Indian police forces used tear gas and water cannons against the thousands of protesters marching in Delhi to denounce the increasing number of crimes against women and to demand justice for the 23-year-old woman who was gang-raped in the capital.
Violence broke out when a group of protesters, mainly college students and representatives from women organizations, tried to pass through police barricades to reach the presidential palace and started throwing stones.
The recent rape of a young student by six drunk men on a bus has caused massive outrage in India, manifested through numerous candle-lit vigils and demonstrations throughout the country. The men took turns to rape the young woman and attacked her with an iron rod, which caused serious intestinal injuries, before throwing her off the bus. They claimed that the abuses were her punishment for being out in the evening with a man. The young woman is currently struggling for her life in a Delhi hospital.
This horrendous incident is one of over 660 rape cases that occurred this year only in New Delhi, which represents an increase of 17 percent compared to 2011, according to government figures.
Police figures indicate that, in Delhi, a rape is reported almost every 18 hours and some form of sexual attack every 14 hours. Experts suggest that these attacks are encouraged by abusive sexual behavior and low fear of the law, given the low conviction rate.
The renown Indian novelist Arundhati Roy stressed that the only reason why this recent rape case captured attention was because the woman pertained to the middle class, given that rape is regarded as a "matter of feudal entitlement" in many parts of India.
The government has strived to appease the popular outraged sparked by the gang-rape, by proposing a series of measures aimed at making Delhi safer for women, which include more police night patrols, checks on bus drivers and the banning of buses with tinted windows or curtains. The government has also pledged to apply life sentences for the women’s attackers. Five suspects were arrested soon after the attack, while another one was taken into custody on Friday.
However, some protesters claim that the government’s pledge to apply life sentences for the attackers is not enough punishment and call for death penalty. In fact, during the rally, some protesters carried messages such as "Hang the Rapists."
The Vice-President of Akhil Bharatiya Janwadi Mahila Sanghatana, who spearheaded the protests, suggested that in order to stop the rising number of atrocities committed against women the government should guarantee that the police starts playing a pro-active role in verifying such crimes and ensuring that the culprits are brought to justice as soon as possible. It should also create an action plan to stop such crimes from occurring in the first place.Other activists want to see special fast-track courts to solve the backlog of over 900 rape case from Delhi alone. Arundhati Roy believes that what most needs to change in India is the attitude toward women, since law modifications will only protect middle class women, while allowing other women to remain exposed to violence.