India's Rape Culture Must Change



What is rape culture? Rape culture can be defined as a setting within a society that normalizes and perpetuates rape or sexual assault because of the countries prevailing social attitudes. In India, rape culture is so prevalent that even after multitudes of fatal gang rape incidents throughout the years, most laws have only been slightly altered, while the social stigma has not budged. As more and more women are put at risk due to their anatomy, protests have broken out across India demanding a shift in societal views.

According to the National Crime Records Bureau, 24,923 rapes were reported in 2012, however this number is very far off from the actual amount of rapes that take place in India. Rape is ranked number four on the list of most common crimes committed against women and nearly 54% of these assaults go unreported. Why are women so afraid to come forward and accuse their attackers? For one, the idea of rape is laughed at amongst most Indian men, especially those in power and women are often humiliated by the law rather than protected. Additionally, women face the fear of being shunned by their family and may face retaliation from not only them, but from their attacker who is most likely walking freely.

Back in December of 2012, the brutal gang rape and eventual murder of a 23-year-old girl in Munirka, India sent shock waves across the world. 23-year-old physiology student Jyoti Singh Pandey and her male friend were riding a private bus that held six other male passengers. The six passengers began beating Pandey’s friend with a metal pole and then proceeded to gang-rape her, using the metal pole on her so violently that she had to have her intestines removed in surgery. All six of the men took turns raping her, including the driver of the bus and a passenger who was a minor. In the end, Pandey was rushed to the hospital where she remained in critical care until her passing 13 days later.

This incident substantially influenced protests in the country as thousands gathered in New Dheli to riot against the government for failing to protect its citizens. According to reports, many laws were changed to make proceedings victim oriented and six new fast tracked courts were built to hear rape cases. With the exception of the minor who received a three year prison sentence, all of the defendants were given guilty verdicts and sentenced to death by hanging. Unfortunately, this did not do much to convince citizens that their sisters, daughters, mothers and grandmothers were safe. “It is wrong to stop them from going out,” said Upamanyu Raju, 21, a student at Delhi University, as he explained his decision to arm his little sister with pepper spray and a Swiss Army knife.

A recent attack on an eight-year-old has brought back haunting memories of the gang-rape incident that occured six years ago. The child disappeared on Jan. 10th  and her mutilated body was found a week later on Jan. 17th in the forest of Kathua. The child was kidnapped from the forest where she was grazing horses and subsequently tortured and raped for several days until she was strangled and bludgeoned to death. On Wednesday, April 11th the official charge sheet was released, detailing the treacherous ways of the Indian government and its officials. According to a report by NPR, the victim was chosen by Sanji Ram, an ex-bureaucrat, who enlisted his nephew to kidnapp her for revenge on the Bakarwals, a sunni-muslim tribe. Upon her kidnapping, the child was kept heavily sedated and endured rape from several men. During the investigation, the child’s parents remained in contact with the lead investigator, Deepak Khujaria, who suggested the child was visiting relatives. Once the girl’s body was found, the investigation discovered that special agent Khujaria was an accomplice in the murder who was bribed by Ram. Not only did he rape the child, he was the one who strangled her.

The violence and corruption that has plagued women for centuries needs to stop. Indian women continue to live their lives in fear of being assaulted and even murdered. The lack of understanding and protection within India’s society has caused it to be one of the most corrupt countries when it comes to sexual assault crimes. The rape culture has allowed men to feel entitled to a women’s body, ultimately regarding them as worthless. Because rapists actions are rarely met with consequences, they continue to assault women and children without fear of arrest or death. Schools and universities in the country need to educate their students, men in particular, on the correct way to treat women. The government and all it’s entities need to be fully investigated with severe corruption policies put in place. Merely changing a few laws will not erase centuries of rape culture in India. Victims need to feel confident that they will not only be helped, but respected and this will not happen until the countries patriarchal views are diminished.