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Rays of hope amid rape cases in India

By: Alexis Suh           

 

On December 16, 2012 on a bus in New Delhi, India, six men brutally gang-raped a 23-year-old female paramedic, who later died from the injuries.[1] On August 2013, five men gang-raped a female photojournalist in her early twenties.[2] As sexual assault cases in India continue to make headlines across the world, conversations and protests against rape culture are being held throughout India. The world is watching how India and its government are responding.

 

In 2011, 15,423 rape cases were reported in India. However, many experts claim that these statistics are unreliable. [3]Sexual assault is a topic rarely discussed openly, although it has become easier in recent years. As seen around the world, rape culture still prevails, in that the victim is often blamed and the assaulter faces little backlash from society. This, and a broken legal process, makes women reluctant to report rape to the police. Even if a brave woman stepped up to take the incident to court, it would take at least six to eight years for the process to be completed. [4] However, progress is being made. 

 

Almost immediately after the news of the 23-year-old woman’s rape became public, outrage broke out. Thousands of protesters -- men, women, college students, and others -- expressed outrage at the 2012 rape of the 23-year-old female paramedic. Riots broke out, and police had to restore order. [5]

 

While some have chosen to protest on the streets, others have chosen other means to draw attention to the issue of rape culture. All India Bakchod created a YouTube video titled “It’s Your Fault” calling out rape culture. The satirical video begins with Kalki Koechlin, a Bollywood actor saying, “Ladies do you think rape is something men do out of a desire for control, empowered by years of patriarchy? You’ve clearly been misled by the notion that women are people too. Because let’s face it ladies. Rape, it’s your fault!” Koechilin then states some of the ridiculous, but common excuses used to blame women for rape. Uploaded on September 19, 2013, the video has almost two million views as of September 29, 2013.[6]

 

Some men also took the lead in challenging victim-blaming mindsets in Bangalore, India. At the event, called “Don’t Skirt the Issue,” 25 men wore skirts, raising awareness about gender equality. In wearing the skirts, they hoped to challenge the thought that it is the woman’s choice in clothes that leads to rape. Attendees of the men’s skirt protest were asked to sign a pledge that said “I promise that I will be sensitive to gender issues in the way I speak and act. I promise not to be passive. I will step in if I hear offensive speech or views. If I see something wrong happen in front of me, I will crease a discussion and talk about my beliefs.” Over 600 people said they would attend on the Facebook event, and around 200 people came out to the protest on January 12, 2013.[7] The event received extensive coverage around the world.

 

These protests have led to changes in the law. India’s government is a federal republic. [8] While there is a central government, regional governments and representatives, the “ultimate sovereign power rests with the voters who chose their governmental representatives.”[9] One change includes a new help line in New Delhi where victims can call to report their assaults. Unfortunately, there is not yet a connection between the hotline and the police station. The police department answers to the national government, while the hotline was created under the support of a New Delhi official, Sheila Dikshit. [10] Special courts have been set up to hear only sexual assault cases on a daily basis. However these courts hear cases of sexual assault on women only.[11]

 

The rape laws have also been altered. On April 3, 2013, the new Anti-Rape Bill was introduced that “introduce[s] new crimes, expand[s] the definition of rape, and toughen[s] up punishments for the perpetrators of sexual violence.” The age of consent for sex is now fixed at age 18, and rapists can now be sentenced to death.[12]

 

While there is still a long way to go, each person at a protest and every conversation about sexual assault is a step towards eradicating rape culture and creating a safer environment for women and men. Rape is a crime that leaves the victim emotionally, mentally, and physically damaged. With a shift in cultural norms and a responsive government, these small steps will hopefully one day lead to a safe environment for everyone, regardless of gender.

 

 

Alexis Suh is a Junior at Emory University studying International Studies and Journalism. She is interested in Asian American studies, comparative politics and women’s studies.


[1] “Chronology of Delhi gang-rape case,” DNA, September 10, 2013, accessed September 22, 2013, http://www.dnaindia.com/india/1886923/report-chronology-of-delhi-gang-rape-case.

[2] Shyamantha Asokan, “Yet another India gang-rape: Manhunt after photojournalist is attacked in Mumbai,” Reuters, August 23, 2013, accessed September 22, 2013, http://worldnews.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/08/23/20146740-yet-another-india-gang-rape-manhunt-after-photojournalist-is-attacked-in-mumbai.

[3]Saptarishi Dutta and Aditi Malhotra, “Statistics: Rape Conviction Raptes Across India,” The Wall Street Journal, January 4, 2013, accessed September 22, 2013, http://blogs.wsj.com/indiarealtime/2013/01/04/statistics-conviction-rates-for-rape-across-india/.

[4] “Death and the maiden,” The Economist, September 14, 2013, accessed September 22, 2013, http://www.economist.com/news/asia/21586300-rape-and-murder-trial-casts-light-broader-anxieties-death-and-maiden.

[5] “Protesters clash with police in India over gang rape of medical student,” Reuters, December 23, 2012, accessed September 22, 2013, http://worldnews.nbcnews.com/_news/2012/12/23/16104444-protesters-clash-with-police-in-india-over-gang-rape-of-medical-student.

[6] “AIB 365: It’s Your Fault,” Video clip, accessed September 22, 2013, YouTube, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8hC0Ng_ajpY.

[7] Laura Beck, “Awesome Indian men Don Skirts to Protest Rape Culture,” Jezebel, January 15, 2013, accessed September 22, 2013, http://jezebel.com/5976307/awesome-indian-men-don-skirts-to-protest-rape-culture.

[8] Central Intelligence Agency. The World Factbook. Accessed September 22, 2013, https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/in.html.

[9] Central Intelligence Agency. The World Factbook. Accessed September 22, 2013,  https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/fields/2128.html.

[10] Rama Lakshmi, “In New Delhi, a help line for women is flooded with calls,” The Washington Post, June 21, 2013, accessed September 22, 2013, http://articles.washingtonpost.com/2013-06-21/world/40109380_1_help-line-police-force-indian-women.

[11] Satya Prakash and Harish V Nair, “16/12: A crime that changed rape laws in India,” Hindustan Times, November, 9, 2013, accessed September 22, 2013,  http://www.hindustantimes.com/India-news/Chunk-HT-UI-IndiaSectionPage-DelhiGangrape/16-12-A-crime-that-changed-rape-laws-in-India/Article1-1120370.aspx.

[12] Faine Greenwood and Jason Overdorf, “India enacts new, tougher rape law,” Globalpost, April 3, 2013, accessed September 22, 2013, http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/asia-pacific/india/130403/india-enacts-new-tougher-rape-law

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