The violent gang rape in New Delhi has drawn attention to a pattern of violence and discrimination against women in India that leads to the deaths of nearly 2 million women every year...
January 15, 2013

Indian police say that a woman was gang-raped by seven men over the weekend (Yes, another one.) after she boarded a bus on Friday night. Police have arrested six of the men and are searching for the seventh. The 29-year-old woman boarded a bus in Gurdaspur district in Punjab, but the bus sped past her stop. The bus driver and his helper than took her to an undisclosed location, where five other men joined and raped her through the night. They dropped her off in her village the next day. The victim said, “They threatened me with a sharp-edged weapon and did wrong things with me. They kept me confined all through the night and forced me to do what they want.”

The violent gang rape in New Delhi has drawn attention to a pattern of violence and discrimination against women in India that leads to the deaths of nearly 2 million women every year. Between 25,000 and 100,000 women are killed each year in dowry disputes. Each year 100,000 women are burned to death, and another 125,000 die from violent injuries that are rarely reported as killings. One expert said, “Women are breaking through and advancing toward greater attainment—but in a society that continues to be patriarchal, that is increasing tensions. And one of the manifestations of that tension is increased violence against women.”

Police in Bihar found a 45-year-old mother of four children hanging from a mango tree by her sari on Sunday. Though they are still investigating, there is evidence that she was sexually assaulted and that there was more than one attacker. The incident came days after a 29-year-old woman riding on a bus was raped by seven men and just weeks after the infamous gang rape and murder of a 23-year-old student on a bus in New Delhi on Dec. 16. The former finance minister of Punjab said, “It is a tragedy but at the same time I am not surprised. Until men fear the law then these types of crime are going to continue.”

Some appear to be blaming women for the sexual violence in the country. Influential men have called for coeducational institutes to be shut down, premarital sex to be outlawed, and girls to dress in more "modest" clothes as a way of preventing rape. Managing editor of Tehelka Shoma Chaudhury calls the anger against the state that has risen up in the wake of the rapes “hugely legitimate,” but writes that it is masking “the giant shadow” in Indian society. “How endemic is the prejudice that stalks our society? What creates the idea of women as ‘fair game’ for sexual violence? What, in effect, do Indian men think about women?” she asks.

"It would have been comforting if vile foolishness in India had been the domain of the few. But Asaram Bapu is not alone when he says one hand cannot clap by itself. Or that taking diksha, reciting a mantra and pleading with her rapists as brothers might have saved the young girl that fateful night."

"The clergy of the Jamaat-e-Islami-Hind are not alone when they advocate co-educational institutes to be shut down, pre-marital sex to be outlawed and girls to dress in sober and dignified clothes as ways to prevent rape."

"Mohan Bhagwat is not alone when he asserts more rapes happen in ‘India’ than ‘Bharat’ — the first a synecdoche for promiscuous modernity; the latter for a more pious and traditional order where women live within boundaries prescribed by men. Abhijit Mukherjee is not alone when he mocks women protesters as “dented, painted” girls. Nor are Abu Azmi, Kailash Vijayvargiya or the Chhattisgarh home minister who says minors in the state are being raped because their stars are not favourable."

If they had been alone — a marginal raft of clumsy old men — mere derision would have been enough. But the fear is, they are signposts of a much wider and deeper mindset. And if they are that, how is one to negotiate such a gaping cultural divide? How can a society articulate — and enforce — desired values for itself if there is such a foundational disagreement over what those values should be?"

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