10 reasons why India has a sexual violence problem

 

New Delhi, India

The case of a 23-year-old medical student who died Saturday after a brutal gang rape on a bus in New Delhi has seemed to snap India to attention about its endemic sexual violence problem.

Hundreds of Indians poured into the streets of New Delhi to mourn the young woman, and police announced that the six men arrested in connection with the attack had been charged with murder.

In recent years, New Delhi has earned the title of "rape capital" of India, with more than 560 cases of rape reported in the city, but violence against Indian women is widespread and has deep roots. Here's a look at some of the reasons behind the issue that's bringing Indians into the street:

1. Few Female Police

Studies show that women are more likely to report sex crimes if female police officers are available. India has historically had a much lower percentage of female police officers than other Asian countries. In New Delhi, just 7 percent of police officers are women, and they are frequently given inconsequential posts that don't involve patrol duty, according to the Times of India. Of the 161 district police stations in Delhi, only one has a female station house officer.

When women do report rape charges to male police, they are frequently demeaned: "The police refused to file a complaint. Instead, they asked my sister such vulgar details, it was as if she was being raped all over again," the sister of another recent rape victim, who committed suicide, told The Washington Post. "There was no lady police officer, they were all men. My sister cried in front of them and kept asking, 'Would you still ask such questions if I were your daughter?' "

As a result of the gang-rape incident, Delhi Police said they will launch a special effort to recruit more women.

2. Not Enough Police in General

There aren't enough police dedicated to protecting ordinary citizens, rather than elites, a Brookings Institution article this week argues, and the officers that are available often lack basic evidence-gathering and investigative training and equipment:

"Delhi . . . is home to one of the largest metropolitan police forces in the world with some 84,000 officers," the article states. "But only one-third are involved in any kind of actual 'policing' at any given time, while the rest provide protection services to various politicians, senior bureaucrats, diplomats and other elites. According to the Times of India there is one officer for every 200 citizens and about 20 officers for every VIP. Many of those who do perform police duties can be found shaking down motorists, participating in protection rackets and simply looking the other way as crimes take place."

3. Blaming Provocative Clothing

There's a tendency to assume the victims of sexual violence somehow brought it on themselves. In a 1996 survey of judges in India, 68 percent of the respondents said that provocative clothing is an invitation to rape. In response to the recent gang-rape incident, a legislator in Rajasthan suggested banning skirts as a uniform for girls in private schools, citing it as the reason for increased cases of sexual harassment.

4. Acceptance of Domestic Violence

The Reuters TrustLaw group named India one of the worst countries in the world for women this year, in part because domestic violence there is often seen as deserved. A 2012 report by UNICEF found that 57 percent of Indian boys and 53 percent of girls between the ages of 15 and 19 think wife-beating is justified. A recent national family-health survey also reported that a sizable percentage of women blame themselves for beatings by their husbands.

"When a boy grows up seeing his father assault his mother, he starts to accept such a behavior and repeats it," Anuradha Gupta, mission director for India's National Rural Health Mission, was quoted as saying.

5. A Lack of Public Safety

Women generally aren't protected outside their homes. The gang rape occurred on a bus, and even Indian authorities say that the country's public places can be unsafe for women. Many streets are poorly lit, and there's a lack of women's toilets, a Women and Child Development Ministry report said recently.

Women who drink, smoke or go to pubs are widely seen in Indian society as morally loose, and village clan councils have blamed a rise in women talking on cellphones and going to the bazaar for an increase in the incidence of rape.

6. Stigmatizing the Victim

When verbal harassment or groping do occur in public areas, bystanders frequently look the other way rather than intervene, both to avoid a conflict and because they — on some level — blame the victim, observers say. Male politicians contribute to the problem, making statements that make light of rape or vilify rape victims' supporters.

One regional policymaker, Anisur Rahman, recently asked a female minister what "her fee" would be for getting raped. The son of India's president also recently apologized after calling those protesting against the Delhi gang rape "highly dented and painted" women, who go "from discos to demonstrations," the Associated Press reported.

7. Encouraging Rape Victims to Compromise

In a recent separate rape case, a 17-year-old Indian girl who was allegedly gang-raped killed herself after police pressured her to drop the case and marry one of her attackers.

Rape victims are often encouraged by village elders and clan councils to "compromise" with the family of accused and drop charges — or even to marry the attacker. Such compromises are aimed at keeping the peace between families or clan groups. What's more, a girl's eventual prospects of marriage are thought to be more important than bringing a rapist to justice.

8. A Sluggish Court System

India's court system is painfully slow, in part because of a shortage of judges. The country has about 15 judges for every 1 million people, while China has 159. A Delhi high court judge once estimated it would take 466 years to get through the backlog in the capital alone.

9. Few Convictions

For rapes that do get reported, India's conviction rate is no more than 26 percent. There is also no law on the books covering routine daily sexual harassment, which is euphemistically called "Eve-teasing." The passing of a proposed new sexual assault law has been delayed for seven years.

10. Low Status of Women

Perhaps the biggest issue, though, is women's overall lower status in Indian society. For poor families, the need to pay a marriage dowry can make daughters a burden. India has one of the lowest female-to-male population ratios in the world because of sex-selective abortion and female infanticide. Throughout their lives, sons are fed better than their sisters, are more likely to be sent to school and have brighter career prospects.

In recent days, Indian politicians have put forward a slew of potential remedies for India's sexual violence problem. But it's worth noting that it will be hard to end discrimination against women at police stations when it starts in the crib.

- - -

Lakshmi reported from New Delhi.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Life and Style
Fans line up at the AVNs, straining to capture a photo of their favourite star
life Tim Walker asks how much longer it can flesh out an existence
Life and Style
Every minute of every day, Twitter is awash with anger as we seek to let these organisations know precisely what we think of them
techWhen it comes to vitriol, no one on attracts our ire more than big businesses offering bad service
News
Professor David Nutt wants to change the way gravely ill patients are treated in Britain
people Why does a former Government tsar believe that mind-altering drugs have a place on prescription?
News
Norway’s ‘The Nordland Line – Minute by Minute, Season by Season’ continues the trend of slow TV
television
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Arts and Entertainment
art
Sport
Jonny Evans has pleaded not guilty to an FA charge for spitting at Papiss Cisse
football
Life and Style
Kate Moss will make a cameo appearance in David Walliams' The Boy in the Dress
fashion
News
The image released by the Salvation Army, using 'The Dress'
news
Sport
Liverpool defender Kolo Toure
football Defender could make history in the FA Cup, but African Cup of Nations win means he's already content
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Technical Presales Consultant - London - £65,000 OTE.

£65000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Technical Presales Engineer - central London ...

Recruitment Genius: Physiotherapist / Sports Therapist

£20000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Physiotherapist / Sports Ther...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive / Advisor

£8 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Sales Executives / Advisors are required...

Recruitment Genius: Warehouse Operative

£14000 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen for a...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans campaign: Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after £300,000 gift from Lloyds Bank

Homeless Veterans campaign

Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after huge gift from Lloyds Bank
Flight MH370 a year on: Lost without a trace – but the search goes on

Lost without a trace

But, a year on, the search continues for Flight MH370
Germany's spymasters left red-faced after thieves break into brand new secret service HQ and steal taps

Germany's spy HQ springs a leak

Thieves break into new €1.5bn complex... to steal taps
International Women's Day 2015: Celebrating the whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Simone de Beauvoir's seminal feminist polemic, 'The Second Sex', has been published in short-form for International Women's Day
Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Why would I want to employ someone I’d be happy to have as my boss, asks Simon Kelner
Confessions of a planespotter: With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent

Confessions of a planespotter

With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent. Sam Masters explains the appeal
Russia's gulag museum 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities

Russia's gulag museum

Ministry of Culture-run site 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities
The big fresh food con: Alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay

The big fresh food con

Joanna Blythman reveals the alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay
Virginia Ironside was my landlady: What is it like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7?

Virginia Ironside was my landlady

Tim Willis reveals what it's like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7
Paris Fashion Week 2015: The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp

Paris Fashion Week 2015

The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp
8 best workout DVDs

8 best workout DVDs

If your 'New Year new you' regime hasn’t lasted beyond February, why not try working out from home?
Paul Scholes column: I don't believe Jonny Evans was spitting at Papiss Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible

Paul Scholes column

I don't believe Evans was spitting at Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible
Miguel Layun interview: From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

Miguel Layun is a star in Mexico where he was criticised for leaving to join Watford. But he says he sees the bigger picture
Frank Warren column: Amir Khan ready to meet winner of Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao

Khan ready to meet winner of Mayweather v Pacquiao

The Bolton fighter is unlikely to take on Kell Brook with two superstar opponents on the horizon, says Frank Warren
War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable