Will a Horrific Bus Gang-Rape in Delhi Finally Change India’s Culture of Rape?

Slate, By Jen Swanson


India may be the world’s largest democracy, but it’s also one of the most dangerous countries for women.

As if the Haryana rape spree earlier this year, and the religious and political leadership’s indifference to it, weren’t awful enough, this week brought news of a horrific gang-rape of a 23-year-old med student on a moving Delhi bus, knocking India’s entrenched blame-the-victim mentality off its footing. How to demonize a girl who dared watch a film with a male friend before boarding a private bus in a relatively affluent neighborhood around 9 p.m., before most Indians even sit down for dinner? What did she do to invite the next 90-minutes of torture, as six drunk men on board (including the driver, who passed the wheel to a friend so as not to miss his shot) raped her in turn before beating her so badly with an iron rod that medical staff described the site of her naked body, which had been dumped with her friend’s alongside the highway, as horrifying? Could this possibly mean that India’s pervasive rape culture can’t be blamed on women after all?

On Wednesday, angry protests broke out around Delhi, overwhelming police as irate crowds called for police accountability, better protection and even some for public castration. Meanwhile, parliamentarians called for a proper investigation and stricter penalties for law-breakers; some even proposed the death penalty, a far cry from the usual mild finger-wagging. Following suit, the Delhi High Court agreed that the five men apprehended so far should be tried in the fast-track courts, thus saving this case from joining the thousands of other rape cases held up in a system so backlogged that lawsuits often linger 10 to 15 years before going to trial.

Hundreds gathered outside of India Gate to stage a candlelight vigil on Wednesday evening, but not everyone is convinced that the latest attack will change anything. “People are appalled. And they want instant justice. Chemical castration. Public hanging. Stoned to death. Anything will do. But what has happened is sheer reflection of the way India has evolved. Women being raped day in and day out is a story of Indian evolution,” writes journalist Vivek Kaul. Kaul is describing a country where, almost exactly two years ago, a 13-year old girl was gang-raped by four boys. After they left her by the side of the road to die, she crawled into a brick kiln, where she was found and raped by two other men. Later, she was found and raped by a rickshaw driver, only to be abducted and raped for another nine days by a truck driver and his accomplice. The sad fact that still more gang-rapes have been reported since Sunday’s bus attack seems to further confirm that Indian women will continue to stock up on pepper spray and suffer this undeserved short straw in life. India, according to Kaul, is a lost cause.

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  • India rocked by deadly protests over sex attacks

    Agence France-Presse, December 23

    Police shot dead a journalist Sunday during a protest over a sex assault on an actress in northeast India as security forces in New Delhi fired tear gas at new demonstrations over a student’s gang-rape.

    After the victim of last Sunday’s gang-rape in Delhi began recounting her ordeal to police, a wave of revulsion over sex crimes spread to the remote state of Manipur where a protest was held over the attempted rape of the actress.

    A police spokesman told AFP that the 36-year-old cameraman, who was working for the national Doordarshan network, was “killed in police firing” while covering a protest that turned violent in the town of Imphal.

  • Indian PM urges calm amid violent anti-rape protests

    France24 (news wires), December 12

    Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh appealed for calm on Monday as he sought to tamp down growing public outrage over the gang rape of a young woman that led to clashes between police and protesters in the heart of the capital at the weekend.

    Singh, who has faced fierce criticism for remaining largely silent about the rape, vowed action against what he called a “monstrous” crime.


    “I appeal to all concerned citizens to maintain peace and calm. I assure you we will make all possible efforts to ensure security and safety of women in this country,” Singh said in a televised address to the nation.

  • India orders inquiry into Delhi gang rape

    India’s government has ordered an investigation into the gang rape of a 23-year-old student while on a bus in the capital, Delhi, earlier this month.

    BBC, December 26

    A retired judge will “identify the lapses” on the part of authorities and “fix responsibility” a minister said.

    The student’s condition has “improved marginally”, doctors say, although she remains on life support.

    It sparked angry protests in India. Six people, including the bus driver, have been held in connection with the rape.

    Violence in clashes between protesters and the police in Delhi left one policeman dead and injured more than 100 people.

  • India gang rape: five men charged with murder to appear in court

    Men accused of violent assault in Delhi that sent shockwaves through India will make first public appearance since arrest.

    The Guardian, By Jason Burke, January 5

    Delhi – The five men charged with the gang rape and murder of a 23-year-old year old medical student in Delhi have been ordered to appear in court on Monday. It will be their first public appearance since being detained two days after the attack three weeks ago.

    The men’s full trial is due to start in a week in a new fast-track court inaugurated last week specifically to deal with sexual violence against women. A sixth accused, a juvenile, will be tried separately.

    Feelings are still running high in India, with many calling for wholesale reforms of laws and policing. The incident has also provoked a fierce debate on attitudes to women. Protests have occurred in neighbouring countries, inspired by the ongoing demonstrations in India.

    In his first interview since the attack, the male friend of the victim, who died in a Singapore hospital eight days ago, has described how passers-by left the pair lying unclothed and bleeding in the street for almost an hour.

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