Sexual Violence in India: How Long Will the Media’s Interest Last?

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Altaf Qadri / AP

An Indian woman and her son watch a protest in New Delhi, Jan. 13, 2013

It’s been nearly a month of relentlessly grim news in India, as more and more details of December’s brutal sexual assault come to light alongside a daily barrage of new rape cases reported around the nation. On Jan. 12, a 29-year-old woman in the northern state of Punjab reported to police that she was abducted and raped by six men after taking a bus in the city of Gurdaspur. Almost simultaneously, seven men in the state of Haryana were arrested for allegedly confining and raping a woman repeatedly over a seven-month period. Two officials in the state of Chhattisgarh were arrested for allegedly sexually assaulting underage residents at a school for tribal girls. Police in village in Uttar Pradesh told the press that a young man had been arrested after allegedly raping a 14-year-old girl. The list, unfortunately, goes on.

Widespread sexual violence is in no way unique to India, nor is the nation witnessing a dramatic surge in violence against women since a 23-year-old medical student was beaten and raped on a bus in New Delhi on Dec. 16, and died two weeks later. What has changed dramatically in the past four weeks is the amount of space that these crimes, which experts say have been on the rise for years and are still grossly underreported, occupy in the public sphere. Just months ago, India’s English-language dailies would often mark a violent sexual assault in a blurb buried under a few pages of the latest political intrigue. Now the latest violent sexual assault is the latest political intrigue.

Many here argue that is not a bad thing. The extensive media coverage of this month’s protests and the Dec. 16 assault, in which five of the six suspects appeared for the third time in court today in New Delhi, helped kick-start officials’ efforts to improve safety in the capital. It has put the issue of sexual assault “on the political agenda, which has never, ever happened before this,” says Ranjana Kumari, director of the Center for Social Research in New Delhi. “Nobody thought a rape would become such an issue that the Prime Minister would have to make a statement on it.” It helped spur swifter police action on assault cases around the country and initiated changes expected to be made to the nation’s penal code.

Still, while it is a relief to many to see this long-simmering problem finally out in the open, there is something unnerving about the near constant flow of details of the Dec. 16 attack and other cases that have emerged since then. “Not all the coverage has been sensitive,” says Shekhar Gupta, editor in chief of the Indian Express newspaper. Kumari agrees that some media has gone too far, as in the recent case of a popular show, Crime Patrol, that was reportedly scheduled to air an episode re-creating the Dec. 16 assault on the victim and her male companion that took place on the moving bus in Delhi. (The show has since postponed the episode.)

It is also impossible to say what, if any, impact the media blitz will have on the proceedings of the upcoming trial, which will be held behind closed doors in keeping with normal legal procedure in rape cases in India. “In cases that become extremely high profile, there is always this thing of ‘trial by media,'” says Mangla Verma, a research and advocacy officer at Lawyers Collective, an NGO in New Delhi. For instance, if the victim’s friend, the sole witness of the crime, strays from the version of events in court that he gave to an Indian network earlier this month, the defense could use that inconsistency against him. “Certain complications can creep in,” says Verma.

An equally complicated question is how long this increased attentiveness to violence against women will last. The logical conclusion to that question is not forever. But even seasoned media professionals say something feels different this time. The way that this has caught everybody’s imagination is “unprecedented,” says Gupta. “Middle India is dealing with its first generation of women going out to work. Men in workplaces are struggling to come to terms with this, and now women are getting empowered.” As a result, Gupta says, this is a story that “concerns every family.”

Even after thousands-strong protests disperse and a 24-hour news cycle churns on, it is possible that India as a society has crossed a line in the last month that can’t be backtracked. Police have been shamed, politicians have been chastened. “We cannot be more desensitized than we have been in the past,” Kumari says. “Things have to improve.”

16 comments
Tigrrr
Tigrrr

I would like to bring to your attention that this article has been copied and pasted to an FB page (of a sham organization pretending to champion the rights of women and children). Despite warnings of copyright violation, they have arrogantly left it up. Please do the necessary. Their page is https://www.facebook.com/SuaraWanita1Malaysia?ref=ts&fref=ts

frankwall1965
frankwall1965

It will be equally interesting to see what happens when a western woman is inevitably gang raped in India. I'm sure coverage would be far deeper than if this happened to an Indian woman. Still, hopefully the recent media attention will spur India into some form of change.

MithraSuresh
MithraSuresh

This is true, however the media in India has been banned from reporting anything on the case, which may not be great for us, Indian women, who are finally getting heard. It is too bad, yet we must not forget. The Dec 16 incident sparked a certain rage, appealing to the sentiments of women across the globe. We must not forget. 

While need for justice and reinforcing legislation is important, the need of the hour is to change the mindset of men towards women. I volunteer with a Pune-based NGO, Equal Community Foundation, which seeks to end violence and discrimination against women through men. ECF does this by educating men with the tools to practice gender equitable behaviour. Amazingly, many of their graduates have disseminated this knowledge to other men, thus taking collective responsibility for the women in their community. 

All one can do at this point is to join hands with organisations and individuals who are striving towards making India a better place for women to live in. ECF believes that though not every man is part of the problem, every man can be a part of the solution - www.ecf.org.in


ScottWan
ScottWan

RAPE NEWS UPDATES FROM THE RAPE CAPITAL OF  WORLD

In an other shocking incident, a woman who got down from a Delhi-bound train in Bhagalpur district, was gangraped, killed and her semi-naked body hung from a tree in a mango orchard in Kahalgaon.

Mazo
Mazo

@ScottWan Shocking ? Really? 1.2 billion people in a country and you are shocked about another rape ? How about Syria where 100s of women are being raped every day by Government soldiers ? Or Pakistan where women who are raped are jailed for "adultry" and "fornication" ? 


JohnForsthoffer
JohnForsthoffer like.author.displayName 1 Like

It's not the media or even the government that matters. It's the people because eventually they will say, "Enough!" and take matters into their own hands. Things need to escalate, then maybe one day a would be rapist would think twice about doing such a horrible thing because the consequences would be unimaginable. 

   On another note, any rapists, molesters etc. should be castrated. 

ScottWan
ScottWan

How can you castrate a Brahmin in India, stop living in la la land, A rape commited by a Brahmin is some thing to be pround of  as it is the way to purity for impures.

In the Smriti (method of turning women back to virgins):"A woman who has been unchaste should worship Siva in his calm aspect, Siva who is Kama. Then she should summon a Brahmin and give herself to him, thinking, 'This is Kama who has come for the sake of sexual pleasure.' And whatever the Brahmin wishes, the sensuous woman should do. For thirteen months she should honor in this way any Brahmin who comes to the house for the sake of sexual pleasures, and there is no immorality in this for noble ladies or prostitutes." -- Matsya  Purana 70:40-60; cf. Mahabharata III:2:23.

b
b

@ScottWan The raped woman was a Brahmin, one rapist a Muslim, the others probably some low caste but non observant. No one in India is going on about caste in this case.

In your quote, a Brahmin refers to one who knows Brahma/ God.  Many Hindu texts are quite happy with women   enjoying sex and do not consider it particularly immoral. Many nude statues too! Prostitutes too have an honorable role, most were very well educated, had plenty of money, paid taxes,endowed social/religious buildings. They debated with men/kings on major civic issues. Even in colonial times, 65% of the taxes in Lucknow were paid by  such women, who offered sex and were well educated, accomplished independent single women who refused marriage. They celebrated daughters. This attitude seems to have changed when  Semitic religions entered India: the dancers were simply termed immoral. The British rulers simply jailed them and worse.


Joey1111
Joey1111

@ScottWan Your story  is wildly imaginative, I will give you that. Fiction is definitely your field.Where did you come across law about cow and Brahman. There is nothing of that sort written anywhere. Traditionally, cow is a scared animal for Hindus and Brahmins were respected as they were the original priest community. That's it. By the way, can you vouch for the fact that this is an 'accurate' translation of the original Sanskrit text? Secondly, it's easy to copy paste from material available on internet, but you have to understand that this is text written thousands of years ago and is not followed/practiced anywhere in modern times. Finally, taken out of context, everything is open to misinterpretation. Bet you haven't read the full Mahabharata that you so intelligently are quoting from. FYI, I have. In any case, if you read texts from any religion, you will find things that are not relevant in today's times or just not right. I repeat, ANY religion. So lets not give this is a religious angle and use this issue to engage in Hindu bashing. Violence against women transcends race/religion. You want to vent against a particular religion, that just reflects on you.

Mazo
Mazo like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 3 Like

@ScottWan ROFL!! How stupid can a you be  ? 

The Matsya Purana and the Mahabharatha are analogies and parables not literal instructions like some monotheistic operational manual like the Quran or the Ten Commandments! The Purana you quote from talks about Vishnu being a Fish and the god Indira cutting up a demon in the womb into 7 pieces that "cry"! Only an utter fool would accept these things as literal! 

Hinduism is not a scriptural path, quoting chapter and verse is meaningless and idiotic at best because these texts are there so the believer can understand the "meaning" not the "words"! These texts are meant to be understood with the help of a scholar, not literally like your Quran. Quoting directly from somebody's translation of a text that is meant to serve as an analogy is foolish, using it to portray the literal practices of Hindus is beyond foolish! 

Brahmin's are not above the law in Hindu society and India is not a Hindu state. Castration is not legal in Indian law, unlike Islamic states which practice stoning, flogging and cutting off heads and hands etc. 

JohnForsthoffer
JohnForsthoffer like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 2 Like

@ScottWan La la land? It is you that is living in la la land. La la land, where horrible people think it is ok to rape someone and be proud of it. Read what you have typed in bold letters. It says she should "GIVE" herself to him. Key word is "give" numb nuts. It doesn't say anything about rape. Anyone who prays on helpless women should be shot like the dog that he is. There is no excuse for rape, I don't care about any book or person that says otherwise. Only weak, mindless individuals read and believe garbage like that. 

Mazo
Mazo like.author.displayName 1 Like

@ScottWan Such idiotic nonsense only a Paki can peddle! 

Do you know that beef is sold widely in India ? And Castration is not a criminal punishment  for ANY crime because India is a civilized country, unlike your Islamist hell hole! 

ScottWan
ScottWan

Ok my friend make it clear,  No Body in India can Castrate a Cow or a Brahmin, shooting like a dog what are you talking about?.

ScottWan
ScottWan

Kolkata, January 14, 2013 An 18-year-old girl was allegedly gang-raped and thrown out of a moving vehicle in West Bengal's North Dinajpur district, police said on Monday. "The victim was found lying unconscious and injured beside National Highway 31 under Chakulia Police Station.

MuhammadHaque
MuhammadHaque like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 2 Like

It is NOT the 'Media' that matters.It is the women, the girls and the other victims and targets f violence whose actions will have to be the decisive factor.