The recent gang rape of a New Delhi student has sparked heated debates about India’s current treatment of women. The 23-year old woman was gang raped and beaten on a bus in New Delhi. Tragically, she passed away due to her injuries just days after being admitted to intensive care. Her attack has ignited a passionate protest against the lack of safety women face in India due to lax government policies regarding the mistreatment of women. Data shows that the occurrence of assaults involving rape has increased almost nine fold over the past 40 years. In New Delhi alone, over 600 rapes were reported in 2012. Under the current circumstances, women feel incredibly vulnerable and are demanding that the government implement stronger policies aimed at preventing these kinds of brutal attacks against women.
This recent incident has left India’s legal system and police force with little remaining public confidence. Women are now more convinced than ever that Indian laws and security forces are not only incapable of protecting women, but also don’t even care about the issue. Many women who come forward to police regarding a sexual assault are not taken seriously and in some cases, a report isn’t even filed. Protesters are demanding that serious changes be made to promote the safety and general welfare of women in India. According to Ranjana Kumari, director at the Center for Social Research, the prevalent mistreatment of women is a consequence of India’s traditionally patriarchal society. India has a traditional preference for boys over girls, which is becoming evident through India’s widening gender population imbalance. While it is illegal in India to have an abortion due to the dissatisfaction with the baby’s sex, illegal clinics provide a relatively easy means to carry out these types of abortions. This shows how strongly traditional patriarchal values have become infused with modern Indian society.
Legal experts are claiming that imposing tougher rape laws and reforming the police is not enough to effectively deter the mistreatment and assault of women. Ratna Kapur, a professor at Jindal Global Law School, made the excellent point that “more law will only serve to give a sense of something being done, when in fact very little is being done.” She argues that a fundamental change of Indian society’s male dominated value system must be transformed in order to effectively promote women’s equality. The socialization of young influential Indian boys can no longer involve an indoctrination of a male-centered sense of entitlement, which teaches them to view women as inherently inferior. The road to a more egalitarian society in India will be a long one, requiring a sustained effort from the government, and more importantly, individual communities.
It is sad that it took the brutal rape and murder of a young female college student to get the government’s attention focused on women’s rights. Hopefully, her tragic loss will inspire a long-term transformation in the way women are treated in India.