One of the most shocking cases in Indian history has just come to a close. Four men were sentenced today to death for the gang rape and murder of a woman in New Delhi last December. Judge Yogesh Khanna while sentencing the men stated that, “These are the times when gruesome crimes against women have become rampant, and courts cannot turn a blind eye to the need to send a strong deterrent message to the perpetrators of such crimes (http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/09/13/us-india-rape-sentencing-idUSBRE98C0BL20130913).”
Several rape cases have arisen out of India in recent times and made their way on the world stage. The gang rape of a female photojournalist took place in Mumbai last August (http://www.dnaindia.com/india/1882578/report-what-happens-to-rape-victims-after-the-media-hoopla-fades). Two incidents occurred in 2012, one December and again in February (Ibid). The February incident was a gang rape (Ibid). Though most victims tend to hide and do not contact the police, it is their silence that aids the rapist’s escape from punishment (Ibid). Jordan Suzette bucked that precedent. Instead of hiding, she spoke out. “I was raped; it is those who raped me who should feel shame. We should speak up, because if we don’t, these things will keep happening and the criminals will keep getting away (Ibid).”
People would approach her on the street, asking if she was the rape victim (Ibid). But her exposure came back to bite her. Soon Ms. Suzette felt herself a pariah. “I couldn’t get a job. I went for several interviews but while no one admitted that the rape was the issue, they would not call back,” Jordan said (Ibid). With two teenage daughters, this was of deep concern (Ibid). Besides the fear of being ostracized, or unable to find gainful employment, many rape victims carry tremendous guilt (Ibid). An unusual and demoralizing example was the case of a 19 year old house wife who was raped in Sonepat district back in 2012 (Ibid). Her parents guilted her into dropping the charges (Ibid). But for changing her original statement, she suffered ten days in jail for perjury (Ibid). This is not so unusual. In addition to guilt, in the rural areas, sympathies may lie with the assaulters rather than the victim, forcing victims to keep quiet and hide the incident (Ibid).
The Indian government has made plans to combat rape. In 1994 the Supreme Court created the National Commission for Women (NCW) (Ibid). A rape rehabilitation plan was drafted (Ibid). Another plan was created in 2005 (Ibid). And from 2009-2011 money from the budget was set aside to engage these programs, yet they were never came to fruition (Ibid). The money just sits there (Ibid).
Another important consideration, the criminal process is too slow in cases of rape to be called justice (Ibid). Cases often come up two years after the rape has taken place (Ibid). Then there is the cultural element pervasive in Indian society, caste. Men of higher castes feel justified in raping women from a lower caste. Oftentimes society allows it.
Several NGOs provide help to the rape victims, so they are not left without any aid. Still, the problem is pervasive and to combat it thoroughly, a robust new program should take place. With all the widespread media attention we may see real, concrete changes on the ground. However, today’s capital punishment announcement may paper over the problem.
There should be changes in their legal system to more briskly punish rapists, but also in programs to help the victims. A robust media and education campaign should be engaged to stomp out rape and violence, and the cultural nuances that go with it. If all of these things do not occur, India’s women and India’s reputation abroad will continue to suffer immensely.
Written By: Philip Perry