Is India’s rape crisis a recent phenomenon? At the crossroads of religious nationalism, caste, and gender

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Recent national and international media accounts of urban educated women in India being sexually assaulted and brutally murdered have raised legitimate worries that India is experiencing a “rape crisis.” This paper challenges the notion that sexual violence in India is a recent phenomenon and argues that sexual violence has been the tool of control of marginalized groups in India including Muslims, the peoples of Northeastern India, Dalits and Adivasis, with the women from these communities bearing most of the brunt of the gendered sexual violence. These forces have been exacerbated by the rising ideology of militant Hindu-supremacy in the last decade, buoyed by the support of Indian middle/upper classes/castes, simultaneously accompanied by constructions of Indian masculinity that relegates women to the domestic sphere. Middle/upper class Indian women negotiating the newfound opportunities in India’s neo-liberal economy find themselves subject to the sexual violence that has long victimized others marginalized by religion, caste, ethnicity, and gender. I underscore the Janus-faced nature of Indian middle-class protests against sexual violence targeting (middle-class) women, given the widespread support among the elites for Hindu supremacy which draws its power through the sexualized violence it inscribes on the bodies of those marginalized by their religion, caste, ethnicity and gender.



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