No quick fix for India's rape crisisBy Gayatri Rangachari ShahUpdated 10:12 PM ET, Wed June 18, 2014Just WatchedFighting 'boys will be boys' in IndiareplayMore Videos ...Fighting 'boys will be boys' in India 02:40Story highlightsNorthern India has experienced especially brutal violence, with a spate of brutal rapesGayatri Rangachari Shah: Indians have to shift their cultural mindset towards womenThe conviction rate in rape cases has declined over the past few yearsPolitical insensitivity is not helping victims feel safe coming forwardMumbai's moviegoers are getting used to seeing a police-issued public service clip before the start of films, encouraging them to come forward to report crimes against women.It's a relevant message, given the regular reports of grisly gang rapes and murders roiling the nation. In the past few weeks, the north of India has experienced especially brutal violence, particularly in the state of Uttar Pradesh.On May 27, the alleged gang rape and hanging of two teenage girls, age 14 and 15, in Badaun district made headlines.Two weeks later, the body of a 45-year-old alleged gang rape victim was found hanging from a tree in Bahraich district.Since then, a 16-year-old girl was found hanged from a tree in Moradabad district, allegedly after having been raped.Gayatri Rangachari ShahIn Kushinagar, an 18-year-old was apparently raped by two people and dumped in a pond. And just days ago came news of another gang rape in Badaun, that of a 32-year-old woman. After the infamous December 2012 rape and death of a physiotherapy student in New Delhi, the rape of a photojournalist in Mumbai in August last year and the rapes of several foreign visitors to India, the specter of a crisis haunts India. READ: The girl whose rape changed a country"Clearly, rape is nothing new," says Madhu Kishwar, a pioneering feminist and academic who founded Manushi, a journal on women's issues, more than 40 years ago. "What's new is the increased brutalization of the rape victims. It's an epidemic of brutality." Kishwar notes a heightened frustration and angst amongst young men facing limited options in life as a factor in the wave of sexual violence. Beyond that, she also points to general lawlessness in states like Uttar Pradesh, where politics is highly criminalized. Uttar Pradesh, with 200 million people, is India's most populous state and ranks fourth across all states and union territories in rape crimes.Although the number of rape cases registered in the state increased from 1563 in 2010 to 1963 in 2012, the state's conviction rate for such cases declined from 2010 to 2012, from 45.1 percent to 31.5 percent, according to data from the National Bureau of Crime Statistics (NBCS).This trend mirrors what's happening nationally. While the total number of rape cases in India registered a 12 percent increase between 2010 and 2012, the conviction rate declined from 17.1 percent to 14.3 percent, resulting in fewer convictions in 2012. (In the majority of these cases, the rape offenders were known to victims.) Yet domestic data belies this, given that in 2012, the latest year for which official data is available, 24,923 rape cases were registered nationally, according to the NBCS. This is almost certainly a reflection of the under-reporting of crimes of sexual violence. Political insensitivity is not helping to foster a climate in which victims of sexual violence feel safe coming forward. Mulayam Singh Yadav, the head of the Samajwadi Party, which governs Uttar Pradesh, courted controversy when he decried stricter punishments for rapists after laws were overhauled last year. He was quoted as suggesting that boys make such mistakes, and that rapists shouldn't be awarded the death penalty.Just WatchedHome minister: Rape is a 'social crime'replayMore Videos ...Home minister: Rape is a 'social crime' 02:44PLAY VIDEOJust WatchedCan Modi change India's rape culture?replayMore Videos ...Can Modi change India's rape culture? 04:26PLAY VIDEOJust WatchedWas caste to blame in rape and murder?replayMore Videos ...Was caste to blame in rape and murder? 03:23PLAY VIDEOHis Australian educated son, Akhilesh Yadav, who is the state's chief minister, also misstepped. When probed by journalists about the increase in rapes in his state, he retorted in Hindi: "It's not as though you faced danger."The Samajwadi Party is hardly alone. Boorish politicians across party lines have made repugnant statements, including calling rape "accidental" and "sometimes right, sometimes wrong."Such thoughts reflect Indian society's deep-rooted patriarchy. We rank 132 out of 187 countries on gender inequality, according to the UNDP's Human Development Report, lower even than neighboring Pakistan.A 2014 report by Dasra, a Mumbai based philanthropic foundation says that almost 70 percent of women in India face some form of domestic violence.In their book "An Uncertain Glory," economists Amartya Sen and Jean Dreze write that Indian women's participation in the workforce beyond the home "remains extremely low by international standards, and shows little sign of increasing" -- a situation attributed in part to "negative social attitudes towards women's work outside the household." READ: The afterlife of a rape survivorPoverty and poor sanitation are a blight on India. Forty percent of schools in India do not have separate toilets for girls, leading to higher school drop out rates for girls as they attain puberty and perpetuating the cycle of low female literacy.Lack of access to toilets plays a role in making women vulnerable to assaults. The two teenage cousins killed in the Badaun assaults had stepped out to relieve themselves when they were abducted.Caste oppression also continues to be a real issue. In Uttar Pradesh, caste certainly played a factor in some of the crimes, which reflected a pattern of higher caste men feeling entitled to victimize lower caste victims with relative impunity.But, as is often the case with all things Indian, generalizations have their limits. The rape of a photojournalist in Mumbai last August had nothing to do with caste and everything to do with young men attacking a woman for sport. "Each case has to be looked at individually," says Kishwar. "It would be a mistake to lump them all into one group." How, then, do we restore faith in our society and tackle this menace?For a start, Indians have to shift our cultural mindset. We must give women wider berth in employment opportunities to foster economic independence.The idea of woman as personal property, which leads to a sense of male entitlement, has to be eradicated. Marital rape, currently not legally recognized, must be criminalized.In the short-term, we need better law enforcement. The police need to step up their game nationally, but especially in places like beleaguered Uttar Pradesh.Victims should be encouraged to come forward to report crimes with the expectation they will be treated with care. More policewomen need to be recruited, and dedicated cells for violent sexual crimes must be the norm in police stations. Mandatory gender sensitivity training and quicker response times to crimes should be built into police performance evaluation. Conviction rates need to go up, but justice also needs to be timely. Indians recently took pride in peacefully electing a new government, one that took the reins in New Delhi promising change. A priority for them in delivering on that promise must be to ensure women's security.Follow us on Twitter @CNNOpinion.Join us on Facebook/CNNOpinion.Violence against women in IndiaThe girl whose rape changed a countryShe was attacked at a rural police station, and her landmark case awakened India decades ago. Soldier accused of sexually assaulting infantAn Indian army corporal suspected of sexually assaulting a 14-month-old girl has been taken into custody.The afterlife of a rape survivorGiving voice to the victims of violence has power. When a discussion builds around it, those voices gain strength.Gang rape victim fought for justiceThe 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.Covering the case that changed IndiaWhen 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?" Court sentences men to deathAn 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. Where have India's females gone?The New Delhi rape case left the whole world wondering why India is treating its women so badly. Four guilty in India gang-rape caseAn 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. Victims blamed in India's rape cultureI wasn't raped, but my attackers sexually assaulted and then tried to kill me.Teens fight back against rape They're called the Red Brigade, a group of teenagers who are facing sex pests head on, vigilante-style.Indian women feel sorrow, anger A U.S. student's experience of sexual harassment in India triggers more anguish and sympathy from women in India.'The story you never wanted to hear'American student Michaela Cross says during a three-month trip to India she experienced relentless sexual harassment, groping and worse.India: Has anything changed?Months after the brutal rape of an Indian woman on a bus, have measures to address violence against women worked?Life as a woman in India's capitalNew Delhi is known as the crime capital of India. CNN's Sumnima Udas talks to women there about what daily life is like.Indian men respond to rape crisisThere's one clear observation from the outcry to India's rape crisis: some of the voices belong to India's men.Lakshmi: Problem goes beyond rape'Top Chef' Host Padma Lakshmi weighs in on the New Delhi gang rape case and shares her experience living in India.Opinion: Why execution is no solutionThe director of Amnesty International, India, says that execution "would just perpetuate the cycle of violence."CNN rides along with Delhi police The Delhi police bore the brunt of criticism for a December gang rape, but now they say they're changing their ways.iReporters: 'She could have been me'The fatal gang rape of a young woman sparked weeks of angry protests and heated debates about sexual violence in Indian society. Misogyny in India: We are all guiltyThe New Delhi woman who was gang-raped died with her honor intact; her rapists will live in ignominy, actress Leeza Mangaldas writes.More from asiaCourt rules: Adultery no longer a crime in South KoreaDeath toll at 168 from Afghanistan avalanchesCan Hong Kong's Innovation Tower inspire the city's architects?