Prime Minister Modi Calls Rape Crisis India's Shame

Image: Narendra Modi
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi addresses the nation on the country's Independence Day in New Delhi on Aug. 15, 2014. Modi broke his silence on the nation's rape crisis, delivering a pointed message to parents across India.Saurabh Das / AP

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi delivered a pointed message to his country during his inaugural Independence Day speech on Friday.

Modi, who took office in May, has been criticized both in India and abroad for not addressing India’s rape crisis since becoming prime minister. Standing before the historic Red Fort in Delhi, Modi said parents need to teach their sons to respect women.

“Today as we hear about the incidents of rapes, our heads hangs in shame,” said Modi. “I want to ask parents when your daughter turns 10 or 12 years old, you ask, ‘Where are you going? When will you return?’ Do the parents dare to ask their sons, ‘Where are you going? Why are you going? Who are your friends?’ After all, the rapist is also someone’s son. If only parents decide to put as many restrictions on their sons as they do on their own daughters.”

Sexual violence wasn’t the only social issue Modi addressed during his speech. Citing India’s imbalanced gender ratio, he urged doctors to stop the practice of sex-selective abortion and also called for better sanitation and more development in India’s rural areas.

“We fought for freedom together. We had no government, no weapons to help us. We defeated such a big empire without any government, without any arms,” said Modi.

“Let us today defeat poverty together. We should fight with the world against poverty."

India gained independence from the British Empire in 1947.