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Rape in the ‘New India’

Source: The Nation

In the days following the tragedy, the young physiotherapy student who was gang-raped on a New Delhi bus in mid-December quickly became a woman of many names. Required by law to protect her anonymity, Indian publications jumped on the opportunity to rechristen her. The stirring pseudonyms were selected to reflect her newfound status as an icon of feminine power: Nirbhaya (Fearless), Damini (Lightning), Jagruti (Awakening).

The death of “Jagruti” was a rude awakening for the urban middle class, the most shocking in a series of wake-up calls over a year that witnessed a number of sensational sexual assault cases. Rich small-town boys from Rohtak who kidnapped and gang-raped a young woman in a suburb outside Delhi after following her out of a nightclub. The office shuttle driver in Kolkata who raped a housewife. A mob attack on a young girl outside a bar in full view of a television camera crew in Guwahati. The security guard at an apartment complex who killed a twentysomething lawyer in the course of trying to rape her. Each incident was followed by the now predictable cycle of media outrage and misogynistic blustering on the part of politicians. Some leaders offered child marriage as an antidote so that young girls and boys “do not stray,” while others blamed it on the effects of fast food—specifically chow mein—on the male libido. Still others preferred to deny the reality of rape entirely, claiming that more than 90 percent of rape complaints stemmed from a consensual sexual relationship gone awry. read more