March 17, 2015 | By Dr Iqtidar Karamat Cheema
US President Obama strongly propagated for women’s right while addressing at Siri Fort Auditorium during his recent visit to India. He said, “No society is immune from the darkest impulses of men. Every woman should be able to go about her day — to walk the street or ride the bus — and be safe and be treated with the respect and dignity that she deserves“. ‘Bus ride’ was more or less a hint on disreputable incident of Jyoti Singh’s gang rape in South Delhi. This mass rape case and murder of a 23 years old female physiotherapy intern took place on December 16, 2012 in Delhi. She was raped by six men including driver of the bus. She died from her injuries thirteen days after undergoing emergency treatment in Singapore.The incident created a widespread national and international coverage and was criticised by Human rights activists across the world.
Her story has now become the subject of a BBC documentary, ‘India’s Daughter’. Documentary sheds light on the violence, shame and injustice that Indian women often face. The documentary depicting the incident, produced by Leslee Udwin, was supposed to be telecasted in India on March 8, International Women’s Day. But the Indian government banned its release on 4th March, in India. The documentary had its U.S. premiere in New York, and is already airing in Britain, but not in India.
India has a long history of ignoring the sexual violence. According to The Marie Stopes Institute in Delhi, on an average 2 million women are raped in India every year. It is also estimated that only 1 out of every 20 is reported to the police and out of 100 rapists only 3 go to jail, only half of the cases are followed up, the guilty arrested and prosecuted. As reported by Guardian ‘records reveal a rape is committed every 22 minutes in India.
Gang rape, especially by criminals in uniform has also become common in India. The gang rape of Thanjam Manorama, a Manipuri woman by army personnel stands as a saddening example. In this case an extraordinary nude protest, “Indian Army Rape Us” provoked India’s Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, to rush to Manipur and move the Assam Rifles from the place. The other most commonly known case was the gang rape of 14 tribal women in Ujanmaidan (Tripura) by the Assam Rifles. The Kunan Poshspora incident also occurred when units of the Indian army launched a search and interrogation operation in the village of Kunan Poshpora, located in Kashmir’s remote Kupwara District. At least 53 women were allegedly gang raped by soldiers that night. Human rights organizations including Human Rights Watch have reported that the number of raped women could be as high as 100. Moreover, during “Operation Birdie” in Meghalaya, many Khasi tribal women were reportedly raped by Indian armed forces.
On August 23, 2012 the Delhi High Court convicted four body guards of Indian President for raping a 17-year-old Delhi University student in Buddha Jayanti Park. The student had gone to watch a program of the Dalai Lama at the park, located in the backyard of the Presidential Palace.
Indian law enforcement agencies sometimes also worked to reconcile rape victims and their attackers, in some cases. In April 2014, rape charges were dropped against India Army officers Sachin Gupta, 27, and Saurabh Chopra, 25, after they agreed to marry the 21 year old victim and her sister.
In some parts of India, women and girls dedicated in symbolic marriages to Hindu deities i.e. Shiva, Ram, Vishnu etc reportedly were subjected to instances of rape or sexual abuse at the hands of priests and temple patrons. Human Rights activists have suggested that some girls were sent to these symbolic marriages, and subsequent service in temples, by their families to mitigate financial burdens and the prospect of marriage dowries. The women and girls were also at heightened risk of contracting HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted infections. Some Indian states have laws in place to curb prostitution or sexual abuse of women and girls in temple service. However, enforcement of these laws remained weak and the problem was widespread; observers estimated that there were more than 450,000 women and girls in this system.
* Views expressed by the author are his own.
* Dr Iqtidar Karamat Cheema, is an educationalist and analyst based in United Kingdom. He has earned his PhD in International Relations from University of Gloucestershire and authored 3 books and various research papers. He tweets @drcheema786
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