By Alexis Herr
The Daily Star reported that between January 1 and March 24, 2013, rape complaints in India increased 148 percent in comparison to the same period in 2012. This statistic highlights both the problem and the solution to violence against women in India. It shows that despite the public outcry and efforts being made to make India a safer place for women, the rape crisis still exists. The good news, however, is that more women are speaking out and demanding harsher punishment for rapists and urging their government to do more to stop unchecked violence against girls.
The world watched as Indians uproariously flooded the state capital and urged their government to do a better job protecting females after the gang rape of a physiotherapy student on a moving bus in Dehli. The young woman’s death soon after the 16 December 2012 attack intensified public protest and the international press took notice. Mounting internal and external pressure resulted in President Pranab Mukherjee’s approval of Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill 2013 in April. Under this new law, the minimum sentence for gang rape, rape by police/person in authority, or rape of a minor is 20 years. As a result of Criminal Law Bill 2013, six men arrested for the rape of a Swiss tourist in central Madhya Pradesh state last March were sentenced to life imprisonment just this month.
Bhim Sain Bassi, the new police chief of New Dehli released a statement today in which he promised to make women’s safety his top priority. In the past, those brave enough to report crimes were often assaulted by the very police officers they turned to for help. Thus, it is of little surprise that only 1 in 69 rape cases were reported and of those only 20% resulted in convictions. This problem is addressed in Criminal Law Amendment Bill 2013, which specifically notes that rape by police will result in at least 20 years imprisonment.
Unfortunately, I do not think Bassi’s promise or harsher punishment for rapists alone will end violence against women. While I am happy that mass protests have brought outward change, I am more encouraged by the victims’ fury for justice. More women reporting rape, despite the risks inherent in doing so, makes me hope that real change is possible.
Please check out these organizations to help rape victims in India: