India has been in the spotlight lately for brutal gang rapes and police inaction.
On November 13 a 17 year old girl in the Punjab province was gang raped by 3 men. Her father killed himself, and the rape was reported on November 27. She suffered police harassment and embarrassing questions while they refused to arrest her attackers, and was pressured to marry one of the attackers. On December 27 she drank poison and ended her life, prompted the arrest of the three rapists.
On December 16 a 23 year old paramedical student was beaten and gang raped by 6 men on a bus while it drove around New Delhi. The woman’s guy friend was also beaten. They were both left on the side of the road, naked after the attackers were finished. She was flown to Singapore for treatment because of massive internal damage, and succumbed to her injuries on December 29.
On Wednesday December 26 a 42 year old married woman was gang raped by 3 men while traveling to Delhi. She knew one of her attackers: a few months ago she filed an attempted rape charge against him, but the police didn’t register it.
Official figures show that of the 256 thousand violent crimes recorded in India last year, 228 thousand were against women. And obviously most cases are not reported. Police figures show that, in Delhi, a rape is reported on average every 18 hours and some form of sexual attack every 14 hours. (BBC) The Times of India said that 582 cases of rape had been reported just in Delhi so far this year.
The Delhi bus gang rape victim was the straw that broke the camel’s back– massive protests with thousands of participants have taken place in New Delhi asking for more protections for women coupled with real and swift consequences for rapists. They are also protesting the way the police have handled these cases, or rather, ignored them. Transportation in New Delhi was incredibly restricted during the several days of mass protesting, in the hopes of preventing more protesters from arriving. Some demonstrations were peaceful, but others have been every violent. There are continuing protests, but they are smaller now. In previous days photographs and news stories emerged of protesters being attacked with water cannons (fire hoses), as well as tear gas.
India is the fourth most dangerous country in the world for women, after Afghanistan, Congo, and Pakistan, according to a Thomson Reuters Foundation 2011 expert poll. The Indian National Crime Records Bureau has official data showing that rape cases have jumped almost 875% over the past 40 years — from 2,487 in 1971 to 24,206 in 2011. There are no national standards or procedures to follow for medical treatment or exams for a sexual assault victim that comes to the hospital. Not only will police refuse to report the rape, sometimes hospitals turn these women away. As in the United States, the personal values of the doctor come into play in treatment of a rape survivor– the treatment can be unpredictable and is usually humiliating. According to a report by Human Rights Watch in 2010 doctors often use a “finger test” to check if the victim’s vagina is tight (“you’re a virgin! you really were raped!”) or looser (“you’re frequently sexually active. I don’t think you were raped. tough shit.”). Clearly, the “finger test” is not scientific or standard, and without evidence of a struggle or injuries on the woman’s body cases go unreported.
Currently, India is on the hunt for dignity, accountability, and national standards for rape victims. Today, the law does not define sexual assault– law defines rape as penile/vaginal penetration; or you could be convicted of “outraging the modesty of a woman” or “insulting the modesty of a woman.” There is no marital rape law in India. With US Congressmen such as Paul Ryan continuing to attempt to redefine rape, I wonder if the definitions will become something like India’s, which are in desperate need of updating. An additional problem with sexual violence in India is that the police and military are immune from prosecution unless their superior signs off on an approval for prosecution. There are numerous accusations against the police and Army which will likely never go to court.
How does India move forward?
today: “why are women still riding the bus? why aren’t they protesting the bus company to help?”
Driving is primarily a male job– suddenly introducing women drivers or women-only buses would be an enormous change. In developing regions of the world there are numerous types and sizes of transportation, ranging from school-bus sized buses, over-sized vans, community/share taxis, and motorcycle taxis, just to name a few common forms. Without well-developed infrastructure (which is nearly impossible in cities such as New Delhi where there is so much growth so rapidly its nearly impossible to enforce stop signs/lights and traffic lanes, much less violence that happens inside of closed vehicles.) Most drivers are independent owners, and don’t work for a company.
A study by The Lancet reported that 300,000 to 600,000 female fetuses are aborted every year in India because of the preference for boys, even though it is technically illegal. As young children girls are not given the same quantity or quality of food as their brothers, their brothers are first in line to go to school, and they are usually raised to be a good wife instead of an independent/educated woman. There are 23 million missing women and girls in India, as of 2009 (China is missing 30 million, Pakistan 3 million, Bangladesh 1.5 million, and the rest of the world 40 million). That means millions of men who cannot marry, millions of men who have seen their mother have a sex-selective abortion or watched their newborn sister killed or left to die. If your parents don’t respect women and girls, you won’t grow up respecting them either.
fatal discrimination: young women
Almost half of the girls in India are married before they turn 18. Seen as a financial liability, women must bring a large dowry into a marriage, and she then leaves to live with their husband (or husband and his parents). (yes, requiring a dowry is illegal in India today– but it is not enforced) A 2012 UNICEF study found more than half of Indian adolescent males think it is justifiable to beat a wife under certain circumstances, which shows just how prevalent domestic violence is.
First, women must value themselves and their daughters. They must value their daughter’s time, and her education. Secondly, men must value women. Until the value of women is established in India, there cannot be true progress in ending the country’s alarming violence against women.
If you have ideas/thoughts on how to curb or end the violence against women in India, please leave a comment or email me– I’d love to further discuss any thoughts!