problem” in India to deny an Indian student an internship .

The email, sent by Prof Beck-Sickinger at the university’s biochemistry department, reportedly said, “Unfortunately I don’t accept any Indian male students for internships. We hear a lot about the rape problem in India which I cannot support. I have many female students in my group, so this attitude is something I cannot support.”

The German Ambassador in India, Michael Steiner, has protested, saying that “India is not a country of rapists”. This has elicited an apology from both the professor and the university.

On the face of it, the professor’s casting of aspersions on every student from India as a potential rapist is as laughable and ignorant as suspecting every German of being a Nazi. That it came from an academician makes it even more surprising and twice as deplorable.

But setting aside the German professor for the moment, it is clear that the international perception of the “rape problem” in India is steadily growing. The world is beginning to believe that women are particularly vulnerable in this country.

Are those perceptions true? If you go by statistics alone, the answer is an unambiguous ‘No’.

For instance, the top offenders in rape cases are Sweden, Jamaica and Bolivia. The US comes in at 7 with 26.6 rape incidents. India is not one of the prime offenders. (See the 2012 report from UN’s Office on Drugs & Crime pasted below per 1,00,000 population).

Image courtesy: wikimedia.org
Image courtesy: wikimedia.org

But then the statistics also tell another story.

Adjusted for population growth over time, the annual rape rate in India has increased from 1.9 to 2.0 per 1,00,000 people over the 2008-2012 period, says the UN.

Incidents of crime against women increased from 2,44,270 in 2012 to 3,09,546 in 2013, says the National Crime Records Buearu (NCRB). An increase of almost 16 per cent.

There are more frightening numbers. According to the NCRB, 24,206 rape cases were registered in India in 2011. A new case of rape is reported every 22 minutes.

It gets worse: the conviction rate for rape was only 24.2%.

Image source: IANS
Image source: IANS

But, as a society, are we turning a blind eye? Collectively, do we have an “attitude” problem, as the German professor suggested?

In a sense, the German Ambassador to India set it out in the most reasonable way, in his letter to the professor. Here is the relevant portion:

“The 2012 Nirbhaya case has refocused attention on the issue of violence against women. Rape is indeed a serious issues in India, as it is in most countries, including Germany. In India, the Nirbhaya case has triggered a lively, honest, sustained and very healthy public debate – a public debate of a quality which wouldn’t be possible in many other countries.”

The ambassador puts the prevailing reality in a nutshell.

While India has a problem about the way it looks and treats women, it would we totally misleading and erroneous to conclude that India has a ‘rape problem’.