Parts of New Delhi, India had to be closed off today after violent confrontations with authorities erupted after the death of 23 year old physiotherapy student who had been gang-raped on the 16th of December. At the time no arrests or charges were laid against the men responsible which had led to an avalanche of protests and condemnation against authorities for dragging their feet.
In fact so brutally had the woman been raped she had to be flown to Singapore for special treatment after her internal organs were torn pursuant to the violent gang rape she endured. Having prodded with a metal rod during the rape her entire intestines had to be removed. It is understood she had been raped by the men for a period of up to 40 minutes.
Head doctor Dr Kelvin Loh revealed that the woman (since nicknamed “Damini” by protestors after a 1993 Bollywood movie about a rape survivor’s fight for justice) had since Wednesday undergone three abdominal operations as well as having suffered a major brain injury, cardiac arrest and infections of the lungs and abdomen.
Said Dr Kelvin Loh in a statement: “She was courageous in fighting for her life for so long against the odds, but the trauma to her body was too severe for her to overcome.”
He went on to say she died peacefully.
The nytimes reports since the rape, heightened attention has been placed on the worrisome plight of women in India.
Revulsion and anger over the rape have galvanized India, where women regularly face sexual harassment and assault, and where neither the police nor the judicial system is seen as adequately protecting them. Top officials now say that further change is needed, and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh expressed his “deepest condolences.”
“We have already seen the emotions and energies this incident has generated,” he said in a statement. “It would be a true homage to her memory if we are able to channelize these emotions and energies into a constructive course of action.” The government, he said, is examining “the penal provisions that exist for such crimes and measures to enhance the safety and security of women.”
Reports the UK’s dailymail:
Her horrific ordeal has galvanised Indians to demand greater protection for women from sexual violence with mass demonstrations, candle-lit vigils and street protests with placards, chants and road blocks. One policeman has died in the protests.
Hundreds of armed officers and riot troops patrolled the capital, closing down a number of metro railway stations and asked people not to travel into the city.
Gatherings of more than five people have been banned in the city centre.
And then there was this report via the dailybeast as well:
The protestors were divided between those who demanded the death penalty for the six accused rapists and those who thought they should be imprisoned instead. The latter groups, mobilized by left-wing student and political associations, outnumbered the right-wing groups on Saturday afternoon. However, larger numbers of ordinary citizens joined the protest in the evening, waving torches and the national flag, many demanding a public execution of the perpetrators.
The question now is will authorities have the courage and stomach to force changes in the way perpetrators are handled going forward? Especially of concern is how the role of class and caste system in India ensures perpetrators infallibility and the ability to act without impunity as all laws are not meted out equally, despite the idealistic notion that it ought to be as the world’s largest purported democracy.
That said the real issue may be India’s dim regard of women, where they are often in many classes perceived as second class citizens devoid of any real rights or legitimacy and at the mercy of men who are held in higher social esteem than they are. The dim view of women persists in particularly lower social echelons of society where paradoxically because of their poor wealth those disenfranchised and marginalized are not afforded the mobility to force change at the political and or legal/social level.
Some clues as the enduring violence and maltreatment of women may come from the following observation:
Rape victims rarely press charges because of social stigma and fear they will be accused of inviting the attack. Many women say they structure their lives around protecting themselves and their daughters from attack.
Offered Sonia Gandhi, India’s most powerful female politician and president of the governing Congress Party:
“As a woman, and mother, I understand how protesters feel. Today we pledge that the victim will get justice.”
The nytimes goes on to note the following, which of course raises the obvious question why and how may things ever be resolved:
Activists and lawyers in India have long said that the police are insensitive when dealing with crimes against women, and that therefore many women do not report cases of sexual violence.
At present the 23 year old woman’s body is now being flown back to India where one imagines a passionate and defiant funeral will take place.
And there were these views off the web that caught my attention as well:
One must seriously consider if they would have been hunted down and charged had she not died. Further, the young woman (17) who took her own life in India due to harrassment and humiliation by Indian police who refused her aid and even said she should marry one of her rapist, only got attention AFTER her death and due to the protests that are taking place.
Much more than just arresting these men needs to take place. They should be made to remain in custody until trial otherwise they very likely will disappear forever. Further, the possibility of them finding ways to wiggle out of this charge are out there and very well, given the culture and behavior of the courts and authorities in past cases, leave one wondering if justice will be done.
An isolated rape is the act of an individual; a gang rape by a group of men, assisted by a woman, and later condoned by the police is NOT the action of an individual or group of individuals. It is a systematic rape of women by society, by government, by the police, and by a culture that largely tolerates the actions and blames the victim. It is the complete stripping of all women’s rights to safety, respect and justice.
Such acts are symptoms of a problem of culture and caste, with the victims being much poorer and hence more powerless than their male abusers in Indian society. But it is also the confidence/certainty that their acts will be met with impunity and complacency that allows these men to act in this way. Yes, the culture needs to change; but the law also needs to apply equally, to everyone.
We Indians proudly like to call ourselves world’s largest democracy (see byline for India Ink above), but we do not have even one of the pillars of democracy, what with thoroughly corrupt politicians, equally corrupt judiciary and “civil servants”, non-existent law enforcement and 10th century mentality in 21st century. Some people are fooled by the recent economic growth, but you cannot build a house on top of ramshackle foundations, let alone a palace.
The problem with our system is that, no matter what law you pass, it can be misused by our own politicians and police. All these laws are imposed for common man ONLY. Jessica Lal’s case is an example. Law is not something that can be passed or amended every year. Also, our politicial parties do not allow the other party to take the credit of passing a specific law. People will easily forget this case and few such cases in future. During the next election Congress (inspite of suport from other parties) may take the credit for passing a bill to attract female voters. To sum it up, as a society, we are in a screwed up state.