India addresses sexual violence against women

The Heat

India women protest rapes

Two teen girls raped, murdered and hanged on trees in northern India last month. It’s one of the recent cases of horrific sex crimes in the world’s most populous democracy where a rape is reported every 22 minutes.

In 2012, a United Nations report called India the most dangerous place in the world to be born a girl.
What makes the country so unsafe for women? And what role does the government, police and society play in it? We examine the issue on this edition of The Heat.

Last month, two girls aged 14 and 16 went to relieve themselves in a nearby field. They never returned home. Instead they were found gang raped, killed and hung from trees.

Weeks later, a woman in her 40’s was found hung from a tree in the same state. The 2012 gang rape in Delhi gained worldwide condemnation.

But horrific rape cases and sexual assaults continue to be a part of daily life for women in India. The Indian government has been under attack for not doing enough to ensure the safety for women.

Shreya Sen reports.
Follow Shreya Sen on Twitter @msshreyasen

Gang raped, murdered and then hung from trees. That was the fate of two teenage girls when they went out to urinate in a nearby field in rural northern India. It’s one of many horrific sexual abuse cases that have rocked the country in recent years.

There’s been outrage over police inaction in the case of the two girls. The father of one victim says he was ridiculed by police when he sought help in finding his missing daughter. He says when policemen found out he was from a lower caste, they refused to look for his daughter. At least three men, including one policeman, have been arrested in connection with the incident.

Politicians have been condemned over their handling of the issue. A government minister has come out and said rapes happen ‘accidentally’ and not on purpose. Another Minister has angered victims and activist groups by saying rape can be sometimes right and sometimes wrong.

In 2012, the gang rape of a young girl in New Delhi and her subsequent death received worldwide attention and condemnation. It led to mass protests for better conditions for women.

Harsher laws for sexual abuse perpetrators were introduced as a result. A rape is reported every 22 minutes in India but a lot of them go unreported because of social stigma attached to being a victim of sexual abuse.

Critics say laws alone may not be able to solve the problem in a society that they say treats its women as ‘second class citizens’ and regards them inferior to men. They say life for women won’t change until there’s a shift in social attitudes.

Mallika Sherawat—a Bollywood actress who has spoken out about the treatment of women in India joined us to discuss the rights of women and combating the problem of sexual violence in India. Twitter: @MalikaLA

There’s been lots of debate about the role of society, the legal system and the governments in the way women are treated in India.

Ashwini Tambe, a professor of Women’s Studies at the University of Maryland. And from London Kishwar Desai, an author and columnist who has written a lot about the state of women in India joined us.

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