From UConn to India, rape culture around the globe examined at lecture

Rape and other forms of sexual assault are a shortcoming of cultures all over the world, often existing because of deep rooted social stratifications that objectify human beings. At a lecture at ITE on Wednesday night, those shortcomings were blasted with compelling videos and discussed through the lens of Indian society. (Amar Batra/The Daily Campus)

Rape and other forms of sexual assault are a shortcoming of cultures all over the world, often existing because of deep rooted social stratifications that objectify human beings. At a lecture at ITE on Wednesday night, those shortcomings were blasted with compelling videos and discussed through the lens of Indian society.

Speaking at the event were members of the Indian Student Association and the Japanese Student association as well as distinguished professors from UConn’s Department of Sociology.  The first speaker was Manisha Desai, an associate professor of sociology and women, gender and sexuality studies and the director graduate sociology studies.

Professor Desai spoke about the history of the women’s movement in India, contextualizing the issue of rape culture by explaining its origins in colonialism and imperialism as well as talking about the movement contemporarily.

“The way in which we have been trained to look at the others in terms of our own country or people of different sexual orientations, ethnicities, we tend to see them in unchanging ways. We generalize them or see them in homogenously, that they are all the same. We can’t look at things that way,” Desai said.

In recent years, the women’s movement in India received global media attention due to a massive group of women called the Gulabi Gang.  Gulabi, which translates from Hindi to English as pink, derives from the pink clothing worn by its members. It is a group that have been protesting and arriving en mass to villages in the state of Uttar Pradesh in India, calling out corrupt officials and publicly denouncing rapists.

Following Desai was Bandana Purkayastha, a professor of sociology and Asian-American studies. Purkayastha was recently appointed the American Sociological Association’s representative to the International Sociological Association for 2014 to 2018. She directed the conversation towards rape culture in America and on American college campuses. 

“Sexual assaults are happening in prisons and refugee camps, places beyond colleges. This notion of rape culture needs to include all spaces,” she said.

The event was well attended, with positive feedback as well as an interactive activity for all who wished to participate. Videos were screened about the Gulabi Gang as well as video testimonials from rape victims across the world that help to capture what comprises rape culture.

“As the event was being formulated, we only expected 20 to 50 people to come. We got more than that and that blew my mind. This is something I hold very dear to my heart. It’s good to see that kids on campus care about this as they do,” said Aesha Patel, a fifth-semester physiology and neurobiology biology.

The activity was the making of a lotus flower with origami demonstrated by members of the Japanese Student Association.  The activity is meant to build into a social media movement wherein a person is given the origami flower by someone and photographed to post to whatever social media outlet of their choosing under #GoGulabi.

“I was really happy we were able to do this on campus.  Hopefully this will spark something, and become a round table circumstance for us to continue the discussion,” said Rohin Thomas, a fifth-semester exercise sciences major.


Matthew Gilbert is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at matthew.gilbert@uconn.edu.