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Delhi women rush for gun licenses

By Raluca Besliu     Jan 2, 2013 in Politics
Following the gang-rape and death of a 23-year-old woman on a moving bus in December 2012, hundreds of women in New Delhi have applied for gun licenses.
Delhi police has already reportedly received 274 requests for licenses from women and 1,200 calls inquiring how to obtain one.
The police claims that the individuals making the requests include not only the average working women, but also students who have to travel long distances to get to their colleges as well as concerned parents. Some women have turned up to the police department to obtain permission to own a gun for self-defense purposes, only for the police to explain that, in order to obtain one, they would have to have a clear danger to one’s life.
According to the National Association for Gun Rights India, women are discriminated against in their right to legally possess arms, as far more men were issued licenses in Delhi, even if women had serious reasons to obtain them as well. The Delhi police have granted gun licenses to only to 27 women out of the more than 800 who have applied since 2010. Of the given licenses, only 5 were granted to women due to personal threats. The Indian police claims that many applications were rejected, because no personal safety threat was involved.
This might not stop some of the women and parents from buying guns on the black market as well as illegally manufactured weapons from backstreet workshops. While there are around 40 million firearms owned in India, the second largest number in the world after the U.S., only 6.3 millions have been registered, given that licenses are difficult to obtain.
Meanwhile, the death of the gang-rape attack victim determined hundreds of thousands of people throughout India to protest, calling for harsher laws against rape as well as widespread behavior change in treatment of women, while sparking a national debate about the endemic sexual harassment and violence in India.
Politicians have promised to create special fast-track courts, capable of solving the backlong of over 900 rape cases from Delhi alone, and to introduce harsher punishments for sexual assaults, while the six men accused of the attack are to be charged with murder later on during the week and could face death penalty.
The recent attack had the important effect of breaking the taboo of reporting on incidents of sexual violence, which would was previously never granted any attention in the Indian media. Only during the past two days, the Indian press reported multiple sexual violence cases, including a 15-year-old held captive for 15 days and repeatedly assaulted by three men in a village in Uttar Pradesh, an 11-year-old allegedly raped by three teenagers in the north-eastern city of Guwahati as well as two cases of rape in the city of Amritsar. Even some Indian television channels seem to be more willing to report these types of cases, as recently one of the country’s most-known English-language television presenters asked viewers who had experienced abuse from a family member to contact her.
The Indian press has also started recalling similar tragedies from India’s recent past, where justice has yet to be served, such as the 1999 case of a 16-year-old girl who was abducted and raped by a bus driver in the Indian state of Kerala, who subsequently passed her on to other 42 men that raped her in turn for a month. She was then abandoned on the street, injured and disgraced, as her family had to move multiple times given that neighbors either mocked or avoided them. The neighbors’ attitude brings to light one of the key problems in India, which is that the victims of sexual assault are often considered responsible for the crime, which determines many of them, particularly women and young girls, to remain silent and prevents them to report their abuse to the police for fear of exposing themselves and their families to public humiliation and shaming.
This is coupled with the insensitivity of public authorities, particularly the police and the judicial system, which rapidly expedite these types of crimes against women. Police personnel, particularly in rural areas, refuse to register complaints from the women and girls who have the courage and will to report them. However, the rare prosecution that ends up in Indian courts usually gets dragged for years and results in the culprits’ acquittal. In the 1999 case mentioned above, which was reviewed three years later by the Kerala High Court, of the 35 individuals convicted for raping the girl, all but one were declared innocent, presumably because the aggressors were well-connected in the city.
This is the general rule in India, where the conviction rate is as low as 26 percent. The authorities’ attitude allows a state of impunity to flourish, which encourages more individuals to commit such crimes, primarily against women and children. In New Delhi alone, 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.
While the recent gang-rape and murder might have brought sexual violence and women’s rights discussions to the forefront, there are fears that the attack might lead to the introduction of increasing restrictions for the already-constrained women of India. In the Mapata village, situated in the poverty-stricken Bihar state, elders have prohibited teenage girls to use mobile phones and advised them to stop wearing „sexy” clothes, in order to prevent rape cases. In Rajastan, a member of parliament, called for a ban on skirts for schoolgirls to protect them from men’s lustful gazes.
Some of the Delhi protesters were appalled that, instead of more obtaining more rights, freedoms and protection after the gang-rape incident, women might be further punished for the sexual crimes committed against them.
More about India, Rape, Gang rape, New delhi
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