As the world welcomes 2014, there is something in the air in India; a sense of despair as a nation watches continuous reports of rape, sexual violence and crimes against its women. In 2013, there were crucial events that brought India to the forefront in the international media. The press questioned the Supreme Court’s decision on awarding the death penalty to the rape accused in the horrific December 16 gang-rape case, where a young physiotherapy student was brutally raped and assaulted. At a time when countries around the world are working towards abolishing the death penalty, the highest India court felt this was a ‘rarest of rare case‘ that deserved the harshest of punishments. But the central question in the mind of the Indian public was – will harsher punishments help in curbing crimes against women?
The answer, as we witnessed through events that shaped 2013, was a resounding ‘no’. Several cases particularly shook India; Tarun Tejpal, the Editor-in-Chief of Tehelka, and one of the country’s most well-known journalists, was accused of sexual assault by a young employee who worked in his agency. AK Ganguly, the former Supreme Court judge and Chairman of the West Bengal Human Rights Commission, was charged with sexual misconduct. In Uttar Pradesh, there were numerous cases of rapes reported with almost no arrests made and no media attention. To highlight this complexity and pressing need for change in India, Bloomberg recently compiled visually-rich photo-essay entitled ‘Nine Decades of Subjugation for India’s Women’. The essay takes one on a heart-wrenching journey over many years, bringing to light the need for the women’s movement in India.
Meera Vijayann is a writer and blogger who focuses on gender rights and social issues in India. Her writing has been published by The Guardian, CNN, Open Democracy and Forbes among other publications.