In 2012, a 23-year medical student was brutally gang raped on a bus and died from her injuries in New Delhi.
The tragedy sparked widespread protests and outrage, ultimately led to reforms in law enforcement, and emboldened more women to report sexual violence.
Now, five years later, another gruesome gang rape in the state of Haryana, which is in Northern India not far from New Delhi, shows that much more has to be done to end the scourge of sexual violence across the country.
Earlier this month, a 23-year old woman was abducted after getting out of her car near her home in the town of Sonipat. She was then taken to and raped in the nearby city of Rohtak, according to Reuters.
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When she said that she was going to report the crime, the men smashed her skull in with bricks and left her corpse in an open field where it was found days later partially consumed by stray dogs, according to the Reuters report.
Two men have been arrested for the crime and six more are being investigated.
The victim’s mother said that one of the suspects had been soliciting her daughter for marriage and had been rebuffed.
But statistics show it’s part of broad national epidemic of sexual violence in India that takes many forms and leaves too many women abused, scarred, maimed, and dead.
Every 22 minutes, a woman reported a rape in India in 2015, according to data collected by the advocacy nonprofit Crowdvoice.
That shocking rate could only be the tip of the iceberg.
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Reports of sexual violence nearly quadrupled between 2009 and 2015. The sharp jump likely happened because more women became confident enough to report crimes and law enforcement became more receptive, according to the Delhi police commissioner.
According to the nonprofit Dasra, 70% of women reported being victims of domestic abuse, and a 2014 survey found that 65% of women said there are times when women deserve to be beaten. Both stats suggest there is a gap between what’s happening and what’s being documented.
Crowdvoice also found that just 29.9% of rapes lead to conviction in India, an abysmal rate that could lead many to see law enforcement as a dead end. And an even more bracing deterrence comes in the form of the death threats that many women receive.
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Further, marital rape is legal in India and a 2014 survey found that one in three men had raped their wives.
“For many years, I didn’t even know what domestic violence meant. I would just take the anger, the shouting, and the beatings,” a 39-year-old marital rape survivor named told a local media organization Tehelka in 2013. “We are taught from before marriage that sex is a duty you have to perform for your husband.”
On top of rape, sexual violence, and domestic abuse, women are also victims of widespread harassment, discrimination, and even acid attacks, which disfigure a person’s body and can cause blindness and organ damage.
Acid attacks — 349 of which were reported in 2015 — typically occur when a woman rejects the advance of a suitor, defies a family member, or goes outside the bounds of traditional gender expectations by, for example, starting a business of working outside of the home.
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All of this paints a grim picture of violence against women in India.
But progress is being made in fits and starts.
The sheer increase in reports of violence is a promising development and puts significant pressure on public officials to address the crisis.
Special courts that “fast-track” sexual violence cases have been set up, harsher sentences for criminals have been passed, and protests continue to make the issue visible.
But the harrowing case in Hirayana shows that a lot more has to be done, especially much more consistent enforcement of laws, the criminalization of marital rape, and the creation of systems for protecting survivors of violence.
Anything less would be a staggering failure of political will.