In the week of June 30th, protests broke out in the Indian state of Madhya Pradesh and surrounding areas of central India after the brutal rape of a 6-year-old in a small town named Mandsaur. According to the Washington post, thousands took the streets in the week following the girl’s retrieval. The victim was found in a bush near her school, the day after she was kidnapped. The two suspects kidnapped the girl while she was waiting for the school’s bus and raped her using sharp objects, including a knife, according to the former newspaper. The BBC reports that the rapists attempted to chock the girl as well. Staff in the hospital, where the girl is being treated, have notified reporters that she is currently “out of danger” territory but will require a prolonged period of time to recover, according to the Chronicle Dean. The two men have been arrested awaiting prosecution for their brutal crime, while the state lawyer’s union have refused to represent them at court, the BBC reports.
Rakesh Mohan Shukla, the chief superintendent of police in Mandsaur has announced that the “authorities are assembling a special investigation team and are doing everything to get [the perpetrators] the punishment they deserve”, according to the Associated Press (AP).
The Chief Minister of the state has stated that rapists deserve the death sentence, a statement that aligns with the recent decisions of the Indian government in 2012 to pass laws, enforcing death penalty and other types of sentences to combat instances of rape, according to CNN. However, these laws have been proved to be ineffective and the rape epidemic only continues to escalate. The CNN reported the police to receive around 100 reports of sexual assault, according to the National Crime Records Bureau. The Washington Post has reported that over 50 percent of these rape victims are minors. In addition, the justice system in India is not efficient and child rape cases often lag for an extended period of time. For instance, 100,000 sexual abuses cases of children remain unresolved, according to Reuters News agency. The survey does not account for the number of sexual assault victims who did not report to the police due to fear of stigma and victim blaming. India is currently ranked as the country with most dangerous cultural traditions that impact women’s health and safety, according to recently published work by the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
This rape case in Madhya Pradesh is a part of a much longer, equally horrifying, recent history of sexual abuse haunting the world’s largest democracy. Just last April, the largest demonstrations since 2012 broke out after the news of an alleged rape of a teenager by a senior official in government came out, CNN reports. Along with other unrelated attacks, the issue of women safety sparked criticism against President Modi and the ruling party. Party politics tapped into the issue of sexual abuse when the leader of the opposing party, Rahul Gandhi, demanded that Modi improve his efforts to protect Indian women: “You said ‘our daughters will get justice.’ India wants to know: When?” asked Gandhi, according to CNN.
The law needs to be enforced in a critical manner in order to ensure that victims of sexual assault gain the justice they deserve. However, with the resurface of sexual assault cases where government officials were complicit in covering up and at times committing sexual assault abuses, that odds of that happening remain bleak. Perhaps most importantly, as a long-term solution, public education can and should be used as a tool to hinder and abolish toxic masculinity in particular, and patriarchal behavior in general. Thus, enabling the gradual improvement of women’s safety in India, and in other countries as well.
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