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Published on January 8th, 2013 | by Zaynab Lulat
Image © [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="566"] © (Jim Ankan Deka/Wikimedia Commons/2012) Demonstrations and protests against Delhi gang rape case[/caption]   The rape and murder case of the woman only known as Damini, who was brutally raped on December 16th on a bus in New Delhi, India has sparked outrage across the globe. Damini died in a hospital in Singapore, and quickly became a symbol of the struggle endured by women in the face of rape. Her story sparked a string of protests and vigils around India. The government was quick to speak out against the attackers, and now there is talk of a tougher policy being put into action. An earlier Catch21 blog focused on India and how corruption negatively affects the way rape cases are treated. However, the fact must be taken into account that rape is a global problem - it is not unique to developing nations. In the last few weeks we have seen fingers pointed at India, but it is time that the problem's global presence was acknowledged. There has been a widespread outcry from almost every nation regarding the rape, with most media outlets being quick to condemn India’s response. Yes, the response was inadequate, and the victim’s friend has spoken out on the delayed actions of the police - and yes, rape is not taken seriously in India (only two weeks later another girl was gang raped, and when the girl’s father reported her missing, the unsympathetic police told him that she would be back). It is a problem that is rife in India. However in both the East and the West many cases of rape go unreported, occasionally women are blamed for the attacks themselves, and many offenders walk free. According to figures, there were 24,000 reported rapes in India in 2011, and this figure does not include the many that go unreported.  In 2011 alone in the UK, 80,000 women reported rape and 400,000 were sexually assaulted. At present, every two minutes in the United States a woman is sexually assaulted. These figures highlight the global nature of the problem, and the need for the entrenched idea of women and sexual assault to be reviewed. To point the finger and blame a particular nation does not get to the root cause of the problem, but conceals it with blame rather than tackle the issue and change society. There have been strong criticisms of those who take the issue of rape from the national to global stage, after comment pieces by Owen Jones and Emer O’Toole. They argue that rape is not only an Indian problem, and that those who suggest it is are perpetuating an idea that countries like the US and UK are better than others. Counterarguments claim that "talk of a “universal rape culture” only helps prolong the problem", but this argument is severely damaging to the approach necessary for tackling the problem, which is cross-cultural and global. There is no doubt that India has a cultural problem and needs quick progress in the way that women are treated in society. Indian society still regards women as the traditional home-makers, and even though more women are encouraged to work and be educated, the gender binaries are still rigidly in place. It is unfortunate that outrage and movements for change have only come after such a vicious attack on a woman. We now see many men and women in India speaking out for justice and speaking against rape. The Indian government is planning on recruiting 2,500 female police officers in Delhi (where currently only 8% of the force is female), there is talk of stricter police powers in dealing with rape, and it is now the central topic in parliament and in the streets - and it needs to remain so. Indeed, rape is now part of the social consciousness, but the response from national leaders will help cement the movement that has gained enormous momentum in the past few weeks. At a time when India is taking a look at itself and re-evaluating the way rape is viewed and dealt with, it is also time that the problem takes a more central stage as a global problem. Too often across the world are cases of rape ignored, with the fear of stigma and unjust practice of ‘shaming’ and ‘blaming’ continuing to silence victims. It is now time to look at why rape happens; the solution can be found by examining the root causes, rather than denouncing and pointing fingers at whole countries.

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Rape: An Outrage That Should Span the World

© (Jim Ankan Deka/Wikimedia Commons/2012) Demonstrations and protests against Delhi gang rape case

 

The rape and murder case of the woman only known as Damini, who was brutally raped on December 16th on a bus in New Delhi, India has sparked outrage across the globe. Damini died in a hospital in Singapore, and quickly became a symbol of the struggle endured by women in the face of rape. Her story sparked a string of protests and vigils around India. The government was quick to speak out against the attackers, and now there is talk of a tougher policy being put into action. An earlier Catch21 blog focused on India and how corruption negatively affects the way rape cases are treated. However, the fact must be taken into account that rape is a global problem – it is not unique to developing nations. In the last few weeks we have seen fingers pointed at India, but it is time that the problem’s global presence was acknowledged.

There has been a widespread outcry from almost every nation regarding the rape, with most media outlets being quick to condemn India’s response. Yes, the response was inadequate, and the victim’s friend has spoken out on the delayed actions of the police – and yes, rape is not taken seriously in India (only two weeks later another girl was gang raped, and when the girl’s father reported her missing, the unsympathetic police told him that she would be back). It is a problem that is rife in India. However in both the East and the West many cases of rape go unreported, occasionally women are blamed for the attacks themselves, and many offenders walk free.

According to figures, there were 24,000 reported rapes in India in 2011, and this figure does not include the many that go unreported.  In 2011 alone in the UK, 80,000 women reported rape and 400,000 were sexually assaulted. At present, every two minutes in the United States a woman is sexually assaulted. These figures highlight the global nature of the problem, and the need for the entrenched idea of women and sexual assault to be reviewed. To point the finger and blame a particular nation does not get to the root cause of the problem, but conceals it with blame rather than tackle the issue and change society.

There have been strong criticisms of those who take the issue of rape from the national to global stage, after comment pieces by Owen Jones and Emer O’Toole. They argue that rape is not only an Indian problem, and that those who suggest it is are perpetuating an idea that countries like the US and UK are better than others. Counterarguments claim that “talk of a “universal rape culture” only helps prolong the problem“, but this argument is severely damaging to the approach necessary for tackling the problem, which is cross-cultural and global.

There is no doubt that India has a cultural problem and needs quick progress in the way that women are treated in society. Indian society still regards women as the traditional home-makers, and even though more women are encouraged to work and be educated, the gender binaries are still rigidly in place. It is unfortunate that outrage and movements for change have only come after such a vicious attack on a woman. We now see many men and women in India speaking out for justice and speaking against rape. The Indian government is planning on recruiting 2,500 female police officers in Delhi (where currently only 8% of the force is female), there is talk of stricter police powers in dealing with rape, and it is now the central topic in parliament and in the streets – and it needs to remain so. Indeed, rape is now part of the social consciousness, but the response from national leaders will help cement the movement that has gained enormous momentum in the past few weeks.

At a time when India is taking a look at itself and re-evaluating the way rape is viewed and dealt with, it is also time that the problem takes a more central stage as a global problem. Too often across the world are cases of rape ignored, with the fear of stigma and unjust practice of ‘shaming’ and ‘blaming’ continuing to silence victims. It is now time to look at why rape happens; the solution can be found by examining the root causes, rather than denouncing and pointing fingers at whole countries.

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About the Author

Zaynab Lulat

Zaynab graduated in 2010 with a BA Politics from the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. Her degree focused on international politics with a focus on the Middle East and South Asia. Her final year projects were based on identity politics and terrorism. Since graduating she has taken an interest in UK Politics, her writing varies from national to international politics and culture. She is a keen traveller, having backpacked solo around Asia and Central America. She also volunteered with an NGO working on disaster relief in India. She believes that social media gives young people a better platform for expressing opinions and understanding new ideas, and helps more people become involved with the world around them.



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