A brutal rape in India brings sexual violence back to the fore | Asia| An in-depth look at news from across the continent | DW | 01.08.2016
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A brutal rape in India brings sexual violence back to the fore

The recent reports of gruesome gang rapes has made painfully evident that sexual violence remains a scourge in India, years after its government passed reforms to reduce crime against women. Murali Krishnan reports.

The horrific gang rape reported Saturday of a mother and her daughter in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh has once again brought to harsh light the frightening amount of violence that women encounter in India.

Their family of six was waylaid by bandits while traveling on a highway in the state's Bulandshahr district. The mother and daughter - aged 35 and 14 - were dragged out of their car and allegedly raped by a group of seven to eight men in a nearby field. The men of the family were tied down with ropes.

At least 15 suspects have been detained and a senior police officer suspended amid the public indignation that has followed the incident. Parliament took up the issue on Monday.

No isolated case

But the furor was not a result of the novelty of the incident. Rather, reports of brutal rapes have lately spread across India on a near-daily basis, in a country that has been rocked in recent years by the prevalence of brutal sexual assaults.

A woman was allegedly raped last week and forced to drink urine while her daughter was molested in front of 20 in-laws in the northeastern state of Rajasthan.

Over the weekend, a married woman was allegedly gang-raped by a tuk-tuk driver and a passenger in the Firozabad district of Agra, the city where the Taj Mahal is located.

"It is clear that from these incidents of sexual violence that it is a result of women and girls being marginalized," says social activist Mohua Chaudhary. "That is why the violence is almost unabated."

Sexual violence is especially prevalent in India where gender-based marginalization is intensified by low social status. India's National Crime Records Bureau has found that more than four women belonging to the Dalit caste - the lowest in society - are raped every day.

"This is a blot on India," Dalit activist Ruth Manorama told DW. "Can Dalits in ever have justice?"

Frustrastion has grown as protection through the legal system has proven insufficient. A Dalit university student in the northern state of Haryana, for instance, was raped last month by a group that included men who already stood accused of raping her in 2013. They had been released on bail, and her family said they had since been pressurizing her to drop the charges.

Failed reform

These incidents have served to emphasize that little has changed since December 2012, when a 23-year old physiotherapy student was gang-raped in a moving bus.

The incident sparked global outrage and led to a major reform of India's laws concerning rape in 2013. The reforms sought to decrease the number of sexual assaults in the country by speeding up trials, hiking penalties for offenders and expanding the legal definition of rape.

And still, according to the latest statistics of India's National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), 93 women are being raped every day in the country.

"A lot needs to be done: Better policing, quicker delivery of justice to victims and more importantly how these landmark reforms have not been implemented properly," admitted senior police officer S N Srivastava. "There are gaps."

Collecting data from all first information reports filed in police stations across the country, the NCRB counted 1,813 rapes in the capital Delhi alone in 2014, up from 1,441 in 2013.

More encouragingly, Chaudhary believes that the spike can partly be attributed to an increasing sense of courage among women to speak up about their attacks. "It is not that earlier there were lesser rape attempts, but women wouldn't come up and report them."

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