News / Asia

India Rape Case Ignites Awareness of Women’s Issues

A boy places a candle as demonstrators hold placards during a candlelight march for a gang rape victim, who was assaulted in New Delhi, January 16, 2013.
A boy places a candle as demonstrators hold placards during a candlelight march for a gang rape victim, who was assaulted in New Delhi, January 16, 2013.
Anjana Pasricha
One month after the brutal gang rape of a 23-year-old woman in New Delhi, there is a new awareness about sexual violence against women in India and a growing debate about women's rights. Widespread protests by young Indians have turned the spotlight on discrimination that women face in the country.     
 
As protests in New Delhi carried on for days following the brutal gang rape of a physiotherapy student last month, many people were surprised by the massive public clamor.

Young, urban, educated, middle-class Indians demanded not just stringent punishment for the guilty, but also a change in how women are treated in India. And, they publicized an issue that has seldom made news: sexual violence against women.  
    
Brutal Gang Rape Shocks India

2012
  • December 16: Victim is gang-raped and beaten on a bus in New Delhi
  • December 20: Protests intensify and spread
  • December 29: Victim dies in Singapore hospital

2013
  • January 2: Five suspects charged with rape and murder
  • January 17: Case against five suspects sent to special fast-track court
  • January 23: Government panel calls for new sexual assault laws
  • January 28: Panel rules sixth suspect will be tried as a juvenile
  • February 2: The five accused being tried in the fast-track court plead not guilty
  • March 11: Indian police say one of the suspects killed himself in jail
  • August 31: Juvenile suspect found guilty
  • September 10: Remaining four suspects found guilty
Ranjana Kumari, who heads New Delhi’s Center for Social Research, said the anger expressed by young people is unprecedented.  
 
“Whenever crisis like this happened or crime, we have never seen other people in society coming forward, in fact only women’s groups and organizations, so far, have been screaming on top of their voices to do something and ask for justice," said Kumari.

She said, "Today, this cry for justice has gone across to everyone, everybody is totally moved, motivated and hopefully this kind of social outcry will continue. So, I am very hopeful that the baton has been given over to young people.”

Sexual violence is a problem across rural and urban India. Rape is seldom reported in villages because of the social stigmatism of such violence. Even in relatively modern cities, outmoded attitudes continue.  Many blame sexual harassment on the influence of "Westernization" on traditional Indian culture. Hence, there are voices that often call on women to dress modestly or not stay out late to avoid becoming victims of crime such as rape.  
 
  • Sand artist Raj Kapoor holds a candle near a sculpture at the Sangam to pay tribute to a gang rape victim who died early Saturday, in Allahabad, Saturday, Dec. 29, 2012.
  • An Indian ties a black band as he arrives to attend a gathering to mourn the death of a 23-year-old gang rape victim, in Mumbai, Saturday, Dec. 29, 2012.
  • An Indian woman shouts at a police officer during a gathering of people to mourn the death of the 23-year-old gang rape victim in Mumbai, Saturday, Dec. 29, 2012.
  • Indian women participate in a candle-lit vigil in New Delhi to mourn the death of a gang rape victim, Saturday, Dec. 29, 2012.
  • A demonstrator shouts slogans during a protest in New Delhi, December 29, 2012.
  • Indian men and women lie down on the ground mimicking dead bodies as they mourn the death of a gang rape victim in New Delhi, Saturday, Dec. 29, 2012.
  • Indians gather next to a makeshift memorial to mourn the death of a 23-year-old gang rape victim, in Bangalore, India , Saturday, Dec. 29, 2012.
  • A man participates in a candle-lit vigil to mourn the death of a gang rape victim in New Delhi, Saturday, Dec. 29, 2012.
  • An Indian woman holds a placard as she joins others in a protest to mourn the death of the 23-year-old gang rape victim, in Bangalore, Saturday, Dec. 29, 2012.
  • People walk near a sand sculpture with the words "We Want Justice" created by Indian sand artist Sudarshan Patnaik, in solidarity with a gang rape victim who was assaulted in New Delhi, on a beach in the eastern Indian state of Odisha, December 29, 2012.
  • Indian women participate in a candle-lit vigil to mourn the death of a gang rape victim in New Delhi, Saturday, Dec. 29, 2012.
  • A girl holds a placard as she takes part in a protest rally in the southern Indian city of Hyderabad, December 29, 2012.
​Last month's gang rape may be hardening such attitudes. Several village councils have banned girls from using mobile phones or dancing at weddings. In Delhi, police have advised women to go straight home from their college classrooms, provoking an outcry.

But an urban, educated middle class is leading the demand for a change in mindset toward women and their safety. Some said women wearing short skirts, shorts or midis are often stared at,and that women do not feel safe in New Delhi. Others said this type of attire provokes men. And there were those who said men and the mindset that puts them above women need to change.
 
Sexual violence is not the only concern. Women face widespread discrimination. Young girls are often given less food and less education than young boys. A preference for sons over daughters has led to a skewed gender ratio because of the practice of aborting the fetus of a girl child.  
 
Ranjana Kumari said violence targeting women is a problem because social attitudes remain outmoded in much of the country. She added that "there  is a lot of violence at home. Every third woman reports violence according to Indian Family Health Survey."

​"We have a mentality which in some way or the other is trying to control women, targeting women," she said. "The correction has to start from family and society. Women have to be given the respect and their dignity has to be honored and that is the only way by changing social mindset we can control crime.”  
 
Sociologists said recent street protests were not just about the brutal gang rape. They said they also reflect growing frustration and anger in a country where a huge, educated middle class has emerged, but governance remains poor, police are insensitive and a slow legal system often results in delayed justice.     
 
Sociologist Dipankar Gupta in New Delhi said the rape was an inflection point.  “The rape acted as a kind of tipping point," he said. "It was on top of a lot of grievances accumulating over the years. In my view, what happened on that fateful night, just precipitated matters."

"There is a gradual alienation which has more or less solidified between the so-called political class and rest. You don't have an organized movement, what you really have is an inarticulate cry of the people who don’t know which way to go,” he said. 
 
For now, that cry is focused on the issue of rape and sexual violence. Throughout the country, cases that rarely received front-page coverage in the news are getting more attention. But activists warn there is a long path ahead before there is any real change in attitudes toward women.

You May Like

Nigeria Incumbent in Tight Spot as Poll Nears

Muhammadu Buhari is running a strong challenge to Goodluck Jonathan, amid a faltering economy and Boko Haram security worries More

Video Liberia's Almost-Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo tells VOA that despite her fame, life is still a struggle as she waits for government's promise of support to arrive More

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

At least seven different indigenous groups in Ratanakiri depend mainly on forest products for their survival, say they face loss of their land, traditional way of life More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: david from: USA
January 18, 2013 6:13 AM
These women need to free themselves from the aseptically men of India, the young and beautiful come to the USA we will love and protect all of you.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More