No end to India’s rape horror

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The gang-rape and murder of a 27-year old veterinary doctor in Hyderabad underscores yet again the extreme vulnerability of women and girls even in supposedly ‘safe’ areas in our towns and cities. The Gachibowli-Shamshabad stretch where the horrific crime took place has been declared a ‘safe corridor’ by the Telengana government. It was on this safe stretch that the victim was raped, suffocated to death and then set ablaze by her four assailants in a bid to destroy evidence.  The woman was heading home after a hard day’s work. As distressing as the systematic manner in which her four assailants plotted and carried out her rape and murder is what followed. As in countless other rape cases, police failed to act swiftly on the family’s complaint citing jurisdictional reasons; they were more preoccupied with questioning the victim's character than rushing to locate and rescue her. Her motives in calling her sister and not the police were questioned by a Telangana minister. 

Unspeakable violence of the kind that took place in Hyderabad on the night of November 27-28 is routinely unleashed against women, young girls and even little children across the country. On November 30, a six-year-old girl returning home from school was raped and killed in Rajasthan. Last week, a 25-year-old law student was gang-raped by 12 men in a ‘high security’ area of Ranchi. If this is the state of affairs in so-called ‘safe areas’ of urban India, one shudders to think what must be happening in rural and remote areas.

Seven years after the gang-rape and murder of ‘Nirbhaya’ in New Delhi triggered a tidal wave of public outrage, little seems to have changed to make our schools, workplaces, public transport, roads, even homes safe for women and girls. Although tough laws and stringent punishment were put in place, these are not being implemented or have not served to deter predatory behaviour. Nirbhaya’s brutal rape shocked India and the world. Still, the patriarchal foundations of our society remain intact; misogynist mindsets are widespread. Consequently, many justify sexual assault as a means to teach ‘arrogant’ women a lesson. Police and society continue to blame the victim. ‘Why was she out at night? Why was she alone? She asked for it,’ is a refrain we hear often. Unless India implements a comprehensive strategy to address misogyny through school curricula, media, training, etc., attempts to prevent sexual violence will remain ineffective. This, and better policing, are needed to make India safe for women.

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