Historically, because of the country’s high rate of infanticide, child marriage, and slavery, India was one of the worst places in the world to be a female. Moreover, girls and woman who had been raped were routinely blamed for thei…
Historically, because of the country's high rate of infanticide, child marriage, and slavery, India was one of the worst places in the world to be a female. Moreover, girls and woman who had been raped were routinely blamed for their victimization, and discouraged from reporting these assaults to the police. If they did, the victims and their families were subjected to public ridicule and humiliation.
Police officers in this male-dominated society often refused to accept rape complaints. And when they did register rape complaints, the crimes weren't professionally investigated. In those occasional instances where rape cases were taken seriously, crime lab delays slowed down the process of identifying the rapists. In India's Forensic Science Laboratory in Rohini, it took 75 days for a DNA report to come back to the investigating officer. These delays were caused by a work backlog caused by a serious shortage of qualified lab personnel. (There are many crime labs in the U.S. that have worse backlogs.) In the rare instance of an Indian rape prosecution, the case would drag on for years, and almost always end with an acquittal. In India, rape was treated as a victimless crime.
Among India's major cities, New Delhi, the nation's capital and home to 16 million people, had the country's highest number of reported rapes. Because such a small percentage of these assaults were reported, crime statistics did not come close to reflecting India's extremely high sex crime rate. If just half of India's rapes were reported and investigated, the nation's crime lab system, unable to cope with the workload, would completely break down.
On the evening of December 16, 2012, in New Delhi, a 28-year-old software engineer and his 23-year-old female companion boarded a city bus after attending a movie. The woman, from an urban, middle-class family, had recently qualified as a trainee physiotherapist in a private New Delhi hospital. The bus driver and five men from the city's slums were the only other people on the bus. The passengers began taunting the woman's friend, then knocked him unconscious with a iron rod. Five of the men then beat and gang-raped the woman. At some point, the bus driver turned the wheel over to one of the rapists, walked to the back of the bus, and had sex with the beaten and bloodied woman. Before the one-hour ordeal came to an end, one of the attackers inserted the iron rod into the female victim's body. The men undressed both victims, then threw their nude bodies off the moving bus.
The unidentified woman (In India, journalists do not have the kind of access given to American reporters.) was taken to the Safdarjung Hospital in New Delhi with serious brain trauma and severe injuries to her intestines and abdomen. The police, with the help of the rape victim's friend, quickly identified the bus driver and the five other rapists. Shortly after the suspects were taken into custody, the men confessed, telling the police they had tortured and raped the woman "to teach her a lesson."
On December 26, 2012, following three operations and a heart attack, the authorities flew the victim to Mount Elizabeth's Hospital in Singapore.
This brutal beating and gang rape on a city bus (operated by a private company) sent thousands of protesters into the streets in several Indian cities. The irate protestors demonstrated against the government's lax attitude toward crimes against women. In New Delhi, demonstrators clashed with riot police.
Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, facing serious civil unrest, promised police and legislative reforms. But the public demonstrations continued throughout the country, growing in strength daily.
On December 29, 2012, at 4:45 in the morning, the female victim of the brutal bus attack died in the Singapore hospital. Her body was flown back to India for cremation. (In the United States, there would be an autopsy.) The rape victim's cause of death was listed as brain injury complicated by a lung infection. The six men responsible for her torture, rape, and death were charged with murder, which in India could lead to the death penalty.
The fact that Ban Ki-moon, the head of the United Nations voiced "deep sorrow" over this young woman's ordeal and death, revealed how this case focused international attention on India's rape culture and crime problem.
On the day following the 23-year-old's passing, a human rights organization called on the Indian government to ban the so-called "finger test," a medical procedure routinely given to rape victims. This unscientific and irrelevant measure involved testing the laxity of a rape victim's vagina to determine if she had been "habitual to sexual intercourse." The obvious purpose of this procedure was to humiliate victims and to discourage victims from reporting their rapes.
Amid the women's rights protests, a legislator from the state of Rajasthan, in proposing his own rape prevention measure, suggested replacing girls' school uniform skirts with pants. While many ridiculed this politician and his idea, it reflected how most men in India blamed rape on the rape victim . If the five slum degenerates and the bus driver hadn't beaten and murdered this young woman, she would be alive, and they would still be out in public raping women with impunity.
City politicians in New Delhi, facing a wave of public anger, tendered the rape victim's family monetary compensation. Officials have also offered one of the victim's unemployed relatives a government job.
On January 3, 2013, five of the suspects were charged with, among other crimes, rape, kidnapping, and murder. The defendants were Ram Singh, the 33-year-old bus driver; his brother Mukesh, 26 who cleaned buses for the company; Pavan Gupta, 19, a fruit vendor; Akshay Singh, 24, a bus washer; and Vinay Sharma, 20, a fitness trainer. The sixth suspect was a juvenile.
The male friend assaulted by the men on the bus, in his first public statement about the case, said that he and his friend were lying nude and bleeding on the street for an hour while pedestrians passed by without stopping to help them.
On January 6, 2013, a popular Indian spiritual guru who called himself Godman Asharam, in a video circulated in the Internet, said, "This tragedy would not have happened if she [the murder victim] had chanted God's name and fallen at the feet of the attackers. The error was not committed by just one side." (Since when was gang-rape/murder an "error?"
A defense attorney representing three of the accused rapist/murderers, announced on January 9, 2013 that his clients would plead not guilty. The attorney also claimed that the suspects were beaten by the police.
On March 11, 2013, one of the men in custody for the New Delhi bus rape was found dead in his cell. Police say Ram Singh hanged himself. The suspect's father claimed that he had been murdered.
On September 10, 2013, the four adult defendants were found guilty of rape, murder, and kidnapping. The guilty men faced the sentence of death by hanging. In May 2017, following numerous appeals, the Supreme Court of India upheld death sentences for all four men. They await their fates at the hands of the hangman.