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Home - Start the Revolution

The horrific crime touched a raw nerve with millions of young Indian women who are frequently groped, taunted and harassed.

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Home - Start the Revolution

The vicious gang rape and torture of a 23-year-old physiotherapy student by six thugs in New Delhi in December has ignited national fury and brought needed attention to the plight of women in India.

The horrific crime touched a raw nerve with millions of young Indian women who are frequently groped, taunted and harassed; thousands of people marched in spontaneous demonstrations, demanding tougher laws and calling for the death penalty and castration of rapists.

Unfortunately, the reckless and sensational media coverage of the crime has glossed over and mischaracterized the biggest threats to women in the country. Several media reports, for instance, have railed against the crime epidemic in New Delhi, which has been dubbed the “rape capital” of India and indeed the world. International media reports on the incident routinely cite a Reuters claim that “India is seen as one of the most unsafe places in the world to be a woman,” based on its charitable foundation’s survey of 370 so-called “gender specialists.”

These representations are patently false. New Delhi is not the rape capital of the world or even of India. Rape crimes per 100,000 resident in New Delhi (2.8) are half that in Chhattisgarh’s Durg-Bhilainagar (5.7) and well behind Bhopal (5.3), Jabalpur (5.0), Kollam (4.5), Gwalior (4.4), Indore (4.2) Faridabad (3.8) Agra (3.5), Ranchi (3.0) and Jaipur (3.0).

While India does record the third highest number of reported rape incidents in the world, the rate per 100,000 in India (1.8) is a tenth of the UK (28.8), (27.3), New Zealand (25.8) or Norway (19.2) and far lower than Finland (15.2), Germany (9.4), Netherlands (9.2), or Switzerland (7.1), according to data compiled by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. Admittedly, the U.N. data only cover reported crimes and as many as 90% of rapes are unreported, according to experts. But that problem is as endemic to developed countries as to developing ones.

The point is not to minimize the brutality of the New Delhi gang rape or the severity of the persecution of women in India, but to underscore the reality that solutions to intractable problems cannot rest on faulty premises. The more crucial facts are that fewer than 20 percent of the 745 people arrested in 572 reported rape cases in New Delhi in 2011 were brought to trial. Of those tried, just 18 were convicted and 34 acquitted. The conviction rate in 2010 was even more abysmal at just 25% and almost three quarters of the men accused of rape that year in the city have yet to be brought to trial.

The urgency in India, it would seem therefore, is not for tougher laws, but for stringent enforcement of the ones already on the books. Gang rapes are punishable with 10 years to life imprisonment under existing law. Prosecutors have the discretion, which they have exercised in this case, to seek the death penalty when a victim dies.

The more intractable challenge in India is that rape victims are often shamed and intimidated by relatives, perpetrators and police to drop the charges and sometimes even to marry the men who assaulted them. Indeed, shortly after this incident, an 18-year-old woman who had been gang-raped during Diwali in Patiala in Punjab committed suicide because police and village leaders pressured her to withdraw her complaint and marry one of the rapists. Prosecuting police officials who refuse to file rape reports or coerce victims into dropping charges would be a more effective deterrent than the death penalty (which has been exercised just 46 times since India’s independence) for rapists.

UNDP’s Gender Inequality Index ranked India 129 among 187 countries in its measures of inequities between men and women in reproductive health, empowerment and the labor market. The World Economic Forum’s Gender Gap 2012 report, likewise, ranks India 105 among the 135 countries it evaluated.

The passage of more stringent laws that will only be enforced in the breach will serve to advance neither safety nor equality for India’s women.

What India requires, instead, is a national movement and a societal shift away from the patriarchal mindset and the male-dominated societal institutions and structures that subjugate Indian women in the home, in the workplace and in the community. And that revolution needs no bands and marches to India Gate; it can begin silently in every home.

Subscribe to comments feed Comments (7 posted)

Sean February 16, 2013 at 11:37 PM
Kuti, I'm going to have to firmly and recpestfully disagree with you. Everyone should always ask one another if they want to have sex. Just because a woman is in a relationship with a man does not mean she gets to assume that he wants to have sex. That's the exact type of thinking this campaign is trying to challenge and eradicate. Also, I think I see where you were trying to go with your later statements and I'd have to say that I'm thoroughly offended. How exactly did you think it was appropriate to blatantly slut-shame on a sex positive, safe space website!?
Prabha Kumaraswamy January 15, 2013 at 9:45 PM
Violence against women is commonplace in India........female infanticide, bride burning are still going on...........some of us were lucky to have been born in families that respected and cared for women. This fortune is elusive to many women in India., I bet the same men who raped her address their mothers as mataji as if they are the epitomes of decency............there is a lot of hypocrisy in India. India's scourge and shame is something that needs to change radically. It should start with movies wherein women are depicted as sex symbols without any guts or courage
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SCT January 15, 2013 at 3:47 PM
Dear AchalJi, Kudos to a very well written piece. I wish outlets like cnn, cbs would publish such balanced views. I would like you to add HOW to start this process balance process away from a patriarchal society. Maybe the next edition of the magazine. Would love to see it. We need to see this as a revolution not only at home but also in the law and order to support it. Many thanks again.
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Kamlesh Merai January 11, 2013 at 5:47 PM
I am really happy that people of India wake up and specially young girls . This is a fight against the society which was corrupted by our own loved ones and so called care takers of the society. Initially society never allows education to the girl. I seen recently the TV show conducted by Amir Khan and the torture and injustice a mother go through if they give birth to girl child . Indian young generation has fight against each and every injustice which lies in our so called hindu societies and fight against them.
Raghu January 2, 2013 at 11:43 PM
First, continuing on the thought process of the author about the rate of rape crimes in India, it would seem that even after discounting for unreported rapes, India would rank below U.S., U.K. or other 'developed' countries.
Secondly, most observers seem to ignore the fact that anti-social behavior by a few does not necessarily reflect on the entire society. Rape, some socialogists and psychologists believe, is a crime of violence and not of sex. Violence towards women takes several forms and I believe societal misogany is a lesser causative factor than the aberrant psychology of the perpetrator.
Thirdly, the sheer numbers make the cime more visible. In a country of more than one billion people, even a one tenth of one percent of criminal population results in more than one million criminals. That being so, it is unwise to characterize the entire society as guilty of misogamy.
The author brings out very pertinent thoughts on this issue.
Kausik Ray January 2, 2013 at 3:44 PM
You are right somewhat. But the laws need to be stringent and powerful. You have not mentioned South Africa. It was at par or even more than USA average even 2 years back. And of course Police should not succumb to political pressure because many so-called leaders are also involved in these activities. We want to see a better 2013. Personally I am very positive. I also believe, in school and of course at home moral studies need to be enhanced. It may be the curse of small families. Children are human companion less (only companions are TV, Videogames and Dark world of internet) - which may lead to aggression.
john2379 December 31, 2012 at 6:52 PM
Atrocities towards women is an heinous crime and must be considered seriously but how to prevent it? Such sex crimes are being committed in the world day and nights. Most of the criminals cannot be punished because either they are too powerful or the victims are too weak to file complaint or the police force and medical agencies do not play their roles judicially. Most of the victims do not get justice, because it is hard to prove in today's court system. This is not only true in India but in the West too. In India, the cast system also play the major role. Poor race cannot stand up to the rich one, otherwise the entire community get punishment. Such crimes cannot be stopped just by passing some laws or death penalties but need proper social education in the school and colleges and religious places. It is too bad that some politicians do not waste a second to jump in to this issue to get cheap publicity or rewards.
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Crime | Life | Commentary | December 2012

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