11
Jan

The case of the student gang raped in Delhi reveals how deep-seated misogyny remains in Indian society. Even as women are encouraged to study and join the work force, prejudice is rampant. It is time for change.

By Kishwar Desai

India has been transfixed by the Delhi gang rape which took the life of a young woman in December. Mass protests have resulted and the country has set up a fast track court to try the alleged perpetrators.

In the past few weeks, something has happened in India that we never thought possible: We have seen an unprecedented show of solidarity and anger over the horrific gang rape of a 23-year old woman, who later died of her injuries. The brutal killing of this nameless student — an ambitious young woman from a small town who worked hard to train as a physiotherapist and was a role model to her two younger brothers — moves us because she was one of us, a sister, a daughter and a wife.

For years, I have been writing about rape and abuse, about the killings of female fetuses, of girls and of women in India. But when I heard about it happening right in the middle of Delhi, in the heart of our capital, on a public bus, it felt like it happened to me. Fortunately, I have never had to experience rape myself. During my growing up years, however, I of course experienced molestation and verbal abuse by males. And even as a working woman it was part of my life — as it is part of any woman’s life in India. Friends of mine have experienced much worse, and they have been traumatized by it.

The young woman has been called “Nirbhaya”, the fearless, by the press, and she has become a symbol of India’s terrible misogyny. India’s middle class has held protest meetings and candle light vigils in many cities all over the country. The anger, despite reassurances from the government, refuses to die down. Even more unexpected has been the sight of young men pouring onto the streets, expressing their personal sorrow over escalating gender violence, as this emerging “superpower” becomes increasingly unsafe for women.

The response from the government has been slow and callous, with its clumsy attempt to squash the protests. This lack of empathy within the ruling coalition, and its inability to understand or comprehend the betrayal that Indian women feel today has left many aghast. Read more…

As published in www.spiegel.de on January 10, 2013.

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