Published On: Thu, Feb 14th, 2013

Rape in India: The Power of the Masses

SyriaAccording to BBC, a rape case is reported every 21 minutes in India. Newspapers often report horrific stories of rape, however most of the time these cases go un(der) reported. Whether it is the story of an 18-month-old infant raped by a neighbor, a 14-year-old raped in a police station or a 65-year-old grandmother raped in her local neighborhood, rape is a crime that is often forgotten in a very patriarchal country like India. Interestingly enough however, the story of Jyoti Singh Pandey traveled far and wide, making the front page of newspapers across the world, as the spotlight focused first on the family of the victim and her male friend, and eventually on the Indian government to ensure that the culprits of the rape and murder of Jyoti Singh Pandey receive the justice that they more than deserve.

23-year-old Jyoti Singh Pandey was gang-raped, penetrated with an iron rod, beaten and thrown partially naked from a moving bus, after going to the cinema with a male friend in India on December 16, 2012. After suffering extreme internal injuries, the victim passed away on December 29, 2012. The male friend was beaten and thrown out of the bus, and is now subject to a wheelchair. The Indian government has put the men responsible for this sickening attack on trial after receiving much pressure from protests both in India and across the world. The trials have even been put on a “fast track,” allowing for daily hearings.

In 1973, a nurse in a hospital in Bombay was raped, strangled and left to die by her attacker, Sohanlal Bharta Walmiki. While the nurse barely survived in a vegetable state, the man responsible for the attacks was charged with a 7-year sentence for robbery and attempted murder. The culprit served his 7-year sentence, and left jail to roam the streets of India where it is said that he allegedly changed his name and began to work in the hospital where he initially carried out his attack. These cases are far from few, but the trials against the male culprits of these rapes are fewer than most could imagine. While cases remain open and victims like 14-year-old Sonam, who left her house in Uttam-Pradesh and was raped by policemen before being brutally murdered in 2011, are very rarely brought before courts and the culprits very often are left free to roam the streets.

The rape laws in India are inadequate at managing such situations and very often the delivery of justice and the rate of conviction are alarmingly low. No person can disclose the name of a rape victim, and if a girl is married above the age of 15 her husband can have sex with her without it being considered rape, even if there is no evidence of consent. Indian laws also make no exceptions as of yet to charge men above the age of 16 as adults in rape cases. Very often males get away with such acts by pleading that they were under the influence of drugs or alcohol. The role of the police is also very important, as very often culture is put before justice and police will not file reports that are “culturally unacceptable” allowing for rapes to go unreported. In some cases, the police are even the ones who carry out the rapes, like in the case of Sonam where the case remains unsolved. It is not simply that the laws in India do not provide for any positive state action to prevent rape, but rather the fact that sexual inequality has become so deeply entrenched in society that women are often considered second-class citizens. Opinions must change and society must realize that this inequality has gone on for long enough.

The protests that occurred in India and across the globe to bring the culprits of Jyoti Singh Pandey’s murder and rape to justice are based on the fact that so many women before her have suffered in silence, or their families have received no compensation for their dead daughters. Protests such as this one demonstrate the power of the masses, where we can ensure that the Indian government will try these offenders in a court where they can be held accountable for their actions, in light of the laws that exist. This does mean that one of the culprits will be tried in a juvenile court, given the fact that the laws state that this must occur in such a process. This however does not signify the failure of the protests, but ensures that the rule of law will prevail.

The protests worldwide are a manifestation of the distrust in the Indian system when dealing with cases of rape. The Indian government is now under constant speculation to ensure that these culprits receive a fair and warranted trial where they are treated under the adequate laws to give some peace of mind not only to the family of Jyoti Singh Pandey but to the millions of voices across the world who protested against the attack, and to set precedence for such crimes in the future. Violence against women in societies such as that in India and elsewhere have persisted for much too long, and with women defending their rights and standing together in solidarity in the face of violence, we can witness change.

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