News Analysis |
An 11-year-old girl has given birth in India after allegedly being repeatedly raped by six men. The incident highlights the predicament of women in India, designated as the worst place to be a woman in the G20 nations.
The schoolgirl, who was more than eight months pregnant, gave birth to a baby girl through a cesarean section at a hospital in Rajkot, in the western Indian state of Gujarat. Police say she was attacked on separate occasions by men who lured her to their homes under the pretext of offering her domestic work.
The baby has suffered health problems and has been moved to a specialist unit in Asarwa, according to media reports in India. Attacks on women particularly underage children are widespread in the Hindu majority country.
In another case, an eight-year-old girl from a nomad community was kidnapped on January 10 from Kathua’s Hiranagar area and her body was found from a forest area on January 17, triggering street protests in Indian occupied Kashmir valley and parts of Jammu. Her family alleged that she was kidnapped, drugged, raped and murdered.
The police had arrested four policemen in the case so far, who were accused of “destroying evidences”. Another accused, who was initially thought to be 15-year-old and confessed to the crime, had been declared as 19-year-old by a medical board set up by the court.
On Dec. 16, 2012, a girl who became known as Nirbhaya, meaning “fearless,” was gang-raped, tortured and beaten by six men on a bus in South Delhi. She was twenty-three years old, a physiotherapy intern, and was coming home from watching a movie with her friend on the night of her assault.
Observers point out to various factors behind the atrocities carried put on Indian women. Many point to the patriarchal practices that dominate most of Hindu India. In rural areas, women are viewed no better than cattle and used as commodities in trade between various families. This, in turn, breeds a culture of violence against women that prevails despite rapid urbanization.
Indian columnist Samar Halarnkar added: “Men abuse women in every society, but few males do it with as much impunity, violence, and regularity as the Indian male.” India is one of the world’s most unequal societies in which the powerful often use their clout to inflict cruelty on the lesser fortunate. Indian women often are on the receiving end of such abuse of power.
There is currently no special law in India against sexual assault or harassment, and only vaginal penetration by a penis counts as rape. India has the highest number of child brides in the world. It is estimated that 27% of girls in India are married before their 18th birthday.
Some point out to the creeping Hindutva that upholds patriarchy under the guise of religion. Hindu traditions still cast women as helpless victims rather than free-thinking individuals in control of their own destiny. Girls still tie Raksha Bandhan or “safety ties” around their brothers’ wrists as a symbol of their duty to protect them.
Hindutva also divides Indian women into “good” and “bad”. According to what they wear, whether they go out after dark and whether they drink alcohol. Recently, women of Sahariya tribe of 27 villages in Sheopur district have been banned from using mobile phones by their tribal panchayat as it was seen to be “spoiling” the women.
In the end, a combination of rural patriarchy, the clash of neoliberalism with conservative society, Hindu extremism and social inequality have all combined to become forces that are upholding the subjugation of Indian women.