One more gang rape,this time in Mumbai,has shocked India. The nation has erupted in fury eight months after it cried itself hoarse over another sexual assault that galvanised the nation against atrocities on women. The gang rape of a woman on a bus in Delhi in December last year led to a global outcry against rising sexual crimes. And now, it’s Mumbai, till now considered a relatively safe city for women. Women of Delhi, till now, used to think that the home of Bollywood—that often shows women in a poor light—was safer than Delhi, where it has increasingly become hard for women to travel in public transport without being harassed and go out alone after sundown.
Rape has become a crime that has consumed the attention of law enforcement authorities, the political class and civil society groups in no small measure. There has been a sharp rise in reported incidents of sexual assault since the Delhi gang rape case in which a physiotherapy student had to pay with her life.The latest incident in the financial capital of India has brought home the malaise troubling the nation once again. The victim is a photojournalist working in an English magazine. The girl, in her early twenties, had gone to an abandoned factory in the heart of the city to shoot an assignment. They were accosted by a man,who called four of his accomplices to the site. The photographer’s male colleague was tied to a tree with a leather belt and she was violated by the five men who took turns.
The girl, who is recovering at a hospital in Mumbai, has sent a strong message from her hospital bed. She wants women in the country to know that ‘rape is not the end of life’.
The December gang-rape pushed the federal government to enact a law with stricter punishment. It set off an unprecedented debate over women’s position in a country where gender roles are foggy and a resurgent middle class is trying to come to terms with a women’s movement seeking to assert itself in a largely conservative society.
Rape has become a monstrosity in the country, the Hindu majority of which still worships the mother deity as a symbol of power. The government has not taken the problem lying down. But only stricter laws and a wider security crackdown won’t help, as the latest incident shows.
Taking an unconventional route to go behind the problem, the establishment should commission an extensive research taking the help of international social scientists. Even if its takes a few years, the effort will be worth it. Acting on the results of the study combined with a sustained public relations campaign would compliment other long-term measures to fight the scourge.•