As Superman once said, and it has since been quoted by President Obama, “With great power, comes great responsibility”. Looking at the emerging power of the BRICs – Brazil, Russia, India and China – what are the responsibilities?
In the wake of the Delhi gang rape and news of the Swiss woman’s rape, I propose the BRICs – with India as a leader – take steps to act responsibly when it comes to women’s rights and violence against women.
The BRICs have gained attention since 2001, when the term was initially coined. From 2000 to 2008, the BRICs’ share of GDP rose from 16 to 22 percent. The Times (London) has quoted a financial adviser predicting that by 2050, the BRICs nations will “dominate the globe”. Each BRIC country has its own view of power and responsibility. Each BRIC country also has its own record when it comes to human rights and women’s issues.
International Ranking on the gender gap ranks Brazil 62nd out of 135. Russia comes in at 59 and India is in the red colour zone with a ranking of 105 and China still makes it into the orange zone at number 69.
Gender violence is a global human rights concern and should be considered an even greater concern for the BRIC countries to continue to be competitively responsible economic leaders. According to Nicholas D Kristof:
“Women worldwide ages 15 through 44 are more likely to die or be maimed because of male violence then because of cancer, malaria, war, and traffic accidents combined.”
In addition, the World Health Organization estimates that domestic and sexual violence impacts 30 to 60 percent of women in most countries. A new film, Girl Rising, highlights some of the issues that young women face, arguing that the key is to invest in girls and women.
As co-author of the Gender Gap study, Laura D Tyson, SK, and Angela Chan, Professor of Global Management, Haas School of Business, University of California at Berkeley, say:
“Gender gaps can be closed with the right policies. As countries experiment with policy choices in this area, they should share the lessons from their experience to accelerate progress.”
Of the 635 rape cases reported in the first 11 months of 2012 in New Delhi, there was only one conviction. There is something seriously wrong with this. A wide range of policies and actions should be put in place to ensure that rape and violence against women do not continue to be accepted in society.
Swiss tourist ‘gang-raped’ in India
Are the BRIC countries responsible stakeholders? Looking at the case of India, we see it is both an awkward elephant in its own desire for a stable region and a responsible partner in creating world order.
In contrast to Pakistan, India sides with the West and has cooperated in the “war on terror”, especially after 2008 Mumbai attacks.
India is set to be the fourth largest economy in 2025. The high-tech industry is booming along with its growing population. It is already a nuclear power, in addition to being a force for soft power through its Bollywood movies and music.
While it would like a place on the UN Security Council, India still struggles with human rights abuses, as evidenced by reports from the Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International. India has not signed the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, but of course, it has not been ratified by the US either.
In addition, India serves as home to the Tibetan government in exile – which along with domestic disputes, regarding Naxalites and Maoists in the Northeastern provinces, threaten its ability to work in conjunction with China.
Still, India is not a permanent member of the UN Security Council, nor does it receive a plethora of preferential treatment through any global institutions. Despite Bollywood, the tech industry and a diaspora that covers much of the globe, for India to be a power player, it must be given greater responsibility and it must take action to eradicate violence against women.
Here there is a challenge. If India has to take on a greater role, it needs to be given greater responsibilities. But, if the global community has to give it greater power, India has to demonstrate that it can use the power responsibly.
Given India’s history, these greater roles and responsibilities will not be able to come from the West or the rest of the world. It must come from an Indian desire, in an Indian way and perhaps at an Indian time to speak up and speak out.
If the BRICs want to continue collaborating in a way that makes a difference beyond economic policy, they should start with acting to stop global violence against women.
Lakshmi Sarah is a journalist and educator with an interest in transnational feminism studies. She is currently a post-graduate student at Aarhus University studying Journalism, Media and Globalisation with a focus on media across cultures. She writes for Global Voices and PolicyMic, and has been a research assistant at Pitzer College and Stanford University.
Follow her on Twitter: @lakitalki