Bus rape protests reflect declining confidence in Indian authorities | Connect Asia

Bus rape protests reflect declining confidence in Indian authorities

Bus rape protests reflect declining confidence in Indian authorities

Updated 21 December 2012, 14:23 AEDT

A senior Indian policeman has added to the anger being felt in the capital by advising women to avoid rape by not travelling after dark and carrying chilli powder to throw at potential attackers.

The comments from Commissioner K.P. Raghuvanshi, from a satellite city of Mumbai, follow the gang rape of a 23-year-old student on Sunday.

Women have rejected the plolice chief's advice, saying they shouldn't have to feel scared in public and resort to self-defence tactics on the streets.

The debate in India on prevention of such incidents has largely focused on harsher punishments, more police resources and better monitoring of public transport.

Correspondent: Murali Krishnan

Speakers: Rohini Lal, housewife; Urmila, student; Prati Kunzog, student; Ajay Kumar, a former police officer; Sanjay Srivastava, sociologist

KRISHNAN: Shocking violence against women is nothing new in India but this particular outrage in the capital has caused widespread anger.

And even five days after a 23-year-old medical student was sexually assaulted, stripped and tossed out of a moving bus, the anger simmers. She is now at a government hospital listed in critical condition.

A wave of protests by university students, civil society groups and women's organisations has left Delhi crippled and hurting. There were also demonstrations in other state capitals like Mumbai, Ahmedabad and Patna with women calling for more protection and stricter laws.

(IN HINDI)

ROHINILAL: My demand is that rape cases get a fast hearing. There has to be special courts to deal with assaults against women.

KRISHNAN: Rohini Lal, a housewife was angered by the incident and protested outside the residence of Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit.

Urmila, a student says that the police has to scale up.

(IN HINDI)

URMILA: These rapists have to be arrested soon. There has to be more security for women and the police has to beef up its presence.

KRISHNAN: This violent incident has raised the issue of declining public confidence in the law and order machinery in the city.

Prati Kunzog, a student from north-east India, whose community continuously faces harassment, is worried.

KUNZOG: When I go to sleep, I think of like what will happen, we have do something. Because I think like that and most of the youngsters and most of the college students, everyone is preparing something to do.

KRISHNAN: There were 17 cases of rape reported in the state of Haryana, which borders much of Delhi, in October alone. Across the nation, a woman is raped every 20 minutes, according to the National Crime Records Bureau. These frightening figures have risen steadily in recent years since 2010.

Investigations into violence against women are often slow, and prosecution sometimes never occurs, leading offenders to act with impunity.

Ajay Kumar, a former police officer explains what needs to be done to stop the spiralling crime.

KUMAR: If you catch a person molesting a girl and convict him, you are actually preventing a future rapist. We need to make police reforms urgent, the registration of first information reports etc, a lot of judges and fast track cases and convict people quickly on scientific evidence.

KRISHNAN: There have been calls for rapists to be hanged and the death penalty was the only answer to act as an effective deterrent.

The unthinkably offensive attack has the public and parliamentarians demanding change- in laws, in the method that laws are implemented, and in the security offered to women in the capital.

But Sanjay Srivastava, a sociologist feels different.

SRIVASTAV: Calling for the death penalty or chemical castration is not really the answer because all those people protesting on the streets… all of us how to realize how to bring up our sons differently. Of course, we need to have women who are stronger but it is primarily about how men behave towards women. And no amount of capital punishment is is ever going to change social attitudes.

KRISHNAN: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has called the incident a heinous crime Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde, who is responsible for law and order in Delhi, promised that steps will be taken to beef up police patrols in the evening, while bus and transport employees will face more security and background checks.

In a country where women are sanctified and at the same time who are routinely subjected to discrimination and abuse, there is a long way to go yet before they find their rightful place.

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