On December 16, a 23 year-old woman in Delhi, was gang-raped and almost left for death by six men in a moving bus. More shocking - this was the 636th rape in Delhi in 2012, according to the “reported” figures available with the National Crime Records Bureau. In Bangalore, two days after the Delhi rape, a girl was pulled into a shop in her own neighbourhood and raped by the owner, while his friends kept watch.
India was never very safe for women, but of late there seems to be a flagrant disrespect that is governed neither by societal nor legal norms. It seems to be simply up to the men to perpetrate violence and for women to safeguard themselves as best as they can. The police are too biased to be effective. Tehelka magazine’s sting operation in April on senior police officials in Delhi-NCR, revealed that more than half chose to blame rape victims. ‘Unless a woman is fully covered from head to toe at all times, she wants men to rape her’, declared Arjun Singh, SHO of Surajpur Police Station. With such attitudes, it is not surprising that victims are reluctant to enter our police stations and that most attacks go unreported. Technology also assaults our senses every hour. Mobiles share salacious details while TV stations broadcast them like prime time entertainment, instead of using the space to condemn or discuss such matters seriously, thus becoming active participants in gender injustice.
These crimes against women are part of a wider change where reactionary forces are becoming dominant. Globalization seems to have narrowed the space available for women even further by creating economic and social divides that provoke a conservative backlash from those who feel left out.
According to eminent Kannada writer Vaidehi, violence against women is as old as the Mahabharata. But the rapid changes in our society seem to be escalating the scale of this violence. Says William Dalrymple in the introduction to...