Mumbai Gang Rape is Another Reminder That I'll Never Be Truly Safe

She was just doing her job.

For that, she was left cold, naked and battered after being brutally gang-raped by five men while her male colleague was tied up and beaten in an isolated, overgrown corner of India's financial hub of Mumbai. 

Police say the 22-year-old Indian photojournalist was on assignment with her colleague and was visiting Shakti Mills, an abandoned textile mill complex in Lower Parel, taking photographs of the area for a magazine story about Mumbai's chawls — tenements for workers employed in the mills. 

Five men confronted the pair at about 7 p.m. and initially offered to help her get permission to shoot inside the crumbling building. They then turned aggressive and accused the male colleague of being involved in a local crime. When he denied involvement in the crime, they tied his hands with a belt, took the woman to another part of the compound, and took turns raping her. 

After the brutal December Delhi gang rape and death of a young university student shocked the country and the rest of the world, concerns about sexual violence in India have heightened. But despite the government vowing to reduce crimes against women and passing legislation to establish harsher punishments for sexual assault and harassment, we still hear the steady drum beat of assaults with a 15% rise in registered rape cases in the last year. 

As an Indian woman, I am not just angered by the constant inflow of horrific crimes against women. I am exhausted by them.

As an Indian woman, I want to believe that the outrage, protests, candlelight vigils, and stinging editorials were worth it.

As an Indian woman, I want that glimmer of hope and change as the dust begins to settle.

But the truth of the matter is even after the predictable weeks of outrage, protests, and speeches, we are still left with a decaying society filled with men with a sense of entitlement. 

Politicians and government officials will once again condemn the crime and promise to hand down the "harshest punishment" to those found guilty. Promises, petitions, and protests will circulate and Mumbai will be called the next Delhi. There will also be a few"fearless" leaders with "sound" solutions to prevent these crimes from occurring again: Don't wear jeans or eat Chinese food, but do call your assailant "bhai" (Hindi for brother) and beg for mercy. Oh and a few heavy overcoats and segregated buses. 

You know, for our protection. 

And after the outrage has dissipated and a new set of innovative solutions enforced, there will be silence until the next horrible attack and the cycle starts again.

Despite the fact that female independence has grown in India, the stigmas that plague our society still remain intact. "Without a fundamental change in the cultural mindset … any justice [for women] would be in vain," Ruchika Tulshyan wrote in Forbes.

Solutions posed so far to curb the violence against women have had little to no implications on men. Instead, they further restrict women's freedom. Activist Kavita Krishnan recalled incidents of "moral policing" in Mumbai, "with overzealous policemen targeting women in restaurants and bars."

The rage of a nation awakened by the pain and suffering of another violent sexual attack can only go so far. There needs to be better and stricter law enforcement that fights for women instead of further victimizing them. There needs to be a drastic change in the callous attitude towards a gender so mistreated from womb to grave. There needs to be a cultural and social change towards the protection and treatment of women in India. 

The country needs to fight like hell to end this shameful drum beat. Otherwise it will only get louder. 

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Hyacinth Mascarenhas

Hyacinth is a graduate of the George Washington University where she majored in Journalism and Mass Communications. Her interests include cultural, social and political trends in the Middle East and South Asia, as well as human rights issues across the globe.

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