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Anger, frustration over rapes in India: ‘Mindset hasn’t changed’

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Advocate: In a capital city, a young girl cannot be protected

Demonstrations re-emerge after 5-year-old girl raped, protester slapped by police

Since December protests after gang-rape, women say nothing has changed

Stricter anti-rape laws were passed earlier this month

CNN —  

Four months after a vicious gang rape left a 23-year-old physiotherapy student dead and triggered a national outcry over the treatment of women, more protests ignited in New Delhi after another brutal rape – this time the victim was a five-year-old girl.

Two men have been arrested in the case. Authorities say the girl was abducted, locked in a house and raped repeatedly. She was found semiconscious three days later and doctors removed foreign objects from her genitals, including candle pieces and a small bottle.

“In a capital city, we cannot provide protection to a young girl,” said Bhagyashri Dengle, the executive director of Plan India, an organization that works to help underprivileged children.

The girl’s family said that police officers had tried to bribe them to keep quiet about the case.

Senior police officials have ordered a separate investigation into those allegations.

Clapping, chanting and holding signs that read “Enough is enough,” protesters re-emerged in the nation’s capital. They waved money at the police officers alleging corruption and ineptitude.

Then, there was another slap in the face, advocates said, when a Delhi police officer was taped pushing and swatting a female protester on Friday, fueling even more outrage.

“Things have not improved,” Dengle said of the police. “There is no fear, no sensitization, no awareness if a policeman, held responsible for law and order, is behaving this way to women.”

A New Delhi police spokesman said that the offending officer has been suspended.

After a student was raped by seven men in a bus in Delhi in a case that brought international attention to India in December, authorities created stricter laws and vowed to increase the number of women working in the city’s police stations. But the latest rape case begs the question – has anything really changed in India since December?

“There is anger, frustration and introspection,” said Poonam Muttreja, executive director of the Population Foundation of India, a group that works on women’s health and rights. “Tragically, the people’s mindset hasn’t changed. Police behavior hasn’t changed. Political behavior hasn’t changed.”

But there are other issues at play, women say.

The gender issues facing India are “deep rooted,” Dengle said. “It’s the status of women. It’s the male mindset. It’s not going to change overnight.”

On a given week, sexual violence appears daily in the national newspapers – a 16-year-old allegedly raped by her father, a landlord convicted of raping a tenant, a rickshaw-puller caught raping his 10-year-old daughter, a 19-year-old boy raping a 12-year-old mentally disabled girl, a 25-year-old raping his cousin, and a man throwing acid on his wife’s private parts.

While these cases haven’t triggered demonstrations, they indicate regularly reported attacks on women and children.