Gang rape culture in India seems to be growing at an exponential rate. From nun trainees to Danish tourists and tribal women, sexual assault cases in India continue to make headlines. The victim of a recent case is a twenty-year-old woman from Subalpur, West Bengal, a village known for its tribal justice. The woman was said to be having relations with a married man from another village. She and her suitor were originally fined, but her parents were too poor to cover the cost. This is when the tribunal changed their course of action.
The victim told hospital officials that the chief, Balai Mardi, told a group of men to “Have fun. Do what you want with her,” according to NPR. She also professed that there were at least a dozen men who raped her. The chief and the twelve suspected rapists were arrested.
These tribal councils enforce their morality with “fines, ostracism, sexual humiliation and even death,” stated NPR. In 2010, elders decided that the sentence for a young woman alleged to be having relations with a man outside of her caste was to walk naked in front of a large crowd. This quasi-justice has been stirring up protests across India. Punishments for crimes against women have been extremely relaxed in India until recently. Protesting against these growing instances of rape has forced laws to tighten, bringing justice to those who perpetrate these crimes.
The rape and murder of one young woman in December of 2012 has recently been vindicated. Last week, four men found guilty of attacking an innocent woman on a bus then throwing her naked body into the street, were sentenced to the death penalty. Cheers from protestors outside the court could be heard after the sentencing. This decision has left many hopeful that rape will now be taken more seriously and will deter future incidents.
This decision, however, is not taking as much hold in rural communities where indigenous law reigns. Arguments for khap panchayats, or village councils, are taking the stand of protecting ethnic culture. These rural communities feel as though their identities are at stake in a vastly globalizing world. The village in the case of the most recent rape has taken the side of the council, saying the woman threatened the community with her “behavior.”
Regardless, India continues to make strides in protecting women’s rights. A new gun developed after the rape of a teen was recently unveiled. The .32 caliber revolver aptly named Nirbheek, meaning fearless, was designed to be small and light enough to fit inside a woman’s purse. Women’s advocates continue to speak up against these abuses in hopes of securing respect for women’s safety and rights in India.