Delhi : Attack on girl, 7, rekindles outrage sparked by lethal assault on woman bus rider.
By TIMOTHY SPANGLER/ For the Register
Violence has returned to the Indian capital, New Delhi. The alleged rape of a 7-year-old girl at her school has caused frustrated Indians to again vent their anger. Rampant violence against women remains a high-profile issue in the country.
The attack occurred in a working-class neighborhood, Mangolpuri, where schools often lack basic facilities. Police detained two teachers and a security guard in connection with these allegations. An examining doctor stated that the girl's injuries were consistent with having been raped. Residents of Mangolpuri launched violent protests.
Delhi police officers patrol on a road scattered with shattered glass during a protest against the rape of a 7-year-old girl in New Delhi, India, March 1, 2013. Police are investigating the rape inside a state-run school in the Indian capital. Angry mobs gathered at the hospital and threw stones at a nearby bus, shattering its windows.
ASSOCIATED PRESS PHOTO
This latest atrocity comes at a time when Indians are increasingly concerned that their government is systematically failing to protect women. The vicious gang rape and murder in December of Jyoti Singh Pandey, 23, attacked while riding a bus in New Delhi, attracted global news coverage. Six men are being tried for the attack.
Stories of other attacks quickly filled Indian newspapers and websites. In a particularly gruesome incident last month, the bodies of three sisters, ages 6, 9 and 11, were found dumped in a well in Maharashtra state; each had been raped. It is believed that they were lured to their deaths with promises of food. Police initially stated that the deaths were accidental.
As a result of these atrocities, the issue of violence against women is gaining momentum as a public policy priority. Politicians are scrambling to be seen as reacting to these widespread concerns. In response to the rape of the 7-year-old student, New Delhi's governor has ordered that security around government schools be increased.
Unfortunately, although many proposals for improving laws to better protect women have been suggested since the horrific bus rape case first drove these concerns to the top of the legislative agenda, only a handful of changes have occurred. For example, a drive to criminalize rape within marriage so far has failed.
India is a colorful and vibrant country, but it is also a violent, dangerous place, especially for women. Prior to Jyoti's death, allegations of rape often resulted in few arrests and fewer convictions. In a particularly outrageous example last year, a schoolgirl was attacked on the street by approximately 50 men. Despite video footage of the sexual assaults, few of those identified in the video were arrested.
The media storm that erupted in December around Jyoti, however, has changed that, at least for awhile. Perhaps when these earlier attacks were restricted to impoverished communities or to migrants, they were easier for the Indian establishment to dismiss or ignore. Jyoti's rape and murder were different, occurring in a more affluent neighborhood. It suddenly became crystal-clear that there were no safe havens.
Changes in attitude concerning women and their roles in society are slowing occurring across India. As a result, celebrities advocating for change must do battle with staunch supporters of older, traditional ways.
The threats facing women are well-known to most in India, and until now have been accepted as an unavoidable and inevitable feature of Indian life. For example, India lacks an effective means to protect its children. Unsurprisingly, girls are disproportionately at risk, especially those whose lives are ground down by poverty and want.
Since December, many of the widespread assumptions about the place of women in Indian life and society are being questioned. Each subsequent story of sexual assault adds to the momentum that these debates have been building over the past three months. In both traditional and new media, these arguments are being made louder and louder. There is a growing recognition that significant changes are needed in order to ensure women's rights are respected.
India is undergoing extensive and fundamental changes, as economic development and high growth rates transform daily life. But the benefits of prosperity are not evenly spread between cities and rural areas, or between the upper classes and the working classes. Instead, grinding poverty exists alongside vast wealth. As a result, many Indians are enraged by the failure of public institutions to address the problems they face.
While India engages in a costly space race with its economic rival China, problems for its citizens continue to build. In the 1960s, the U.S. was able to fund both its quest to put a man on the moon and the "war on poverty" at the heart of President Lyndon Johnson's Great Society agenda because it had an economic growth rate adequate to support such grand endeavors. Of course, valid arguments could be made about the lasting impact of either program in contemporary America.
Today, India has the resources to make these concerns over violence against women a top priority. The attack on the 7-year-old schoolgirl in New Delhi is one more example of the high cost ultimately paid when those most vulnerable in society are left exposed and unprotected.
Orange County writer and attorney Timothy Spangler hosts "The Bigger Picture with Timothy Spangler," Sundays, 10 p.m.-midnight on KRLA 870/AM.