After a series of high profile cases of gang rape in India, activists, politicians and others are beginning to put pressure on the slow, often incompetent and inadequate Indian institutions charged with safeguarding women.
The brutal and shocking sexual assault and murder of a New Delhi student on a public bus in Mumbai this past December has sparked a national movement to protect women from such horrors. Women from traditional and sheltered communities in India have gathered in recent weeks for protests and demonstrations of massive proportions. The Tourism Ministry of India has launched an “I Respect Women” campaign of awareness, protection and service to women visiting the country.
According to sociologist and economist Ranjana Kumari, the changing social structure in India is a primary cause of the increase in the number of gruesome rapes that take place. Such rapes are reported recently more than ever. As women in India leave the traditional roles to which they had been relegated for centuries, and enter the professional workforce, some males in Indian society have attempted to brutally force women back from their progress.
Indian Supreme Court lawyer, Kirti Singh, stated that rape cases have definitely increased and that the perpetrators are most often very poor and uneducated males from slums of big cities. Sociologist Sudhi Kahar commented that any hope of solving this crisis of sexual assault must include a component of solving the persistent poverty, ignorance and social exclusion of young men from the slums of India’s large cities. Kahar has stated that the sexual assault perpetrators are “young men in the cities, without prospects, without hope. They feel rage against those who are perceived to have it.”
In the meantime, protests are ongoing as the Indian government has started to respond to the crisis by creating special fast track courts for rape cases, increasing prison terms, and criminalizing other acts against women, such as stalking, voyeurism and acid attacks.
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