Sexual Harassment, Rape, and Indignity in Indian Society

The week before Christmas, many of us were picking our outfit for the upcoming parties. In Delhi, however, lay a 23-year student fighting for her life after a brutal gang rape. She died yesterday. Her crime: taking the bus home after watching a movie. Her rape has set India on fire, and protests are rampant. It seems that the public is no longer willing to sit back and accept the government's complacent policies towards women.

Delhi, the capital of India, has one of the highest rape rates in the country. India has been deemed by some surveys to be one of the most dangerous countries to be a woman. Sexual harassment on buses and the streets is widespread. Lack of protection for women traveling and walking the streets is further impacted by corrupt police and government policies that fail to protect women. In this case alone, when a Magistrate went to the hospital to take a statement from the hospitalized victim about her horrific ordeal, the Magistrate reported repeated inference from the head of police. Indian Government also actively ignores the safety of women. A report in the Guardian newspaper told of Indian men who had been accused of sexual harassment (and in some cases rape) who had been allowed to stand in Indian elections. Bribery is rampant, the Police turn a blind eye, and politicians blame women and Western culture for provoking men. In a city of 20 million, 80% of women complain of sexual harassment.


It is no wonder that both men and women took to the streets to protest India’s complacent attitudes to women, particularly rape. The victim was traveling on a private bus after seeing a movie with a male friend. She was brutally attacked by six men on the bus and subjected to horrific abuse. Her companion was beaten with iron rods. Both were dumped on the side of a street after the ordeal. Her injuries were so severe that she had to have part of her colon removed. She was on a ventilator in critical condition for days and was flown to Singapore for specialist treatment. This woman died--all for traveling on a bus.


The protests following her story are not a reaction to her specific case. Rather, they are an accumulation of anger and frustration at numerous attacks on women which have been ignored by the authorities.  Earlier this year, there was public outrage after 12 men outside a bar assaulted a teenage girl. The attack was filmed by an off-duty TV journalist for 45 minutes. The girl later asked, “Why did no one help me?”  The public protesting are rightly asking why it is not safe for women to walk the streets.  Their anger highlights corrupt police and a government that for too long has swept this epidemic under the carpet.

The people of India have spoken. It is time for the government to act.

Follow Ruby on Twitter: @rubysinghrao

2 comments:

  1. The victim has died:
    http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/29/world/asia/condition-worsens-for-victim-of-gang-rape-in-india.html?hp&_r=1&

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