Opinion | India’s gender-bias is causing an alarming rate of gang rapes, violence problems
Published: Friday, September 27, 2013
Updated: Friday, September 27, 2013 01:09
In Dec. 2012, a New Delhi woman was gang-raped on a bus and died from her injuries. Four of her attackers have since been charged and sentenced to the death penalty. The case galvanized the population with massive protests and condemnation of the harassment, mistreatment and danger posed to women in India.
Such a moment seemed pivotal to a paradigm shift in policies to protect Indian women. The Justice Verma Committee, led by former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court J.S. Verma, was “constituted to recommend amendments to the Criminal Law so as to provide quicker trial and enhanced punishment for criminals accused of committing sexual assault against women.”
A few months after that case though, three sisters, aged five, nine and 11, were kidnapped, raped and murdered. Authorities, according to The Atlantic Wire, recorded the deaths as “accidental.” The Indian government offered the mother of the victims the equivalent of $18,400 for her suffering. There are more and more shocking cases just like the above two, such as the rape of a seven-year-old in a train bathroom in early August.
Sobering enough, a woman in India is raped every 20 minutes, according to the National Crime Records Bureau.
Yet, despite the Committee’s recommendations for fast-tracked criminal court cases and harsher punishments, India has one of the lowest conviction rates in the world. First Post in India reports on the conviction rate, “Of 14,717 cases in which trials concluded in 2012, just 3,563 ended in a conviction.”
Additionally, it certainly does not help that India’s police force falls far short of the United Nations’ recommendation of 250 per 100,00 baseline. According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime from 2010, they have just 129, which among the rankings, is second to last ahead of only Uganda.
Furthermore, it does not help when the police of the limited force add to the rape culture. For instance, just earlier this week, a 14-year-old went to the police to file a rape complaint.
Their response reportedly was to tell her to strip to prove the rape. Not only that, but the girl’s father was reportedly told to pay the equivalent of $800 to even register the complaint.
Certainly, while a more robust police force, and one that included more females, and a stronger record of conviction of rape would be welcome, the rape problem in India goes beyond legal remedies.
Ruchika Tulshyan, writing for Forbes, muses on the cultural context to explain why women are targeted, “As the number of educated, high-earning women rise, so does risks to their safety.”
In other words, although there are many mitigating factors, generally, Indian culture skews toward masculinity and men. Back in the 1990s, for instance, India had a widespread abortion problem wherein once parents found out a fetus was female, they would abort it.
The Washington Post reports that this problem of rape and violence directed toward women is having a tangible economic effect on the Indian economy. Along with only 35 percent of women in India working, 82 percent of Indian women said that they are reducing their working hours, leaving the office early because they don’t want to be traveling after dark.
Bravely, in the New Delhi attack, the woman reportedly fought back against her attackers, biting and scratching; unfortunately, it was to no avail.
The Guardian has a full accounting of the attack and to say the least, it is a brutal, nightmarish, but all too real and common an occurrence in India.
As The Guardian reports, her case stood out because she represented the “three legitimate categories allowed to women in India: mother, spouse or child.”
Her father contended with those who would say the solution is to marry their daughters and sisters off, saying, “This is running away from a problem. I won’t say, ‘Don’t let the girls study.’ Make your daughters tougher so they can face a problem.” I agree marriage is not a solution, if for even one reason; an alarming caveat in the Indian Penal Code (ICP) for instance, is that sexual intercourse without consent is prohibited, except if the sexual intercourse without consent occurs between husband and wife. This is despite the Criminal Law Amendment of 2013, which changed parts of the ICP (like broadening the definition of rape) to reflect the outrage of the Delhi case.