India’s rape riot exposes culture of impunity against women

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By Hugo Odiogor with agency report

India is on fire and the anger on the streets is boiling over as protesters defy ban on demonstrations, water cannons and tear gas attacks from the Police, to register their disapproval of the gang-rape of a medical student last week in New Delhi,  on a moving.

With a record of more than 24,000 rape cases in India last year, 570 were reported in the capital, New Delhi, the country has a nasty reputation of low regard for women who report at least one rape case 20 minutes. The mass protests on the streets of India, are coming from those who are calling for change and justice for a young woman.

The 23-year-old actress Mass protests over sexual assaults against women have engulfed India in recent days as thousands of people took to the streets of New Delhi to show their anger over the assault on an actress named Momoko who has waived her right to anonymity. Momoko and her friend, were raped by six men who  took turns in sexually assaulting her.

The suspects allegedly used a metal rod to assault the victims. She was raped for about an hour and thrown out of the bus.

She is recovering in the intensive care unit after undergoing multiple surgeries. Her injuries were so bad that she was only recently able to give a statement to the Indian authorities.

File Photo: Abia gang rape saga

File Photo: Abia gang rape saga

Suspects arrested: A delegation of protesters met Sonia Gandhi, the leader of the ruling Congress party, to convey their demands.

The gang rape of the 23-year-old on a bus has sparked public outrage across India, bringing thousands of people onto city streets. Marches, demonstrations and candlelight vigils have spread during the past week.

Six drunk men were joyriding in a bus when they picked up the physiotherapy student and her 28-year-old male companion last Sunday. They took turns raping her before throwing the pair off the speeding vehicle.

During her ordeal,  the victim suffered serious intestinal injuries from being beaten with an iron rod. She remains in critical condition on respiratory support, but is responding to treatment, doctors said on Sunday.

Five of the suspects in the case were arrested soon after the crime and a sixth was caught on Friday, the Press Trust of India reported.

Meanwhile, reports said the protesters set up roadblocks with logs of wood and making burn fire with car tyres,” “The police were chasing them away but once the police were gone they would come back.” The anger on the streets reflects the deep seated resentment that the people harbour against the widespread, a problem is sexual abuse against women in India.

According to the legal news service Trust Law, “India is the worst country in the G20 where women are treated shabbily. First,India has a culture especially among the Hindus, having a girl child is considered to be a burden. Most families  grieve  at the birth of girls, especially, as women pay the dowries during their marriage.

Women and girls are sold, married off at a young age, exploited and abused as domestic slaves. Consequently, ‘the number of crimes recorded against women, including kidnapping, abduction, and human trafficking exceeds 2.5 million”.

It is against this background that

many activists in India are protesting against what they see as a culture of impunity against women. There are 40,000 pending rape cases in the country and survivors have to wait years for their cases to be heard – even then the conviction rate is just 34.6 percent – according to the National Crimes Record Bureau. The Indian Penal Code lists punishments of up to life behind bars, but those convicted are often let off after serving a short sentence.

National epidemic: Embattled  prime minister, Manmohan Singh, has appealed for calm in the capital, Delhi, and vowed to protect women in the wake of violent demonstrations against the “national epidemic” of sex crimes.

He spoke after police clashed with hundreds of protesters a day earlier in the Indian capital New Delhi over the gang rape of a medical student in the capital last weekend.

Anger and anguish

“There is genuine and justified anger and anguish at this ghastly incident,” Singh said in a televised statement on Monday, appealing for “peace and calm” as officials shut down roads in the centre of New Delhi – a city home to nearly 14 million people – in a bid to prevent further protests. “I assure you that we will make all possible efforts to ensure security and safety to all women in this country,” said Singh

The death of  Journalist: Police  had shot tear gas and

water cannon, and used batons to disperse demonstrators, as the crowd at Delhi’s landmark India Gate monument defied orders banning the protests and swelled into the thousands.

Scuffles occurred between protesters and police near government buildings, with demonstrators shouting slogans against the authorities and throwing stones and bottles at their barricades. Angry protesters later overturned a vehicle and seized police vans.

At least 30 people, including several policemen, have been treated for injuries at a nearby hospital, officials said.

“Security has been tightened in the heart of New Delhi, with police in riot gear in every area of possible demonstration. Section 144, a criminal code that prohibits assembly of more than five people, has been imposed.

A video journalist, Thangjam Dijamani, who worked for the state’s Prime News channel, was killed on Sunday after officers opened fire during the protest in Manipur’s capital, Imphal.Five police personnel have reportedly been suspended for their actions during the rally. Officials said the journalist was shot by accident while police attempted to disperse protesters. The strike, called by the Manipur Film Forum and supported by a host of regional groups, started on Saturday and has paralysed life in the state for the past few days.

On Sunday, rocks were pelted at police as tensions rose before the shooting ”We want justice for this brazen act of crime against women,” said gender dynamic expert Dr Vijaylakshmi Brara. “In our part of India, crime against women is much less than in the mainland, so this incident upsets us so much.”

Nationalist anger: Further provoking the ire of many Manipuris, the man accused of assaulting Momoko at a concert near the border with Myanmar  was reported to be a guerrilla fighter belonging to the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN), a group which demands a sovereign state for the mostly Christian Naga tribe of northeast India and neighbouring Myanmar.

The NSCN is the strongest of the many separatist groups in the region, but it has been engaged in negotiations with the Indian federal government since declaring ceasefire in 1997.

Indian officials have reportedly been prepared to concede many of the NSCN demands – but not to grant full independence. Most Manipuris fiercely resist the NSCN’s plans for a “greater Naga state”, which would leave their own state greatly diminished.

The complicity of Law enforcement: Undercover reporters in India gathered evidence of how the police in the Delhi region view rape survivors. The investigation published by the Indian weekly Tehelka exposed how the system often blames the survivors.

Senior police officers were caught on hidden camera talking about survivors, saying: “She asked for it”; “It’s all about money”; “They have made it a business”; “It’s consensual most of the time”.

Rape capitals of the world

New Delhi has the highest number of sex crimes among India’s major cities, with a rape reported on average every 18 hours, according to police figures.

•South Africa – it has one of the highest rates, with 277,000 reported cases. The same year a survey by the Medical Research Council found that one in four men admitted to raping someone

•United States – more than 84,000 rape cases were reported. Criminals face life behind bars, and in some states, castration is an option

•India – reported a little more than 22,000 cases

•United Kingdom – 16,000 cases were reported. A suspect found guilty, faces a maximum conviction of life in prison

•Mexico – nearly 15,000 cases were reported. In some parts of the country, penalties may consist of a few hours in jail, or minor fines

•Germany – counts the highest number of reported rape cases in Europe, just under 8,000

•Russia – almost 5,000 cases were reported, and the crime holds a punishment of 4 -10 years in jail

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