I read about far too many rapes while I was living in New Delhi earlier this year. I started doing research almost the day that I arrived, with all of my friends and my host family warning me about the common sexual violence against women in the city. I did even more research as I began to experience sexual harassment, which disturbed me so much that I genuinely became afraid and anxious whenever I left the security of my home. Every new incident of sexual harassment only made me reflect on how vulnerable I was and felt, and on how something worse could easily have happened. Thankfully, I was never raped during my three months in New Delhi. But many, many women are.
I was outraged about the dangers that every single Indian woman faces in the capital, day or night. I was astonished to learn that a rape happens nearly every 20 minutes in the country. That the maximum time in jail for a rapist is 10 years. That the local police in New Delhi judge and mock rape victims more than they help them find justice. That rape figures have risen steadily in recent years: in 2010, 24,206 rapes were reported, an almost 10% increase over 2001. The number of unreported rapes is without a doubt greater. Moreover, I was perplexed about why, with all of the rapes and gang rapes appearing in the news with barely any pause, people would not unite against sexual harassment and violence in the city and the country as a whole.
It seems that that time has finally come.
The gang rape of a 23 year old medical student on a private bus has provoked national outrage. She and her male companion were beaten with steel rods, and she was gang raped by six men for about an hour, while the bus passed through several government checkpoints. They were then stripped of their clothes and thrown out of the moving bus onto a freeway, left to die of bleeding and internal wounds. The young woman is currently in critical condition, and has had her entire lower intestines removed because they were so badly damaged that she would have contracted gangrene otherwise.
I’m praying for this young woman and her friend. They never deserved to be victims of such rage and violence. A modernizing India is leading to increasing violent clashes between people who feel that a woman’s place is in the home and women who are simply living their lives today.
I’ve linked some useful articles on the case, and how India is going forward. Although this incident is unbearably tragic, I at least feel some hope knowing that millions of Indians right now are, perhaps for the first time, absolutely determined and united together to put an end to this increasingly common horror. As I write this, my friends in New Delhi are preparing to attend protests and rallies for this gang rape. I told my friends in New Delhi that I would return to visit them one day. I want to return to a truly new and different India. A place where I and my girlfriends can walk around outside without fear. What are we going to have to change today, and in the years to come, for that to happen? What will we, as a society, have to demand in order for the 80% of women, who report feeling unsafe in New Delhi, to have some peace of mind while walking outside their homes?