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India, trying to solve the sensitive problem of Rape – Are the Indian Government doing enough?

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I’ll start with a quote on this difficult and complex topic from a simple and caring man, a man of peace and love, the Dalai Lama, he says of the Rape case that saw a mass protest in India “I have been noticing crimes in big cities like Bombay and Delhi… when these kinds of things happen people take it for granted. Now the time has come that we must make efforts for special protection to women, physically.”

The Dalai Lama spoke of the case at India’s Jaipur Literature Festival in Jaipur, on 24/01/2012 when he was asked by a reporter as to what his thoughts were on the rape of the victim which happened in December 2012, New Delhi. He was also questioned about his views on the death penalty and went on to say “Since many decades Amnesty International started a movement banning the death sentence. I signed it. I do not like the death penalty but it is up to the country’s law to decide”.

India has shown a unity in the form of mass protest and there were many men and women who all came out in their numbers to voice their outrage and view that this kind of behaviour is totally unacceptable, I for one believe that there is no excuse for rape let alone the brutal way in which the young lady who was a medical student was brutally abused. The media in India have covered this story on an unprecedented scale and it has been taken world-wide, due to the mass protests held by the Indian public in the aftermath of the attack on the young victim.

The majority of the protesters were peaceful and voiced their view that the corruption will not be tolerated from the behaviour of the police with the victim to the delay in the courts handling the situation. Anand Mahindra, chairman and managing director of Mahindra and Mahindra summed up the situation regarding the protesters and the government well, he said “There’s not going to be any Tahrir Square in India because we have democracy, people have a voice”, he also went on to conclude on the topic commenting firstly on how the rape of this woman highlighted a new shift in the voice of the youth of India “very interesting demographic shift. We all know the statistic that 50% of the population is under 25. Everyone knew that statistic, they didn’t know they had a voice. I think what we are seeing is people are saying, ‘We’re not going to take this any more — we’re young, we’re impatient.’ It’s a change in the zeitgeist, in the mood, and the government is listening, I think — it has to.”

Many people would agree with this outlook and the Indian government and the people have been sparked into action like a super lengthened Indian bangers firework that has been set off since the protests, everyone has been rightly making a ruckus from the people to the media and even the government has had to concede to pressure and fast track the court procedural system involving the trial of the accused party. Will all this noise made by the people of India bring about change or will it simply fizzle out like a firework, only time will tell, although if they have made enough noise, the governments ears will still be ringing for a long time to come and action will be there only option.

The voice of the people has only grown day by day and as has the reporting in the media, people will remember the reaction of the public, which has taken up a stand and is not moving from it. As for some figures 76% of the Indian public want the minor involved in the rape and murder of the unfortunate victim to be hanged for his actions, whereas the rest of the public voted for a life sentence for the accused. (IndiaToday.in).

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The public are adamant that the law should be changed to ensure that minors are given a life-sentence too for the atrocious crime of rape and murder. As the law stands at the moment, being a minor he is even entitled to bail at his parents request. He is alleged to have been the most violent from reports and the one who lured the unsuspecting victim and her friend to the bus. The argument is that he was old enough to allegedly commit the crime of rape, and help to others raping, and using an iron rod to torture, in addition to subjecting the victim to 2.5 hours of torture, so he is old enough to be treated as an adult, by the courts in relation to being given the same full sentence that his peers are facing, of being hanged if found guilty. He has so far been in court as a minor, and as he is being looked upon as a minor, so there is the possibility of a punishment of maximum of a three-year stay in children’s remand home, if he is proved to be below 18 years, a punishment which will be light compared to what his other five accomplices are facing.

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The Indian President Pranab Mukherjee  referred to India as an emerging India and said of the rape case “Does our legislature reflect emerging India or does it need radical reforms? These doubts have to be set at rest.” He also spoke of the youth protests and their agenda (for protection of Women’s security and rights alongside a reformed India without rape and corruption) saying “Elected representatives must win back the confidence of the people. The anxiety and restlessness of the youth should be channelised towards change with speed, dignity and order.” The President was speaking on the 64th Republic Day of India, he was also firm in talking about equality for Women and referred to the issue as a “national commitment”.

16th December 2012 is being referred to by protesters as India’s ‘Black Day’, thousands of protesters held placards with serious messages on them as well as caring ones, they lay on the ground in protest mourning the death of the victim, this was in direct contrast to the previous protesting, which saw shouting to rid India of such crimes and was in outrage to the abuse the victim endured. Protesters gathered in a unified force to demand protection of Women and their rights and security with candles too.

The victim who was 23 years old and a medical student has lost her life after two weeks, from when the attack took place, whilst in a Singapore hospital (where she was flown to for medical attention, she was pronounced dead, and her  dead body was flown back, she died of organ failure due to septicemia). It has been reported that she provided a statement before her passing, which is to be presented in court.

India is now said to have come alive to the sensitive problem of rape, and the issues, surrounding this matter that need to be solved are many, such as:

  • Police and other officials’ (including hospital staff) behaviour towards victims of rape
  • The Law, Judges and Court hearings to be more objective, impartial, and unprejudiced
  • The treatment of Women within India
  • Corruption in the form of gender bias from officials and others involved in the support process
  • Lack of support for victims and fair sentencing from the courts
  • 95,000 rape cases pending in Indian courts
  • Inaction and degradation
  • Accordance to Human Rights Law
  • Resolving immunity aspects for Officials accused of rape
  • Prevention of rape
  • Tougher rape laws
  • Reform of the Police
  • Rape involving the Military
  • Traumatic Rape examinations
  • Patriarchal attitudes leading to views that violence and gender bias is acceptable
  • The court proceeding taking place under a gagging order
  • A need for fast-track courts to deal with issues regarding rape of women (five fast-track courts created to deal with sexual crimes).
  • The lack of Women reporting rape
  • Societal Stigma of rape and prejudice
  • Cowboy courts – where they try to justify rape as a reason for marrying their rapist
  • Rape as a means to resolving issues – (villagers of rural India is where this happens)
  • Lawyers not willing to take on rape victims cases

A government panel has been set up in the wake of this tragic event to provide suggestions as to how the Indian Criminal Justice system can work towards creating an improved service in relation to cases where women have been subjected to violence. The panel has received 80,000 suggestions from ordinary citizens and Women’s Rights groups. Although no Indian State Police Chiefs had sent in a recommendation.

The Justice Verma Committee released its recommendations and amongst these were “enhanced sentences, faster trials, better implementation of existing laws and gender sensitization of lawmakers”(world.time.com).

The committee was led by former Supreme Court Chief Justice Verma, the committee was made up of two other people and they produced a 657 page report in 29 days (as they were only given a month to produce the report). The report concluded that every case of reported rape should be registered by the police and called for acts such as stalking and sexual harassment (currently not crimes) to be punished with prison terms. “What is needed to enforce laws is the sensitivity on the part of those who implement it,” Verma told reporters. “The state’s role is not just punishing criminals but also to prevent crimes against women.”(world.time.com) The government also are planning on having a compensatory scheme for victims of rape although it has not come into action as yet.

The latest on the situation is that a representative for the accused is asking to be tried in a court outside of Delhi, he said ““We are sure we will not get justice in Delhi.” The family of the victim have said they want the hanging sentence for all six if they are convicted.

The Indian government may not have previously given this issue much importance on their agenda, however after the furore in the form of the public’s protesting, the government are finally giving in, to the pressure to start acting on the issue and bringing rape onto the agenda. In addition to creating five fast track courts the government is also said to have made promises on ensuring more of a police presence and improving the lighting on streets and public transport. Whether these promises are kept and whether rape is kept on the agenda is something the public will continue to demand, for women like the 23 year old victim.

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Most recently there has been another case reported in the media by NDTV and The Daily Mail.co.uk : “(Indian gang rape victim takes poison in court after six year case is adjourned again.

  • Victim drank poison in courtroom as case was adjourned til next month
  • Her boss and his friends allegedly gang raped her in a factory in 2007
  • She says police refused to file her complaint
  • Police say her allegations don’t add up)”

This goes to show a typical example of how Women are being oppressed in a country which is seen as democratic, sacred and a super-power, surely this should not be happening, the country needs to be reliable and supportive of Women through organisation and a positive, corrupt-free, progressive attitude accompanied by action on this matter which obviously matters to everyone very much. India are going to have to really TRY and solve this problem of rape, so far it does not look as if they are trying.

A concern posed by the public due to this lack of trying by the government, is an erratic sense of vigilantism, it has recently been reported that groups have been handing out knives to counter the security fears on the streets and also the use of guns against those that are feared on the streets is being encouraged.

Surely this is the role of the government, has the country really come to the point where they feel they need to take the law into their own hands, or is this a sense of panic and erraticness or simply a phase that will pass, once the law has become effective in putting a halt to criminality in every standing of society?

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The Indian government have so far been fighting the protesters, they will now need to bring back the faith in the public, how they do this, is still yet to be awaited and seen. The protesters however will not stand by and watch, and are sure to voice their views if the governments handling of this situation is not suffice.

To conclude, I have found a reasonable and realistic quote from a Woman on what should be done now, “with politicians and the public at last giving sexual assault the attention it deserves, the time has come for action—and for dignified treatment of survivors of sexual assault.” (Aruna Kashyap, Women’s Rights Asia researcher – Human Rights Watch.)

Condolences to all rape victims and their families and especially to the medical student’s family and her friend

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Additional Information & Links

Delhi High Court orders all hospitals within the city. Hospitals state-run and private must abide to order  to provide treatment to all rape/road accident victims.

Delhi rape case: Verma committee report dredges up old stereotypes

http://blogs.reuters.com/india/2013/01/25/delhi-rape-case-verma-committee-report-dredges-up-old-stereotypes/

Rape is a world-wide problem and high numbers of cases are also a problem in South Africa and countries such as the UK and US.

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