India

Indian Government Pledges £125m to Improve Women's Safety

Activists immediately dismissed the measures as “tokenism”.

“The government clearly felt they had to do something but the money is grossly inadequate. It works out at a few rupees for each woman in the country” Ranjana Kumari, director of the Delhi-based Centre for Social Research, told the Guardian.

Kumari, who is also a member of the National Commission for Empowerment of Women, added: “We have been asking for money to properly implement laws on domestic violence and to improve our terrible record on maternal mortality but there was nothing.”

£125m does sound pretty paltry, but breaking it down by rupees per woman is a pretty poor way to communicate that fact. If India has to spend a significant amount of money on each individual woman in the country in order to make it a safer place, they’ll go bankrupt. Couldn’t Kumari have provided research indicating the amount of money needed to effect change and compared it with the £125m figure?

Can a Wrist Watch Really Cure India's Rape Problem?

No. (That one’s a gimme.) A watch that texts your friends and family and the police with your location and records video of the event is, on the whole, only a small step in overcoming centuries of patriarchy, misogyny, and governmental and police disregard for the problem. But every little helps.

More importantly, other groups are starting to use technology to prevent, not just report, rape.

The Rape Foundation recently partnered with tech firm Possible to develop Safebook, an app they hope to release by the end of the year. Safebook aims to shift the burden to the friend, the bystander, the person that witnesses assault by creating groups and allowing them to check in on members. Its target demographic is college women, one in five of whom report being sexually assaulted during their four years on campus. Realizing this susceptible group is spending most of its time in the digital world, the partners hope to use social media campaigns to target them where they’re most comfortable—similar to campaigns that have already been successful for gay rights awareness and bullying.

Of course, prevention and reporting do not directly address a culture that views rape as acceptable, but they contribute. As more people and government agencies begin to take the issue seriously, the collective consciousness will start to shift.

Three Girls, Aged 5, 9, and 11, Raped and Murdered in India

The three girls, who lived with their mother in Lakhni village in Maharashtra state, disappeared on 14 February, on their way home from school. Their widowed mother is a poor labourer, and when the grandfather went to the police to report their disappearance there was no attempt to search for them.

The police found the bodies of the three girls in an old well two days later, and recorded the deaths as “accidental”. But it was only after people from the village blocked a national highway on Wednesday in protest against the police inaction that the state home minister finally took notice.

A few protests over a single gang rape aren’t going to change centuries of patriarchy for India; they’d better be in it for the long haul.

India Enacts Harsher Punishments for Sexual Assault

Permits the death penalty in the event that an assault leaves the victim in a permanent vegetative state and outlaws types of sexual assault previously unaddressed, as well as human trafficking. There’s still progress to be made, though:

While many are applauding the new ordinances, some women’s right activists believe that the new laws don’t go far enough. For example, under the new laws it is still legal for a husband to rape his wife and service members are protected under a special law that gives them impunity.

Delhi Rape Suspect to be Tried as a Minor

The Juvenile Justice Board has ruled that one of the six men responsible for gang-raping and killing a woman on a bus last month is actually only 17 and must therefore stand trial in a juvenile court.

While this sounds like something that shouldn’t have needed an official ruling, ages in India are not always well-documented:

Although the court based its ruling on the suspect’s school records, its headmaster told BBC Hindi that he could not really be sure of his age.

"There is no concept of producing birth certificates in village schools at the time of admission. People just bring their children and tell us their approximate age.

“We admit a child based on what the parents tell us. We can’t really be sure of his age, but as per the school admission records, he is 17 years and six months old. He could be older than this, but I’m sure he is not younger,” he said.

Based on that evidence, how can he even be sure the suspect is not younger?

In any case, the police plan to challenge this ruling, demanding a bone ossification test as proof of age.

Skirt the Issue

Creative grassroots activism at its best: 25 Indian men spent this past Saturday wearing skirts as protest against the belief that women’s “immodesty” bears partial responsibility for rape.

One man said: “Please don’t judge a woman for what she wears, it’s more important that you respect her for her character and what she is. Whatever she does, please leave it to her.”

7-Year-Old Indian Girl Raped in School Bathroom

Sources said that after recess as teachers returned to classes, one of the teachers saw the accused along with the girl. Sources said the principal also questioned the boy and he told her he had come to meet a student.

The girl returned to the class after recess and complained to her teacher of pain and of being “pinched”. The matter was referred to the principal who enquired into the matter along with other teachers.

A doctor later examined her and confirmed that she had been raped. Police have not yet caught the perpetrator.

I can only take comfort in my optimism that the information age will gradually subdue and—in practical terms—eradicate the rape culture that perpetuates this kind of violence. Legislation and enforcement will, of course, play a part, but the patriarchal attitudes and values that allow rape culture to flourish must ultimately crumble under the free exchange of ideas about equality and human worth.

I hope.

Another Indian Woman Gang Raped on a Bus

Trigger Warning for Rape

I’ve had 24 hours to get over this, and it still makes me so angry.

According to multiple reports, a 29-year-old woman was riding the bus home to her village Friday evening in the northern Punjab state when the driver and conductor refused to come to a stop. Instead, they took her to a remote area outside of her town, met up with five other men, and took turns raping her for the rest of the evening. They dropped her off in her village in the morning when she immediately went to authorities. Six men have been arrested, and there’s currently a man hunt for the seventh. All arrested have admitted their involvement in the rape.

The second article linked, which was posted earlier today, claims that the seventh man has now been arrested.

Two hopeful facts I glean from this incident: the woman immediately told her family and the police, and none of the reports of her story that I have read indicate that anyone has blamed her “risky” behavior or questioned her morals. Most likely the public is just too outraged right now to tolerate that sort of nonsense; let’s hope that becomes permanent.

"I Reject the Notion That My Virtue Is Located in My Vagina"

Trigger Warning for Rape

An Indian woman who was gang-raped in 1980 attacks a still-prevalent notion:

Rape is horrible. But it is not horrible for all the reasons that have been drilled into the heads of Indian women. It is horrible because you are violated, you are scared, someone else takes control of your body and hurts you in the most intimate way. It is not horrible because you lose your “virtue.” It is not horrible because your father and your brother are dishonored.

I recommend reading the article she wrote at the age of 20, three years after her rape. The link is in the first paragraph.

Via Feministing.

India's Accused Gang Rapists Unable to Find Representation

Police reports revealed today that the six men accused of the fatal gang rape of a 23-year-old student allegedly tried to run over over her after they raped and attacked her with an iron rod. That, on top of worldwide outrage, is making it really tough for these men to find legal representation. “We have decided that no lawyer will stand up to defend the rape accused as it would be immoral to defend the case,” said Sanjay Kumar, a lawyer and a member of the Saket District Bar Council.

This is an interesting ethical situation. I recently had a debate with some friends over whether a court-appointed defender could ethically refuse to lie on behalf of their client. My opinion: yes—all a just society can expect from defense lawyers is that they represent the accused person(s). “Represent” != “Represent with every technique available”. Hypothetically, if I was an Indian lawyer I might take this case in the interest of due process, but I would refuse to misrepresent the facts in the interest of “representing” my clients.