No silver bullet can end sexual violence in India

There has been a marked increase in European awareness of sexual violence in India. Pressure from outside and from within India has brought change, but not a solution.

Christine Tragler
Christine Tragler Der Standard, Austria
Source: Der Standard
No silver bullet can end sexual violence in India - NewsMavens
Indian women. Wikicommons

Why this story matters:

It's been five years since a 23-year-old physiotherapy student died in Delhi after a brutal gang rape. The whole of India was indignant at the time -- for months, Indian women took to the streets to protest against a system that is leaving women in dire straits. Since then, there has been a marked increase in European awareness of sexual violence in India. But what has this brought any change?

In recent years, the Parliament of India has passed stricter laws, approved more severe sentences, and criminalized offenses such as voyeurism and stalking. But a recent study by the human rights organization Human Rights Watch (HRW) paints a bleak picture: survivors of sexual assault are still stigmatized and abandoned by the system. Jayshree Bajoria, the author of the study, told Der Standard, "The existing laws are good -- but they are not enforced. "

It is true that the increase in reports of sexual offenses shows that survivors are more willing to come forward. However, Human Rights Watch found grave grievances in several areas.

The human rights organization reports accounts of police violence, of degrading hospital tests to assess virginity, and of courts that do not abide by the law.

In addition to the misdemeanors of the authorities, Human Rights Watch warns of ongoing stigmatization for survivors. For example, in one case, a young woman had to move out because her landlord did not want to have a victim of sexual violence under his roof. According to HRW, some judges still think in terms of “marital quality” instead of the integrity of one’s body.

How can this stigma be permanently eliminated? According to Bajoria, dialogue with women and men alike is a good starting point. Sex education in schools, including consent training, would also help as would enforcing existing laws. There is, however, no miracle cure. 

Details from the story:

  • Sexual abuse and gang rapes are not uncommon in India.
  • When a student died in New Delhi in 2012 after a gang rape, there were major protests and laws were tightened.
  • Activists point out that the police does not apply the laws and often do not take the victims seriously.
  • Existing laws and regulations are too flimsy, according to a report by Human Rights Watch.
  • Survivors of sexual assault are still stigmatized
  • The number of reports of sexual offenses has risen from 24,923 in 2012 to 34,651 in 2015.
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