Gang rape exposes India’s problems
Tribune-Star readers must have read about the brutal gang rape of a young woman in New Delhi on Dec.16. Since then numerous other cases of rapes and attempted rape have been reported. Several members of Indian Parliament and state legislatures have been implicated for molesting women and even minors.
All this casts a cold light on how badly India treats its women. These reprehensible crimes reflect an alarming trend in India, which basks in its success as a growing business and technological Mecca but tolerates shocking abuse of women.
Rape cases have increased at an alarming rate, roughly 25 percent in six years. New Delhi recorded 572 rapes in 2011; that total is up 17 percent this year. And those are just the reported cases. Many victims, shamed into silence and callously disregarded by a male-dominated power structure, never go to the authorities to seek justice.
Women are routinely blamed for inciting the violence against them. Recently, an 18-year-old girl from Punjab who had been gang-raped in an earlier incident killed herself after police and village elders pressured her to drop the case.
India’s news media now regularly carry horrific accounts of gang rapes, and this has begun to focus national attention on the problem. But the rape of the 23-year-old woman seemed to take the outrage to a new level, prompting tens of thousands to protest in New Delhi and elsewhere across the country. Still, political leaders were slow to react. It was days before Prime Minister Manmohan Singh appeared on television to plead for calm and to promise to make India safer for women.
Since the attack, six suspects have been arrested and the government has announced the formation of two commissions, one to identify police “lapses” and another to recommend ways to speed up sexual assault trials. Reforms are needed in the law enforcement system to make convictions more possible and punishments more convincing.
More broadly, India must work on changing a culture in which women are routinely devalued. Many are betrothed against their will as child brides, and many suffer cruelly, including acid attacks and burning, at the hands of husbands and family members.
India’s sex ratio has been disturbed due to aborting the female pregnancies for decades. There is a serious shortage of young women in that country.
India is a rising economic power and the world’s largest democracy. She can never reach its full potential if nearly half its population lives in fear of unspeakable violence.
— Khwaja A. Hasan
Formerly of Terre Haute