Outcry in India over violence towards women | Asia Pacific

Outcry in India over violence towards women

Outcry in India over violence towards women

Updated 21 December 2012, 21:57 AEST

The brutal rape and bashing of a young woman in Delhi has prompted demonstrations and outrage.

Women's rights groups estimate a woman is raped in India every 20 minutes.

And the harassment of women in public is still seen as acceptable by some in Indian society.

Now, there are calls for Indian laws to be overhauled to provide better protection for women.

Correspondent: Michael Edwards

Speakers: Indian woman cinema patron (unnamed); unnamed Indian male chauvinist (translated); Dr Ranjana Kumari, head of the Centre for Social Research, New Delhi

(Sound of crowds outside a cinema)

EDWARDS: It's a day off for university students in New Delhi. Hundreds are lining up outside a cinema in an affluent upper-middle class part of the city. You'd think public venues like this would be safe for young women, but in India they're often not.

INDIAN WOMAN: They sometimes use very abusive language and pass cheap commands and stare at you.

EDWARDS: Here behaviour as bad as this has a rather harmless sounding name, it's called "eve-teasing".

INDIAN WOMAN: There was a situation when I was just walking from the market around six o'clock and there were two guys on the bike and they started, er, they you know wanted to touch me but I just went back and they abused and gave a cheap comment, so that is very sad.

EDWARDS: And this happens in even nice areas of Delhi?

INDIAN WOMAN: Yes, yes, yes.

EDWARDS: So it's not even in rougher areas, it can happen anywhere.

INDIAN WOMAN: Anywhere.

EDWARDS: Other forms of eve-teasing include flashing and in extreme cases lead to serious sexual assault. There have been hundreds of cases where young women who have been harassed suffer serious psychological trauma, some have committed suicide.

Many incidents go unreported. Women's rights groups complain that Indian police don't take sexual harassment seriously. And it's not hard to believe that, especially when you listen to the views of some Indian men.

INDIAN MAN (translated): Often it is just teasing and there is no harm meant. But other times the girls are asking for it. They dressed in an alluring manner. They wear western clothes. They are not modest. What do they expect?

EDWARDS: The nation's capital New Delhi also has a less flattering moniker - the rape capital. And women's rights activists believe there are cultural reasons for the attacks.

Dr Ranjana Kumari is the head of the Centre for Social Research in New Delhi.

RANJANA KUMARI: Everywhere rapes happen. There is not a country in the world where women are not attacked and brutalised and there is no sexual assault on women.

But you know much more so it's happening in India at the moment, because you see that there is this new found confidence among the women. Women are everywhere, they are in the marketplace, they are in the workplaces and also that there is, so the men and boys in some way, especially in Delhi because Delhi is joining areas like Bahadurgarh, Gurgaon and Noida, has such macho cultures so they are not able to tolerate all of this.

And also, by and large, the people who do these kind of attacks and assaults are antisocial elements and criminals and that is one of the reason why you are seeing them at large. They have no fear of the law. Law enforcement agencies are weak at the moment in the city, so they are taking advantage of that.

And that is why you see that certain incidents are growing in the city.

EDWARDS: The-23 year-old paramedical student is still fighting for her life. She's in intensive care and doctors say she is lucky to have survived.

The attack has prompted demonstrations across India. Even Bollywood stars and cricketers have joined in the chorus of people calling for more to be done to protect women.

Dr Ranjana Kumari says it must be easier to prosecute rape cases.

RANJANA KUMARI: If nobody gets punished, or punishment takes nine years, conviction takes nine years to come by from the courts, then people are not scared at all. They are not fearful of the law at all.

So in that sense also we need to put all the cases of sexual assault in a system of fast-track court, so justice is delivered quickly, swiftly and also certainty of conviction.

EDWARDS: India's ruling Congress Party has vowed to reform and toughen the laws around the assault and rape of women.

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