Gang rape puts spotlight on India’s rape capital
(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author, and not necessarily those of Thomson Reuters)
Yet another rape has rattled India. As I read the details, I felt familiar sensations of anger, frustration, helplessness and vulnerability. Sunday’s incident, in which a 23-year-old student in New Delhi was gang raped, assaulted and thrown out of a bus, made the front pages of India’s newspapers and was debated in parliament.
The woman is hospitalised with severe vaginal, abdominal and head injuries. One of those arrested is a 30-year-old driver who ferries school children.
As a single woman living in New Delhi for more than a decade, I find it difficult to come to terms with how vulnerable I feel each time I hear of a rape. or each time I travel by taxi at night.
It forces me to ask questions that I have harboured for years — owing to personal experiences, and plenty from friends and colleagues (almost every woman I have known in India’s rape capital has had a brush with Delhi’s groping and elbowing).
— How big a role does education, attitude and mindset play in rape?
— Who decides whether a woman is of loose character? And how could it follow that it’s all right to rape a prostitute?
— Why are New Delhi and neighbouring areas more unsafe for women than anywhere else in India?
— Are women raped because of what she is wearing, or if she is with a man, or if she is at a pub drinking and smoking? Why is it OK for people to suggest that these circumstances indicate that she is sexually active or promiscuous and then somehow subject to or deserving of an act of sexual violence?
I have lived in Mumbai and it feels safer. There are areas where women feel comfortable stepping out of the house for a midnight snack or to buy cigarettes. I wouldn’t think of doing that in New Delhi unless accompanied by a man.
Parents often urge their daughters to be careful and not stay out late in Indian cities. But why should my freedom be curbed because I chose New Delhi over Mumbai or Bangalore? I smoke and I drink, and my job requires me to work nights. Does that mean I should have been raped by now because I’m “asking for it”?
Rape, molestation and sexual harassment are social problems rooted in the moral values that people learn at home while growing up. It makes you wonder what mothers teach their sons. Newspapers teem with reports of children being raped. Experts differ on whether the problem is the deep-seated collective psyche of a male-dominated society, its social and economic diversity, or perhaps both.
What can be done? Capital punishment. Faster arrests and trials in rape cases. Sex education classes for children on gender equality. What about castration? Rapists should not be given an easy life in prison, or an easier death. Rather they must be made examples of, so that a man would think twice before groping a woman on the street. As violent as this sounds, those men who left the woman in Delhi in her shattered condition because she went to watch a movie with a friend deserve it.
In a country where women are deified and at the same time are objects to fondle, I wonder how many more rapes it will take for politicians to have stricter laws and ensure they are implemented.