According to the Times of India, 93 women are raped every single day in India — that’s 33,945 per year. This number is steadily increasing year on year and reported rape cases have almost doubled from 585 to 1441 in Delhi in just one year.
Reports of female travellers being groped and touched by men are frequent and it is rare to see local women out and about by themselves.
When I was on a trip to India in February this year, I spoke to a girl who recounted an incident that happened in Goa, “I was just in the sea on a lilo and instantly got surrounded by men. One of them even dived under the water and tried to put his hand through my bikini bottoms. Holding a man under water and then punching him in the face wasn’t exactly how I thought I would be spending Christmas Day.”
In a recent interview with Mukesh Singh, one of the convicted rapists sentenced to death after the fatal rape of a girl on a public bus in Delhi stated that “a girl is far more responsible for a rape than a boy,” and that when being raped, women should not fight back. This attitude toward women is reflected throughout the country, and even though it is much rarer for tourists to get attacked, it’s still a sad reality for the local women we meet on the road.
In India, there is a serious stigma about the sex of a child from birth. Even today, newly born girls are often drowned, killed, or aborted because they were not the preferred sex. According to the BBC, the 2011 census showed a “serious decline” in the number of girls under the age of seven in several states — proving that there are still gender issues in some parts of the country.
Karva Chauth is a Hindu festival that requires married women to fast for the safety and longevity of their husbands, while Bhai Dooj and Raksha Bandhan require sisters to pray for their brothers and shower them with gifts. There is not one single day dedicated to celebrating women and no one is required to pray for them.
Puberty is the stage when a boy can brag about becoming a man. But for women, puberty is a cause for shame. Girls are banned from the kitchen and required to wear baggy clothes. Not so long ago in some parts of India, women were banished to a hut outside of their villages and not allowed to participate in any of their normal duties during their cycle.
Sanitary pads and tampons are not widely accessible to women and most use rags that cannot be cleaned or dried properly for fear of men seeing the stained cloth. Even if that stuff is available, women are too embarrassed to be seen buying it. Many women wrap everything up in newspaper at the store so others won’t see what they’ve purchased.
The awful Delhi bus gang rape in 2012 is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the dangers of taking public transport as a woman. A recent article in India Today claimed that India is the fourth most dangerous place for women to take public transport and the second worst for safety while travelling at night.
In light of the above mentioned case, the Indian government has toughened its stance on crimes against women. And rape, sexual harassment, stalking, voyeurism, and acid attacks have all seen a huge increase in the amount of reported cases since December 2012. Reuters reported a 35.2% increase in reported cases in 2013 alone and attributed it to an increased social awareness of violence against women.
However, women’s rights groups still claim that this is just the tip of the iceberg, saying that these “figures are still gross underestimates of the reality on the ground — women are often too scared to come forward to report rapes or domestic violence for fear their families and communities will shun them.”