Is India Doing Enough to Protect Women?

Is India Doing Enough to Protect Women?

Warning: This story contains details that some readers may find disturbing.

A glimpse into violence against women in India . . .

India is often cited as the most dangerous place for women, and the country seems to be doing little to change that grim picture. Last Friday, a 34-year-old Indian woman was brutally assaulted and raped on the streets of India’s financial capital, Mumbai. On August 16, a 24-year-old who accused a member of parliament of rape set herself on fire in front of the Indian Supreme Court in New Delhi following harassment by the police and judiciary. In yet another case, a nine-year-old child was gang-raped and cremated by the assaulters. Each case bears a shadow of the 2012 Delhi rape case that attracted global attention with its brutality. Protests have brought citizens to the streets repeatedly.

Strict laws, but 77 rape cases per day . . .

The 2012 Delhi rape case resulted in an amended definition of rape, stricter guidelines and laws, severe penalties for sexual assault, and fast-track courts for swift processing of such cases. According to the National Crime Records Bureau's report released on Wednesday, India recorded 28,046 rape cases in 2020 (one roughly every 19 minutes). The overall number of crimes against women declined by 8.3 per cent from the previous year, while the registration of cases with authorities increased by 28 per cent. However, anecdotal evidence suggests that many cases of harassment and violence against women often go unreported. A lack of sensitivity by police, medical professionals, and the judiciary, as well as a fear of harassment and stigma, caste, class, and education all play significant roles in whether cases get reported.

What can the world do?

India has strong rape laws, but experts say it lacks the capacity, training, and the will to implement those laws. Providing support to survivors for their legal, medical, and psychological issues, sensitization training for the police and medical professionals, and better investigative practices are much-needed steps forward. As The Economist suggests, international organizations can help design such education and sensitivity training programs that can be shared with networks working on the ground. Foreign countries can make gender equality and safety a priority in their relations with India, although meaningfully addressing this problem requires systemic change in India, something that can only be done locally.