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Indian women participate in a candle light vigil at a bus stop where the victim of a deadly gang rape in a moving bus had boarded the bus two years ago, in New Delhi, India, Tuesday, Dec. 16, 2014. The case sparked public outrage and helped make women’s safety a common topic of conversation in a country where rape is often viewed as a woman’s personal shame to bear. (AP Photo/Tsering Topgyal)
  • A 6 year old girl was gang raped int the state of Haryana
  • The gang raped was compared to The Delhi gang rape in 2012
  • “Meet to Sleep” campaign done by women

December 16, 2017: Five years after the fatal gang rape of a 23-year-old physical therapy student in the Indian capital turned the focus to violence against women, small groups turned out in New Delhi and several other cities on Saturday to highlight the need for safety for women in public spaces.

The “Meet to Sleep” movement, under which women took a short nap at a park, is one of several campaigns that have emerged in the wake of massive protests that rocked India after the gang rape. The symbolic nap highlights the need for women’s safety when they are most vulnerable.


“What happened to her [the gang rape victim] happened in a very public place, in a bus, which is a mode of transportation that many women use, but remains unsafe. Five years on, not much has changed,” said 26-year-old Kriti Omprakash.


Kirti Omprakash says that public spaces are still not safe for women in the Indian capital, where a horrific gang rape in 2012 turned the spotlight on sexual violence against women. (A. Pasricha/VOA)

The gang rape victim was assaulted by six men on a bus that she boarded with her male friend in December 2012. She later died due to the injuries she sustained.

Not only do sexual attacks targeting girls and women continue to pose a challenge – such incidents actually have increased, according to the latest data from the National Crime Records Bureau. Delhi, considered one of India’s most unsafe cities, reported 1,996 rape cases in 2016, up from 1,893 in the previous year.

Rising voices

Women’s rights activists say the biggest change, however, is that women have become more vocal in demanding their freedom and safety and that the subject of violence is now discussed openly in a country where talk of sex crimes previously had been considered taboo.


A woman takes a symbolic nap at a park in New Delhi as part of a “Meet to Sleep” campaign initiated to highlight the need for more safety for women. (A. Pasricha/VOA)

“In the past five years, one of the most positive things I think is that those kind of agitations have taken teeth and grown,” said Kavita Krishnan from the All India Progressive Women’s Association.

In a bid to make cities safer, the government has set up help lines and installed security cameras, although that has failed to be a deterrent, according to rights activists. They express disappointment that despite the tightening of laws for rape and sexual harassment, crimes are still surging, sometimes against very young girls.

“We feel very, very let down by the system, by the government. The gruesomeness of crime has increased,” says Ranjana Kumari at the Center for Social Research in New Delhi. “There have been very, very young children who have been assaulted in most brutal way.”

Less than a week ago, a six-year-old girl was found murdered with grave sexual injuries in the northern state of Haryana – a case whose brutality led to comparisons with the 2012 bus gang rape.


Women activists say movements like “Meet to Sleep” have increased in the wake of the 2012 gang rape. (A. Pasricha/VOA)

Legal efforts

The mother of the gang rape victim, Asha Devi, also expressed anguish over reporters asking, “Women and girls are still being raped, what changed? The city is as unsafe as it was five years ago.”

Activists also worry about what they feel are efforts to dilute the tough laws that were instituted after the gang rape to punish men and point to a judgment.

Earlier this year, a judge set aside the conviction of a Bollywood filmmaker for rape after ruling that a “feeble no” could indicate willingness on the part of the victim.

Kavita Krishnan stresses the need for more mobilization of the kind that was seen in the wake of the 2012 gang rape to continue to keep the focus on women’s safety and freedom.

“We cannot celebrate the 2012 movement without realizing what is happening around us right now. It has to be a continued fight. It can’t just be a ritual obeisance paid to the 2012 moment,” she said. (VOA)


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