The brutal rape and murder of a 23-year-old university student on a New Delhi bus has sparked a wave of protests across the capital.
The cruelty of the attack, allegedly carried out by five men and a juvenile, has focused attention on just how dangerous it is to be a women in India.
“Girls are not safe at all, especially outside the home. This can only be stopped when the offenders are handed down the most stringent punishments,” said one Delhi woman.
Violence against women is a daily occurrence in India and most rapes go unpunished.
India has seen a 900 percent rise in reported rapes in four decades.
Last year 635 were reported in New Delhi alone. Only one case ended in a conviction.
One reason why women are reluctant to report rape is the low number of serving women police officers. Fear is also a major factor.
According to a recent survey India is the worst country in the world to be a woman.
It is a sobering thought when one considers that Indian women have been at the forefront of politics in the country for many years.
Women work and in the major cities can be seen in bars, clubs and restaurants in contemporary dress.
Still, the patriarchal nature of Indian society runs deep. Women are considered second class citizens and the caste system adds to the subjugation.
Studies suggest that one in four men have committed sexual violence against women and one in five have forced their partners to have sex.
Men outnumber women in India. There are 914 women for every 1,000 men. Female foetuses are frequently aborted and baby girls killed.
Rishi Kant, an equal rights campaigner, said: “The low number of women in India contributes to the number of sex crimes. Young men are unable to marry especially in the north of the country. It is because of foeticide and infanticide.”
The number of children forced into wedlock in India accounts for 40 percent of global child marriage cases.
In India 70 percent of Indian girls are married before reaching 18. Child marriage was outlawed in 1860, yet in rural areas the tradition continues in silence.
Despite the current outrage the country has a long way to go to guarantee protection to its women, still an acknowledgement of the problem will help start the transition.
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