Thursday 20 December 2012

Bus attack highlights India's rape epidemic

A brutal assault in New Delhi has led to public outrage and calls for tougher sentences for rapists.

Rarely has India, a country of more than a billion people, been so vigorously shaken out of its collective stupor than it has been in the recent days over the horrifying ordeal of a young woman on a speeding bus.

Ever since news broke that the 23-year-old medical student was brutally gang-raped by several men at the back seat of a bus in the nation’s capital New Delhi, shock, shame and outrage have engulfed India in equal measure.

Angry residents across Delhi and other cities have taken to the streets to protest. Stung by the outpouring over anger, even normally inert politicians and bureaucrats have joined the clamour for the harshest punishment for the culprits.

"New Delhi is no longer a safe place for women, and it's difficult to step outside of one's home after dusk."

-Ayesha Ahmed, a resident

"It’s a day of national shame," lamented Jaya Bachchan, a member of Rajya Sabha, the upper house of Indian parliament which saw members cutting across party lines sink their differences to join ranks in condemning the crime.

"Rapists should be hanged," said Neeraj Kumar, Delhi’s top police official, who said that he had never come across any other attack in his long career that matched the recent one's brutality.

Grisly details of what happened that night on the bus are continuing to emerge, as the girl battles for her life in a hospital. Several of her vital organs have been damaged after she and her male companion were beaten up by the assailants before being thrown off the bus.

Doctors at the Safdarjung Hospital are cautiously optimistic that the girl would eventually pull through. But it has done precious little to heal the scars that the mindless brutality has left either on the nation’s conscience or Delhi’s reputation.

If at all, it has further bolstered Delhi’s notoriety as an extremely unsafe city where women face various forms of abuse almost on a daily basis.

"New Delhi is no longer a safe place for women, and it's difficult to step outside of one's home after dusk," says Ayesha Ahmed, a former resident who now lives in Mumbai.

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