Candlelight Marches in Assam, Gang Rape in Delhi: Eight Years After Nirbhaya, Sexual Violence Still Plagues Indian Women

Gender

Candlelight Marches in Assam, Gang Rape in Delhi: Eight Years After Nirbhaya, Sexual Violence Still Plagues Indian Women

Illustration: Robin Chakraborty

It seems like there is never a week that goes by in India without news of a brutal rape or worse taking place in some part of the country. Gender and sexual violence is unfortunately, rampant and part of Indian society. The Human Development Report’s gender social norms index placed India 122nd out of 162 countries in 2018, which is pretty dismal, considering what transpired six years earlier, in 2012. The Nirbhaya gang rape case in Delhi was a crime that “shocked the conscience of the nation”, but despite increased highlighting of crimes against women in the media, the situation on the ground has barely improved.

Last week, on December 16, the nation observed the eighth anniversary of the gruesome Nirbhaya tragedy. But even as India paid respect to the memory of the woman whose death jolted it into addressing its problem with sexual violence, crimes against women continued to be perpetrated across the country. On that same day, a 20-year-old nursing student from Assam was found dead in Bengaluru, at the home of a male student who was also from Assam. Police arrested the 21-year-old man on charges of rape and murder. Two days later, after the victim’s funeral in her hometown in Assam, hundreds of people participated in a candlelight march seeking justice for her death, and a thorough investigation by the Bengaluru Police.

The candlelight vigil, covered by news outlets, was a visual that evoked memories of similar marches taken out in 2012. In the wake of the Nirbhaya case, there was a palpable feeling that things might change, that victims and survivors of sexual violence would be able to have justice done, and abusers would be swiftly taken to task. Laws were rewritten to include stricter penalties, including capital punishment. This year, eight years after their arrest in what was one of India’s most-covered rape cases, four of the six rapists in the case were executed by the state. Their lawyer attempted to exploit one loophole after the other to delay the executions, but finally, amid much media coverage, it was done.

On December 20, there was another rape case that offered a chilling reminder of the horrors of the Nirbhaya attack.

How much did the hanging of six men achieve though? Just this Sunday, on December 20, there was another rape case that offered a chilling reminder of the horrors of the Nirbhaya attack. This too took place in Delhi, it was also a gang rape, and one of the assailants was also a minor. The only significant difference in the two cases was that in this instance, the victim was a minor too. A 14-year-old girl was raped by four men aged 17 to 30, and it’s horrible that reads like an ordinary headline in 2020.

After all, this is also the year that witnessed the shock of the Hathras gang rape, which not only highlighted the gender inequality, but also the problems of casteism in India. One of the worst parts of hearing about each new incidence of rape and violence that takes place across the country is knowing that news of another one will follow soon enough. Noting the sombre anniversary of the Nirbhaya rape is a necessary reminder of what’s plaguing Indian society, but there’s still a long way to go before any real progress is made there regardless.

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