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Impunity for Rapists in India

Protester Posters and Candles seeking Justice for Gang rape Victim-010

Imagine being raped and then having to marry your rapist. That's a routine "resolution" offered up to rape victims in India, according to today's New York Times:

In many rape cases, the police spend more time seeking reconciliation between the attacker and the victim than investigating the facts.

The article also notes that beyond police urging victims to marry their attackers, women are at risk of sexual violence from the police themselves, who are not permitted to have women brought into the police stations at night for this very reason.

The tragic death of a 23-year-old gang rape victim in India has opened a desperately needed dialogue in the country on what amounts to an epidemic of virtually unchallenged sexual violence there. In the wake of all of the bad publicity, the Government of India responded with some hastily introduced measures, but the systemic issues remain, chief among them, a police force that is a foe rather than an ally to women. The article quoted above reports that of 600 reported rapes in Delhi alone last year, one resulted in a conviction. It's a record so abysmal, it's a wonder than any women at all find the courage to report rape.

And it's also an alarming hint at the reality that the horrors that a young woman experienced on a Delhi bus one fateful night last December is, appallingly, not by any means an isolated case, something I wrote about over at Butterflies & Wheels recently:

Coverage of rape crimes is often sensational not because of the rarity of the crime, but the rarity of reporting. It raises the question of how many other vicious rapes have taken place on the streets of India, or on streets closer to home, where circumstances never coalesced to garner public or media attention. It is difficult enough to truly absorb the inhumanity of what Jyoti Singh Pandey endured the night of December 16th. How can we begin to imagine that her experience re-occurs day after day, night after night, for millions of women around the world, often in their own homes and communities? How can we begin to be open to the devastating truth that she is not the only one, but rather the only one that we know of in such grim detail?

The outpuring of public anger in India over the Delhi gang rape case almost looks like the beginnings of a sea change. But as this petition calling for an end to rape notes,

Each time a rape is reported, civil society reacts with anger and outrage, which unfortunately dies down and is forgotten, until the next time. The question to ask: what is the inflexion point? At what stage do we say collectively and in one voice: Enough.

For starters, you can say enough by signing this appeal to the president of India to step up and take action, and ask your friends to do the same.


Lauryn Oates is Assistant Editor for The Propagandist.


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