Ever since the rape and murder of a 23-year-old physiotherapy student in India’s capital New Delhi, many in the media have sought to explain such a savage act by noting that it’s a “patriarchal society” in which men are considered superior to women.
That’s nothing more than an excuse for the boorish, and often times, barbaric behavior of men toward women. When society treats females as chattel, crimes against them aren’t given the same importance by the criminal justice system as other crimes.
As a result, rape in India is widespread, with men comfortable in the knowledge that not only will they get away with the offense, but that the victims will ultimately be blamed.
Indeed, a lawyer for three of the six defendants offered a “she asked for it” explanation, saying that respectable women are not raped. The argument M.L. Sharma is making is not new. India may be one of the fastest growing economies in the world and may have an exploding middle class that is the envy of many first-world nations, but it remains in the dark ages when it comes to its societal norms.
The five defendants and a sixth who claims to be a juvenile are accused of picking up the 23-year-old female and her 28-year-old male companion in a private bus, drawing the curtains and assaulting both riders with iron rods and repeatedly raping the woman as they drove around New Delhi, the Los Angeles Times reported.
The victims were tossed out of the bus naked and received no assistance from passersby. When the police arrived, there was a jurisdictional dispute which delayed the victims being taken to the hospital.
After several days in critical condition, the woman died Dec. 29 in a Singapore hospital.
The adult defendants have been charged with rape, murder, robbery, kidnapping, destruction of evidence and criminal conspiracy. They face the death penalty, which is rarely carried out in India.
The juvenile could receive three years in a juvenile home.
The savagery of the attack has triggered national outrage, especially among women, and international condemnation against a society that encourages such behavior.
There is also concern that with rampant corruption at all levels of government, this case could result in the defendants walking on a technicality.
The High Court of India and the International Criminal Court should monitor this case to ensure that the victims receive justice and the rights of the defendants are protected.
India boasts of being the largest democracy in the world, but on many levels it is no better than some Third World country.
Religious bigotry is on the rise, the caste system continues to maintain a permanent underclass, and male chauvinism causes women to be ever vigilant about their safety in and out of their homes.
The outrage sparked by the heinous attack has given women at least a measure of hope that the country of 1.2 billion people will see meaningful improvement in how they are treated, though most realize any change is likely to come slowly, the Associated Press reported.
“These protests have at least given women the confidence to talk about sexual violence,” a kindergarten teacher in Bangalore told the wire service. “For too long, women have been made to feel guilty for these things.”
It is ironic that a country which elected a woman as prime minister, Indira Gandhi, is so backward when it comes to treating males and females as equals.
The widespread rape of women is more than just a crime against humanity. It’s a symptom of a sick society.