The New Year in India was marked with tragic news that a 23-year-old medicine student had lost the battle to live after a horrific gang rape in Delhi. The case has shaken the country with campaigners demanding stringent anti-rape laws. But why has it taken this particular case for India to wake up and highlight the atrocities against women?
The girl has not been named. However, it is apparent that she is an upper caste, Hindu, middle-class girl. She is one of countless women who are raped in Delhi every 14 hours, according to official figures. That’s two women a day who are violated and stripped of their dignity. So in India’s capital alone, around 700 women are raped every year. I doubt this figure accounts for girls too. The statistic makes my stomach churn, especially as I travel around the city freely when I visit!
There are around 93,000 rape cases pending in India. Take this figure with a pinch of salt. The country’s population is 1.2billion so pending cases would be expected to be higher than, for example, the UK, which has a significantly smaller population. But it makes me wonder how many victims live a life of misery, shame and pain without their case ever getting heard.
Countless women in India, especially in poorer states where women are generally less educated and patriarchal values are prominent (they should be seen and not heard, their existence revolves around family life), are violated. Many of these will never report the rape – maybe because they are ashamed of the implications or afraid of the repercussions. For some the means of support won’t be available. For others, a court date could be pending for years or even decades,
So when should they expect justice?
In the recent case of the Delhi gang rape victim; she was raped on 16 December, died at the weekend and today, five men were charged with kidnap, rape and murder. They would have been charged earlier if they could find legal representation. But because lawyers refused to take their case, the government had to allocate legal representation to them.
It’s encouraging to see that the case is moving forward relatively quick. But would this be the case if there wasn’t widespread public outrage? And would there be widespread outcry over the case if she wasn’t from a middle class, Hindu background?
There are no official statistics detailing the backgrounds of rape victims. But given the relatively poor treatment of women in some parts of India, their faith, class and background could significantly impact if and when they would be considered to receive justice.
India needs to wake-up against rape – the worst crime against the female race. Not only does the criminal justice system need to be revised to ensure speedy court proceedings but the sentence needs to be harsh enough to act as a deterrent. Ironically, rape is considered shameful for the victim. She is often accused of dressing or acting in a certain way to encourage the rape! How ludicrous!
Whatever a woman decides to wear or do MUST NOT affect her basic human rights – to be free from violation! It disgusts me to hear some people were saying the Delhi gang rape victim “deserved” what she got because she was out late at night – so curfews should be imposed on women?! It was suggested that women should be banned from wearing certain items of clothing to prevent provocative dressing – by this argument; all women who dress provocatively would be at risk of rape and all those who dress modestly would not be at risk. We all know that’s complete nonsense.
What about the perpetrators?! The hounds who strip a woman of her dignity, respect, honour, free will and basic right? That too in a country where the victim is considered “impure” whereas the perpetrator is not labelled with any such name! A woman’s potential to marry, to live in the same area or community, her name in the family and society are all tarnished because of the selfish and heinous crime committed by a repulsive man for his momentary pleasure.
The thought angers me so much I wish the sentence for rape would be to castrate the perpetrator!
If you’re wealthy in India; you’re powerful. So if you’re a rich criminal, there’s a good chance you could buy your way out of anything. Corruption is one of the biggest evils of India. The justice system needs to acknowledge such numerous inequalities to reflect India as a true democracy
India: rise against rape.