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Published on January 6th, 2013 | by Usman Butt
Image © [caption id="attachment_11566" align="alignnone" width="566"] © (AP Photo/Tsering Topgyal) Indians stand around posters and candles lit during a protest to mourn the death of a gang rape victim.[/caption] “Why is this crime creating a lot of outrage? Because it plays into the idea of the criminal poor. You know the vegetable vendor and the bus driver, actually assaulting a middle class girl, whereas when rape is used as a means of domination by upper castes, the army or the police it’s not even punished.” Arundhati Roy India is a nation in shock following the death of Damini a 23-year old gang rape victim. The rape which occurred on the 16 December sparked protests and demonstrations in the Indian capital Delhi. The victim, who was a medical student, died in a Singapore hospital where she was being treated on the 29 December.  Six-men have been charged in connection to the rape, which comes after Ministers vow to take tougher action against rape. The dubbed ‘daughter of India’ was cremated the following-day, after her body was flown back to India and received by Prime Minister Singh.  As well as protests the incident has sparked debate, a debate which cuts to the heart of modern India’s soul. The gang rape, which on this occasion has caused a large outpouring of rage, is not rare. According to figures released by Delhi police, a woman is raped every 18-hours in the Indian capital. However, the fact that the girl was middle-class has become an issue for some. They argue that sexual slavery and rape is a wide spread occurrence in India however, this largely goes unreported in the Media because the victims are usually lower-caste Hindus.  The explosion of media attention on this particular rape is only a reinforcement of the caste-system paradigm. There are also accusations that the Indian military regularly employees rape as a tactic in Kashmir. Elsewhere, 57 members of the legislative assemble elected from the state of Gujarat currently face criminal charges which includes murder and rape. The debate on gender and women’s rights is not confined only to rape and caste either. A 2011 study showed that there are seven million fewer girls than boys under the age of six. This gender gap was created as a result of an increase in abortions of female foetuses, as families prefer to have boys according to the study. A gender specialist survey carried out by the Thomas Reuters Foundation, labelled India to be the worst place in the world to be a woman, beating Saudi Arabia. All of this has led to a gender battle which has been framed as modernity versus tradition. The gang rape has further exposed already existing tensions over gender in modern India. However, despite the tough talk from Indian politicians little beyond public rhetoric is likely to change. As India much like its neighbour Pakistan is characterised by having an extremely weak central government. Professor Anatol Lieven author of ‘Pakistan: A Hard Country’ refers to both countries as the ‘negotiated state’.  According to him the Indian state ‘works’ because the state constantly makes compromises with various local groups.  These compromises extend into law and order, as the police operates under the British Indian police act of 1864.  The police are there largely to prevent massacres, protests and riots. In cases of murder or rape punishment of the crime is not often the priority for the police, instead the police acts as a mediator between the two families in order to prevent more bloodshed. In addition to this rich families will often try to buy local police officers and stations. It is not unusual to find two police stations in the same town, working for rival families in addition to the state. The State in order to survive, needs to navigate and compromise between these two conflicting interests, this is what is meant by ‘negotiated state’. What can be understood from this is that beyond this gang rape case, it is unlikely that other rape cases especially those committed against the poor will result in a prosecution. The quick reaction of the state and the law enforcement agencies in this case was a result of public pressure. One of the unique features of this case is that is has put the International spotlight onto the situation of women.  The real questions are will it stay there, or can this case lead to greater change in way rape is dealt with?

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Pity the Nation- Rape, Murder and Corruption: The ‘Other India’?

© (AP Photo/Tsering Topgyal) Indians stand around posters and candles lit during a protest to mourn the death of a gang rape victim.

Why is this crime creating a lot of outrage? Because it plays into the idea of the criminal poor. You know the vegetable vendor and the bus driver, actually assaulting a middle class girl, whereas when rape is used as a means of domination by upper castes, the army or the police it’s not even punished.” Arundhati Roy

India is a nation in shock following the death of Damini a 23-year old gang rape victim. The rape which occurred on the 16 December sparked protests and demonstrations in the Indian capital Delhi. The victim, who was a medical student, died in a Singapore hospital where she was being treated on the 29 December.  Six-men have been charged in connection to the rape, which comes after Ministers vow to take tougher action against rape. The dubbed ‘daughter of India’ was cremated the following-day, after her body was flown back to India and received by Prime Minister Singh.  As well as protests the incident has sparked debate, a debate which cuts to the heart of modern India’s soul.

The gang rape, which on this occasion has caused a large outpouring of rage, is not rare. According to figures released by Delhi police, a woman is raped every 18-hours in the Indian capital. However, the fact that the girl was middle-class has become an issue for some. They argue that sexual slavery and rape is a wide spread occurrence in India however, this largely goes unreported in the Media because the victims are usually lower-caste Hindus.  The explosion of media attention on this particular rape is only a reinforcement of the caste-system paradigm. There are also accusations that the Indian military regularly employees rape as a tactic in Kashmir. Elsewhere, 57 members of the legislative assemble elected from the state of Gujarat currently face criminal charges which includes murder and rape.

The debate on gender and women’s rights is not confined only to rape and caste either. A 2011 study showed that there are seven million fewer girls than boys under the age of six. This gender gap was created as a result of an increase in abortions of female foetuses, as families prefer to have boys according to the study. A gender specialist survey carried out by the Thomas Reuters Foundation, labelled India to be the worst place in the world to be a woman, beating Saudi Arabia. All of this has led to a gender battle which has been framed as modernity versus tradition. The gang rape has further exposed already existing tensions over gender in modern India.

However, despite the tough talk from Indian politicians little beyond public rhetoric is likely to change. As India much like its neighbour Pakistan is characterised by having an extremely weak central government. Professor Anatol Lieven author of ‘Pakistan: A Hard Country’ refers to both countries as the ‘negotiated state’.  According to him the Indian state ‘works’ because the state constantly makes compromises with various local groups.  These compromises extend into law and order, as the police operates under the British Indian police act of 1864.  The police are there largely to prevent massacres, protests and riots. In cases of murder or rape punishment of the crime is not often the priority for the police, instead the police acts as a mediator between the two families in order to prevent more bloodshed.

In addition to this rich families will often try to buy local police officers and stations. It is not unusual to find two police stations in the same town, working for rival families in addition to the state. The State in order to survive, needs to navigate and compromise between these two conflicting interests, this is what is meant by ‘negotiated state’. What can be understood from this is that beyond this gang rape case, it is unlikely that other rape cases especially those committed against the poor will result in a prosecution. The quick reaction of the state and the law enforcement agencies in this case was a result of public pressure. One of the unique features of this case is that is has put the International spotlight onto the situation of women.  The real questions are will it stay there, or can this case lead to greater change in way rape is dealt with?

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About the Author

Usman Butt

Usman graduated in 2012 with an MA in Palestine Studies from the University Of Exeter. Before that he read Arabic Language and International Relations at the University of Westminster. Amongst his proudest achievements include winning a muffin for public speaking, winning a Lego set at age 5 and helping Palestinian refugees learn English. Usually writes about genocide, ethnic cleansing, war crimes, Israel/Palestinian politics, Iranian/Syrian/Lebanese politics, the Arab Spring, philosophy, religion, British politics, Foreign Policy, history and social issues. He enjoys writing as he sees it as an outlet to express his opinions about the public discourse on these issues. He believes writing is a good way of keeping productive and teaching yourself new things.



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