It was heartening to see how people congregated, braving the biting winter on Saturday (December 29) to mourn the death of the 23-year-old girl, who was brutally raped and beaten by six people in a bus, last week. While she battled for life at state run Safdarjung Hospital and gave testimony of the incident, twice, the week saw people from different age groups and backgrounds coming together to protest in front of the President’s and Chief Minister’s houses. And, for a change, the media (atleast the English press) had the moral decency to withhold the girl’s identity or take publish her photographs.
What instigated the sheer volume of protesters, who withstood water cannons ordered by the Delhi police and stayed all night, to stand up, voice out and pressurise the government? What was it about this case, which enraged so many people, who made it a point to come to India Gate, Jantar Mantar and Rajpath to protest against rampant sexual violence and demand that the slow, insensitive justice system be changed despite several key metro stations being shut down?
I am not sure of how this gang rape play the catalyst, resulting in the mass stir. But here’s a look at some the protests that took place within parts of India as well as in other countries against sexual assaults and street harassment against women.
Haryana protests (October, 2012): Women activists gathered to protests against the government for being inactive in curbing sexual assaults against dalit women. Around 19 rapes had occurred in a span of just over a month in the state. In most cases, local officials blaming the victims for the rapes. One of the cases that stood out was of a teenager’s father taking his life after the video of his daughter being raped was circulated. Considering in most cases the women were from lower caste, the rate of police arresting and convicting the rapists was extremely poor.
Okinawa protest (October, 2012): Widespread protests were witnessed in Japan after news spread that two US sailors had allegedly raped a Japanese woman. Even the legislature of Okinawa passed a resolution condemning the rape and demanding US took stronger action against its troops in Japan. In fact, in 1995, similar protests had erupted after a 12-year-old girl was gang raped by three men from US military.
Guwahati molestation (July, 2012): Women’s organisation took out protests against the molestation of a teenage girl by a crowd of men in Guwahati, Assam, which was being recorded by a camera person from a news channel. Their demand was to curb gender violence on the pretext of moral policing (something we have been seeing in Mangalore), arrest of culprits and action against the broadcast journalist, who instigated the attack.
Bare bra protest (April, 2012): As the name suggests, women came together in Kamplala, Uganda, sans shirts to protest, after a woman opposition leader was molested by the police. What enraged the women was the camera footage that showed a cop squeezing the breast of Ingrid Turinawe, while arresting her for demonstrating against the elected party, post alleged controversial elections.
The deputy police chief later apologised and assured detailed investigation, media reports stated.
SlutWalks (February, 2011): The first slutwalk took place in February, 2011, at Toranto, Canada. The non-violent form of protest began after a policeman, while speaking about crime prevention at a law school, said women should not dress like sluts to prevent sexual assault. The cop later apologised for his comment. However, the comment created such a flutter that a few women came together to protest the attitude that by dressing ‘inappropriately’ women attracted sexual harassment and brought it upon themselves (A view, largely prevalent among our law enforcement agencies too).
According to the Toronto SlutWalk website, “people from different races, ages, education, profession, backgrounds took part in fighting these damaging ideas”. Today, SlutWalks have spread to other cities including India. Delhi witnessed its SlutWalk in August, last year.
J&K protest (May, 2009): The rape and murder of two women in Shopian lead to massive protests in the state. The protesters alleged that the women were sexually assaulted and killed by Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF). The situation resulted in one death and about 150 injured people.
Cheongju rape case, China (January, 2009): A large number of NGOs protested after the Cheongju district court gave a lenient punishment to a group of male family members, who had repeated raped a mentally disabled teenager for some time. A news report stated the judge’s reason for dishing out a light punishment – “though a heavy sentence is called for, a sentence of probation will be imposed because the accused have raised the victim and will continue to provide aid to her in the future.”