Violence against women in India has reached epidemic proportions. This year there have been 256,000 violent crimes, of which 228,000 have been against women. There is a woman raped in India every 20 minutes, and the rate is rising. Last week saw the brutal rape of a young student on a Delhi bus by 6 drunken men. Indians decided to peacefully protest and demand justice. The state had other ideas….
The victim of the rape is still critically ill in hospital. She is a 23 year old Physiotherapy student who, after her male companion was beaten unconscious, was grabbed on a bus by six men, gang raped and beaten with an iron bar for more than half an hour before being thrown naked and bleeding from the moving vehicle onto the side of the road.
She has managed to provide a statement re her attack and several people have subsequently been arrested in connection with the attack.
This latest rape is one of many, but has captured the public mood amid dismay about the ever increasing number of sex attacks. In Delhi alone, the number of ‘reported’ rapes has risen by 17% this year - and 875% across India over the last 40 years.
Indians sick of attacks on women, and of lack of justice, have staged a series of peaceful protests across the country. The state have responded by ‘banning’ gatherings of more than 5 people, created ‘no go zones’, set up barricades, and have closed down public transport in key areas.
Protesters that have refused to disperse have been brutalised with bamboo sticks, steel poles, batons, rubber bullets, tear gas, and water cannons. As soon as the protesters responded to being attacked by state forces, a police spokesman has labelled them as ‘hooligans’ and ‘trouble makers’, who had taken over peaceful protests.
TV footage and countless photographs taken across India clearly shows that the protests have been hijacked by hooligans – but the hooligans in question are all wearing police uniforms.
Pitched battles have been raging across the country for the last two days. There are reports that at least 65 protesters have been injured, along with 75 police officers. One journalist has been shot and killed by police as the opened fire on a large crowd.
A student at a Delhi University has said that:
“Until and unless the government understands the pulse of the people and imposes strict action against these criminals, we will not relent."
Delhi has been labelled as the ‘rape capital of India’, yet rather than focusing of the rapists, the attitude of the state is to blame the victims:
“All six of the alleged assailants from last Saturdays attack have been arrested, but Delhi’s police are viewed by many as lazy, corrupt, and incompetent, and of routinely dismissing sex assault complaints. Senior officers are regularly quoted as saying that women who are sexually assaulted have themselves to blame – for wearing jeans, for being out at night, for talking to boys, or getting into cars with them. Even senior female politicians have blamed women for attacks.” The Chief Minister of Delhi, Sheila Dikshit said that she hated the ‘rape capital’ tag and supported the death penalty for rapists, but last year, after a woman was raped and murdered on the city’s outskirts, her response was – “All by herself at 3am…..you should not be so adventurous”.
An investigative magazine, ‘Tehelka’, recently interviewed scores of senior police officers from around Delhi about the rise of rapes. Their responses overwhelmingly accused women of inviting attacks on them.
The protests are now into a seventh day, and are showing no signs of rescinding.
Solidarity with all those protesting in India!