Monday, December 24, 2012

Police in India crackdown amid outrage over gang rape

The wonderful results of male dominamce [sarcasm]

By Harmeet Shah Singh, CNN
updated 5:16 PM EST, Mon December 24, 2012

New Delhi (CNN) -- Police locked down New Delhi's key government district ahead of Monday's visit by Russian President Vladimir Putin, after two days of pitched street battles following the gang rape of a woman on a bus.

Furious weekend demonstrations rocked Raisina Hills as public outrage surged after a 23-year-old woman was sexually assaulted and beaten to near death on a bus on December 16 by a group of six suspects, now under arrest, police say.

The rape victim's injuries were so severe she spent days in intensive care in a city hospital, battling for her life. Police said Saturday that she had recovered enough to give a statement to a magistrate from her hospital bed the night before.

But on Sunday, she underwent another surgery to wash out infection in her abdomen, her doctors said.

Alex PearlmanDecember 20, 2012

The victim, a 23-year-old traveling with a male friend, was assaulted on a bus Sunday as the couple was on their way home. The friend was allegedly beaten with an iron rod while the bus driver and his friends repeatedly raped the woman for hours.

Since Sunday's incident, at least five gang rapes have been reported in Uttar Pradesh, Rae Bareli, Rampur, Sonbhadra and Farrukhabad. And even with the whole country up in arms about rape, the Uttar Pradesh incident almost went unreported because police wouldn't levy rape charges, and instead put the situation down as a molestation and theft, reports the Times of India.

The AP reported yesterday that police found the body of a 10-year-old girl who had been gang-raped and killed, while a 14-year-old was in critical condition after being raped by four men.

India is one of the worst places in the world to be a woman, according to a global survey by the Thompson Reuters Foundation that profiled a number of countries and compared maternal health, rape statistics, and answers to topics such as domestic violence.

But why?

Times of India blogger, editor and columnist Anand Soondas laid it out in a post Wednesday called "Why Indian Men Rape."

"Strange theories are floated to explain the depravity of Indian men...but the truth is that at the root of it all lies a culture built around hierarchies, of gender, faith, colour, caste, region. We are, quite simply, not used to people being equal."

Soondas points out that rape is rare in areas of India that no longer have dowry systems, and do not put a monetary amount of value on women.

"In India, women and girls continue to be sold as chattels, married off as young as 10, burned alive as a result of dowry-related disputes and young girls exploited and abused as domestic slave labour," said Gulshun Rehman, health program advisor at Save the Children UK, who was one of those polled for the Trust Law survey, to the Guardian.

These backwards attitudes about women contribute to a culture of violence and misogyny, despite India billing itself as the world's largest democracy. Women still don't have rights, but they are fighting for them.

Activism has taken off in the cities, and SlutWalks, protests, and demonstrations are regular occurances, even if they aren't widely accepted or acknowledged.

For a deeper look at the lives of modern women in medieval India, check out this wonderful investigation by the Guardian's Helen Pidd, who looked at a number of factors contributing to the culture of violence against women.

Why is India so bad for women?

Of all the rich G20 nations, India has been labelled the worst place to be a woman. But how is this possible in a country that prides itself on being the world's largest democracy?

Helen Pidd
The Guardian, Monday 23 July 2012

One evening two weeks ago, just a few miles downhill, a young student left a bar and was set upon by a gang of at least 18 men. They dragged her into the road by her hair, tried to rip off her clothes and smiled at the cameras that filmed it all. It was around 9.30pm on one of Guwahati's busiest streets – a chaotic three-lane thoroughfare soundtracked by constantly beeping horns and chugging tuk-tuks. But for at least 20 minutes, no one called the police. They easily could have. Many of those present had phones: they were using them to film the scene as the men yanked up the girl's vest and tugged at her bra and groped her breasts as she begged for help from passing cars. We know this because a cameraman from the local TV channel was there too, capturing the attack for his viewers' enjoyment. The woman was abused for 45 minutes before the police arrived.

Within half an hour, clips were broadcast on Assam's NewsLive channel. Watching across town, Sheetal Sharma and Bitopi Dutta were horrified. "I was fuming like anything. There was this horrible, brutal assault being shown on screen – and the most disturbing thing was, the blame was being put on the woman, who, the report emphasised, was drunk," says Sharma, a 29-year-old feminist activist from the North-East Network, a women's rights organisation in Guwahati. "The way it was filmed, the camera was panning up and down her body, focusing on her breasts, her thighs," says Dutta, her 22-year-old colleague.

No attempt was made to arrest the men whose faces could clearly be seen laughing and jeering on camera. Soon afterwards, the editor-in-chief of NewsLive (who has since resigned) remarked on Twitter that "prostitutes form a major chunk of girls who visit bars and night clubs".

It was only a few days later, when the clip had gone viral and had been picked up by the national channels in Delhi, that the police were shamed into action. By then, Guwahati residents had taken matters into their own hands, producing an enormous banner that they strung up alongside one of the city's arterial roads featuring screen grabs of the main suspects. Six days after the attack, the chief minister of Assam, the state where Guwahati is located, ordered the police to arrest a dozen key suspects. He met the victim and promised her 50,000 rupees (£580) compensation.

"We have a woman president, we've had a woman prime minister. Yet in 2012, one of the greatest tragedies in our country is that women are on their own when it comes to their own safety," said a female newsreader on NDTV. She went on to outline another incident in India last week: a group of village elders in Baghpat, Uttar Pradesh, central India, who banned women from carrying mobile phones, choosing their own husbands or leaving the house unaccompanied or with their heads uncovered. "The story is the same," said the news anchor. "No respect for women. No respect for our culture. And as far as the law is concerned: who cares?"

Halarnkar then offered as proof a survey that caused indignation in India last month: a poll of 370 gender specialists around the world that voted India the worst place to be a woman out of all the G20 countries. It stung – especially as Saudi Arabia was at the second-worst. But the experts were resolute in their choice. "In India, women and girls continue to be sold as chattels, married off as young as 10, burned alive as a result of dowry-related disputes and young girls exploited and abused as domestic slave labour," said Gulshun Rehman, health programme development adviser at Save the Children UK, who was one of those polled.

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