A seven-year-old-girl was raped on a train traveling through the Indian state of Chhattisgarh, and discarded near a market in Bilaspur City. The rape is believed to have taken place sometime between Friday night, August 9 and Saturday morning, August 10. The perpetrator had forced his way in while the child went to use the toilet, and thrust an Indian 10-rupee note in her hand when he was done.
As appalling as this incident is, it is unfortunately a mere example of the likes of rape cases that Indian women of the lower-middle socioeconomic strata increasingly live with. India's rising rape rate (one every 22 minutes, according to the National Crime Records Bureau) is a proof of what is wrong within certain sects of that society.
Although India continues to make economic strides, there remains a stark contradiction at home between certain cities' glitzy image and other areas where poverty has continuously been allowed to brew. The widespread poverty in these areas has enabled the creation of accompanying pathologies, rape being one such offshoot. Crime, lawlessness, and rape are all effects of this socioeconomic imbalance. Thus, as the masses remain locked in poverty, patriarchal power relations that lie at the core of rape have found fertile breeding ground. Subsequently, society seems to be on the path to closing off all maneuvering space for Indian women, to the extent of taking away the right to their own bodies.
Needless to say, rape has its tentacles spread far and wide across the developed, developing, and under-developed world. However, the fact that India has been increasingly making headlines due to rape violence is indicative of a menace that has been allowed to fester for far too long.
The issue is not so much about the moral wrongness of rape per se, which cannot possibly be denied. It rather is that this long string of rapes in India indicates a society in which people can carry out heinous crimes without any fear of accountability whatsoever. It is one thing when victims of rape decide to remain silent, for whatever reason, about the injustices wreaked upon them, in effect obstructing the realization of justice. However, it is an entirely pathetic scenario when women are out on the streets, their sexual harassment narratives laid bare for all to see, and yet are crudely shrugged off as if their problems are not real enough.
State-level action has not been forthcoming despite the urgency of the issue. The issue gained major international and local media attention in December last year, when a 23-year-old woman was raped and fatally beaten by a group of men while traveling home on a public bus in Delhi. Thereafter, a string of rape incidents have surfaced ceaselessly. Yet, a country that enjoys a fairly respectable and hard-earned international reputation has not sufficiently heeded this issue for far too long. It now stands at a point in time where evasion of the nuisance is not an option anymore.
Teenage Indian girls, thoroughly disillusioned with the concerned authorities, have now formed a "Red Brigade" in their autonomous efforts to ward off sex offenders.
Women, by virtue of their gender, have been and will remain a vulnerable lot in India. Only in a utopian world can rape ever be completely eradicated from a society. That said, it is imperative for India to make concerted efforts to set its internal machinations in order before these home-grown issues bring its hard-earned international acclaim plunging down.