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Mar 5, 2024, 5:32pm EST
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India gang rape case sparks outrage over persistent sexual violence

Insights from The Print, Brookings India, and The Wire

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A protest against rape in New Delhi in 2012
REUTERS/Vivek Prakash
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The News

Indian authorities on Tuesday arrested seven men in connection with the gang rape of a Brazilian tourist, sparking fury over the country’s lack of progress in addressing gender-based violence.

The assault on the travel blogger and her Spanish partner took place in a forest in India’s Jharkhand state in the east of the country late Friday, as the pair were on their way to Nepal.

In a since-deleted Instagram video the couple, visibly shaken and with bruised faces, according to the Washington Post, said the perpetrators held knives to their throats and took turns raping the woman while her partner was beaten and restrained.

Jharkhand police said that the victims were taken to a local hospital where their accounts were confirmed, and were given one million rupees ($12,000) in compensation for the attack, the latest in a spate of high-profile rape cases involving foreign tourists in India.

The incident spotlights the high rates of sexual violence in India’s deeply patriarchal society, where women often struggle to come forward over fears of social stigma. Because of this, experts believe the true number of rape cases in the country is likely much higher.

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The survivor’s experience is shared by many Indian women

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Sources:  
The Print, The Independent

The brutality of the gang rape has resonated with women across India, with one journalist describing the assault as not being “perpetrated on the body of one woman alone.” In an emotional column in The Print, Karanjeet Kaur wrote that ‘it felt like it happened to all of us,” recounting an incident 12 years ago that sparked worldwide outrage when a 23-year-old student was gang-raped by six men on a bus in Delhi and later died from her injuries. While the latest incident is likely to lead to swift arrests, a quick trial, and the rollout of a new helpline, Kaur wrote, she is not hopeful that genuine systemic change will take place.

India’s chairperson of the National Commission for Women, Rekha Sharma, called for an investigation into the incident. However, her defensive response to a post by a journalist who warned of unsafe conditions for solo women travelers in India – in which she accused him of “defaming [the] whole country,” – was criticized as victim-blaming, The Independent reported. Sharma had previously come under fire for not taking immediate action after receiving complaints about an incident last year in which three Indian women were disrobed and paraded through a crowd in the northeastern state of Manipur.

Modi accused of failing to keep women safe despite equality pledges

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Sources:  
The Washington Post, Brookings India, The Wire

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi ran for office in 2014 pledging to ensure women’s safety and boost gender equality – yet nearly ten years on, India faces an uptick in violent crimes against women. Experts blame the rise on a “culture of downplaying sexual harassment and violence,” The Washington Post reported.

While Modi passed a landmark bill that would reserve one-third of seats in the country’s lower house and state legislative assemblies for women, the reforms are unlikely “to throw up solutions for deep-rooted gender inequality,” wrote one analyst for Brookings India.

Gujarat state lawmakers faced intense criticism from India’s Supreme Court for the early release of 11 men who were convicted of gang-raping a Muslim woman in 2008, with lawmakers from the ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party praising the convicts as “good Brahmins” – the highest Hindu caste. The men were later ordered to return to custody.

In another instance, Modi was widely criticized for taking 78 days to break his silence on the Manipur incident last year, The Wire reported.

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