Skip to main content

India grapples with rape and sexual violence

By Madison Park, CNN
updated 6:29 AM EDT, Thu August 15, 2013
Activists and supporters of the Bharatiya Janata Party protest against the rape of a 5-year-old girl in Hyderabad on Tuesday, April 23. Demonstrations have taken place across the state since a man was arrested in the rape of the girl in New Delhi. There have been high-profile assaults in India since December, when a woman was gang raped on a bus. <a href='http://www.cnn.com/2012/12/22/world/gallery/india-rape-protest/index.html'>See photos of outrage over the sexual assault in December.</a> Activists and supporters of the Bharatiya Janata Party protest against the rape of a 5-year-old girl in Hyderabad on Tuesday, April 23. Demonstrations have taken place across the state since a man was arrested in the rape of the girl in New Delhi. There have been high-profile assaults in India since December, when a woman was gang raped on a bus. See photos of outrage over the sexual assault in December.
HIDE CAPTION
Protest for 5-year-old victim
Protest for 5-year-old victim
Protest for 5-year-old victim
Protest for 5-year-old victim
Protest for 5-year-old victim
Protest for 5-year-old victim
Rape protests in New Delhi
Rape protests in New Delhi
Rape protests in New Delhi
Rape protests in New Delhi
Rape protests in New Delhi
Rape protests in New Delhi
Rape protests in New Delhi
Rape protests in New Delhi
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Rape of a 7-year-old on a train draws outrage in India
  • India sees a series of high-profile sexual violence cases since the deadly gang rape case
  • Government passes stricter laws to punish those who don't investigate reported cases

(CNN) -- A series of high-profile rape cases involving girls, foreign tourists and a physiology student who died following a brutal gang rape in December has hit India's reputation.

In response, the nation's lawmakers have introduced tougher laws and punishments for sexual crimes and harassment. Despite such action, India continues to see episodes of sexual violence.

The latest case to draw outrage involved a 7-year-old girl who was raped in a train's toilet compartment in central India last weekend.

READ: Keeping chivalry alive in India: Men respond to rape crisis

Why is rape and sexual violence getting such attention in India?

A robust public dialogue on sex crimes in India emerged in December after the gang rape of a 23-year-old woman in a bus in New Delhi. The physiotherapy student died in a Singapore hospital.

American allegedly gang-raped in India
4-year-old girl dies after rape
Rape of child sparks India protests
Using social media to end rape in India

An outcry quickly grew over her death and expanded to include widespread concerns about women's safety and inequalities, triggering demonstrations in India's capital.

Advocates criticized the world's largest democracy for failing to protect half of its population. Protesters demanded better treatment of women and decried the apathy of police and the judicial system.

"The truth is, when most women report sexual harassment in India's cities, towns and villages, they are typically met with a shrug," Anjana Menon wrote in an opinion piece. "Slowly, but firmly, the onus of remaining safe seems to have shifted to women, instead of being shared by society and law-keepers."

The country has continued to see several high-profile cases of rape and sexual violence.

A Swiss tourist and her husband were attacked while they had set up camp near a forest in the state of Madhya Pradesh. A group of men beat the husband and raped the wife in March, according to police. Last month, a court sentenced six men to life in prison in the gang rape case.

In April, a 5-year-old girl was abducted and raped repeatedly, until she was found semiconscious three days later. In May, a 4-year-old died after being abducted and sexually assaulted.

Is rape more common in India than other countries?

Official data in India show that rape cases have jumped almost 875% over the past 40 years -- from 2,487 in 1971 to 24,206 in 2011. But campaigners say this is the tip of the iceberg.

Statistics concerning rape and sexual violence tends to be underreported because of stigma and cultural factors. It's an inexact science to compare one country's rape statistic to another, because of the tendency to underreport.

In 2010, women in the United States experienced 270,000 completed, attempted or threatened rape or sexual assaults, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics.

Six men arrested in gang rape of tourist
Police: Gang rape suspect kills himself
Father of India rape victim speaks out
India rape case drags on

Overall, the World Health Organization estimates that the global toll of sexual or physical violence in women is 35.6%, which is likely to be an underestimate. Dr. Margaret Chan, the WHO's director-general, described violence against women as a "global health problem of epidemic proportions."

Why is this happening in India?

Some observers say violent acts against women stem from the country's largely patriarchal social setup. Some blame pornography and Bollywood for objectifying women, and a culture that values chastity.

Many women's rights activists say the issues of violence and inequality start before birth.

Sex-selective abortions continue, despite being illegal in the country. The sex ratio in the 2011 census dwindled to 940 females to 1,000 males.

Parents prefer boys, because many don't want to pay dowry (which is also illegal). Girls are seen as a burden, while boys are viewed as contributing to their families, advocates say.

"Often they get less food than their brothers, they're pulled out of school early to help at home or get married," said Ruchira Gupta, the founder of ApneAap, a women's organization.

Women's rights advocates point to an entrenched societal view that values men more than women.

What's being done?

The government passed tougher anti-rape laws, introducing the death penalty for repeat offenders, and imprisonment for acid attacks, human trafficking and stalking. It also punishes public servants, such as a police officer, who "knowingly disobeys" the laws required in an investigation. It has prompted an increase in the number of women working in New Delhi police stations.

But some say while the laws have changed, the mindset and enforcement haven't.

Some advocates are taking the situation into their own hands, with groups of girls patrolling their local streets to protect women from harassment, educating boys on how to properly treat girls and men holding campaigns to challenge the patriarchal views.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
Violence against women in India
She was attacked at a rural police station, and her landmark case awakened India decades ago.
updated 5:26 AM EST, Tue January 28, 2014
An Indian army corporal suspected of sexually assaulting a 14-month-old girl has been taken into custody.
updated 8:14 AM EST, Sun November 17, 2013
Giving voice to the victims of violence has power. When a discussion builds around it, those voices gain strength.
updated 9:22 PM EST, Sun December 15, 2013
The colorful, busy streets of New Delhi are a mixture of old and new. Some people have modern attitudes, while others remain rooted in ancient values.
updated 9:23 PM EST, Sun December 15, 2013
When CNN's Sumnima Udas tells people outside India that she lives in New Delhi, she is almost always asked: "Do you feel safe there?" or worse, "what's with the rape culture in India?"
updated 4:43 PM EDT, Sat September 14, 2013
An Indian court sentenced four men to death for the rape and murder of a 23-year-old woman in New Delhi, an attack that appalled the South Asian nation.
updated 9:23 PM EDT, Wed September 3, 2014
The New Delhi rape case left the whole world wondering why India is treating its women so badly.
updated 6:10 AM EDT, Tue September 10, 2013
An Indian court finds four men guilty of the gang rape and murder of a 23-year-old woman on a bus in New Delhi in 2012.
updated 4:28 AM EDT, Wed August 28, 2013
I wasn't raped, but my attackers sexually assaulted and then tried to kill me.
updated 7:21 AM EDT, Wed August 14, 2013
They're called the Red Brigade, a group of teenagers who are facing sex pests head on, vigilante-style.
updated 11:49 AM EDT, Fri August 23, 2013
A U.S. student's experience of sexual harassment in India triggers more anguish and sympathy from women in India.
updated 2:11 PM EDT, Fri August 23, 2013
American student Michaela Cross says during a three-month trip to India she experienced relentless sexual harassment, groping and worse.
updated 6:29 AM EDT, Thu August 15, 2013
Months after the brutal rape of an Indian woman on a bus, have measures to address violence against women worked?
updated 4:47 PM EST, Thu March 7, 2013
New Delhi is known as the crime capital of India. CNN's Sumnima Udas talks to women there about what daily life is like.
updated 7:06 AM EDT, Tue July 16, 2013
There's one clear observation from the outcry to India's rape crisis: some of the voices belong to India's men.
updated 2:06 PM EST, Wed January 16, 2013
'Top Chef' Host Padma Lakshmi weighs in on the New Delhi gang rape case and shares her experience living in India.
updated 1:41 PM EST, Thu January 3, 2013
The director of Amnesty International, India, says that execution "would just perpetuate the cycle of violence."
updated 6:55 PM EST, Wed January 16, 2013
The Delhi police bore the brunt of criticism for a December gang rape, but now they say they're changing their ways.
updated 11:34 AM EST, Fri January 4, 2013
The fatal gang rape of a young woman sparked weeks of angry protests and heated debates about sexual violence in Indian society.
updated 1:53 PM EST, Thu January 3, 2013
The New Delhi woman who was gang-raped died with her honor intact; her rapists will live in ignominy, actress Leeza Mangaldas writes.
ADVERTISEMENT