New Delhi is reportedly in heated anger after a 23-year-old student was subjected to an hours-long gang rape on a bus. The young woman was beaten nearly to death, causing Indian women and men to take to the streets demanding that the authorities recognize what has long been a persistent and ignored violation to women and girls in the region.
National Post reports that there is “outrage and anger across the country” as women have protested all the way to Parliament:
Thousands of demonstrators clogged the streets in front of New Delhi’s police headquarters, protested near Parliament and rallied outside a major university. Angry university students set up roadblocks across the city, causing massive traffic jams.
Hundreds rallied outside the home of the city’s top elected official before police dispersed them with water cannons, a move that earned further condemnation from opposition leaders, who accused the government of being insensitive.
The protesters have reportedly called for quicker and harsher punishment for rapists, including the death penalty. Some expressed simply that authorities recognize the pain and devastation of these crimes:
“We want to jolt people awake from the cozy comfort of their cars. We want people to feel the pain of what women go through every day,” said Aditi Roy, a Delhi University student.
The 23-year-old rape victim who triggered the protests is in critical condition with severe injuries. So far, four men have been arrested but two others remain at large. Head of the ruling Congress Party, Sonia Gandhi, has visited the student and promised “swift action” against the rapists. She had also called for police to receive better training on handling crimes against women:
“It is a matter of shame that these incidents recur with painful regularity and that our daughters, sisters and mothers are unsafe in our capital city,” she wrote in a letter to Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit.
But as protests continued all across India, two other girls were reportedly gang raped, one of whom was murdered. Police superintendent Ajit Kumar Satyarthi said that the body of a 10-year-old was found in a canal in Bihar state’s Saharsa district. In the Banka district of Bihar, a 14-year-old is in critical condition after being raped by four men.
No arrests have been made in either case, which is consistent with many of the rapes in India; it can reportedly take between 10 and 15 years for such a crime to reach the court system. But many instances of rape don’t even make it that far:
Rapes in India remain drastically underreported. In many cases, families do not report rapes due to the stigma that follows the victim and her family. In other instances, families may decide not to report a rape out of frustration with the long delays in court and harassment at the hands of the police. Police, themselves are reluctant to register cases of rape and domestic violence in order to keep down crime figures or to elicit a bribe from the victim.
“We have thousands of rape cases pending in different courts of the country. As a result, there is no fear of law,” says Ranjana Kumari, a sociologist and head of the New Delhi-based Center for Social Research.
Sushil Kumar Shinde, Home Minister, says that the Indian government has brought forth bills to make punishments for rapists more severe. However, those pieces of legislation usually come to a standstill in Parliament.
In the wake of this particular 23-year-old victim, lawmakers of multiple party affiliations have demanded that a plan for protecting women come to fruition. Shinde has also ordered for increased police protection in the streets at night.
But that’s only part of the problem.