The gang-rape of a 23-year old journalist in Mumbai has sparked a public outcry and heated debate about the brutal violence that women in Indian society face and what the government is doing to address it.
The photojournalist went to work near an affluent neighborhood on Thursday in one of the more ‘safe’ Indian cities, and by the day’s end she was gang-raped by five men in an abandoned factory. According to local police, her condition is stable.
The incident has sent an angry chill down India’s spine and brought back angry memories of a brutal gang rape back in December that left the victim in indescribable shape. She eventually died and the country was sent into a state of shock. The public outrage that followed was unprecedented and so was the government’s reaction. Under intense internal and international pressure, the justice system responded immediately with a ‘speedy’ trial that still awaits a verdict, as well as an improved anti-rape bill (March).
Despite the fact that police had rounded up 20 suspects less than 24 hours after the recent victim filed a police report, Indians on social media have expressed their doubts about the justice system and the likelihood of the guilty men being prosecuted – as stipulated in the new anti-rape law.
As usual the social media frenzy that has ensued since the incident reflects some of the questions that Indians are demanding answers to. Will these suspects be investigated properly and persecuted accordingly? Why didn’t anyone notice a woman being dragged into a dilapidated mill building? What kind of families do the rapists come from? What does this mean for working women in Mumbai? Why don’t all rape cases, especially from the impoverished communities, get this much attention? Here are some tweets that articulate some of society’s questions and concerns.
I'm sorry; I didn't intend to start the day with anger, just as that young girl didn't intend to get raped on a working day.— Nilanjana Roy (@nilanjanaroy) August 23, 2013
And finally, #questionswedontask: "Our fault! If we hadn't given them so much freedom, would they have whistled at, leered at, raped women?"— Nilanjana Roy (@nilanjanaroy) August 23, 2013
Again an educated independent girl dared to dream. Raped by inferiors. Same cycle-Netas, promises, probe, courts, compensatn #mumbaigangrape— kanchansrivastava (@KanchanDNA) August 23, 2013
Some people have even questioned the role of Bollywood in how women are perceived in Indian society. “Item Numbers” are Bollywood’s new “It” girls and most blockbusters have at least one of these racy songs – many of which portray the dancer as a highly sexualized woman.
#questionswedontask Why are we promoting item songs in movies and continuing to objectify women?— Vernon Fernandez (@ItsVernonff) August 23, 2013
Here is a good example of one that is popular all over South Asia. If you don’t understand the lyrics, the imagery should give you a pretty good idea.
Perhaps another question would be to ask why news of the gang rape shown in the Hindustan Times below (July 2013) failed to strike the same chord with those Indians who are speaking out right now?
Also, Mumbai may have been perceived a ‘safe’ place for working women, compared to Delhi, but it needs to be said that it is also considered a haven for India’s commercial rape industry – brothels - where a different kind of 'working' woman can easily be found.
The debate about violence against women has left many questions unanswered and the sentencing from the Dec 16 case as well as others that have followed the new anti-rape bill will decide what change has really come from India’s awakening. But at least people are not shying away from asking these questions.