Massive protests have continued for the second day in India. Though precipitated by the outrage over an incident last week in which a young woman was raped on a bus, the dialogue now indicates protesters are reacting to the broader failure of the Indian state to take rape seriously as a crime.
For example, the Guardian reports today that figures released by a respected think tank Thursday, showed that hundreds of men with records of sexual violence have been allowed to run for public office in the past five years, including more than 30 charged with rape by police. And, the steep increase in reported rape–an increase of 17% this year in Delhi alone–has co-occurred with a decline in the number of convictions for the crime. The brazenness with which some of the rapes have occurred is staggering: many are video-taped and then circulated; one attempted rape of a screen actress occurred onstage in full public view. Such actions seem to point to an awareness that the risk of paying any price for the crime is low.
While authorities have promised a swift road to justice for the current case, as well as to sentence the alleged perpetrators to life imprisonment, two issues seem to keep the protests going: one is repeated demands for a more severe punishment, such as death or castration, for the suspects and the other is a more general expression of frustration with the Indian government’s cavalier record with regard to rape, especially when the crime is on such a steep increase.
Today, the protests have again been violent. Many have been detained. Many have been injured. Tear gas and water cannons are in use. A television reporter has been killed.