One Year After Horrific New Delhi Gang Rape, India Still Struggles With Rape Culture


On December 29, 2012, 23-year-old Jyoti Signh Pandi passed away after a brutal gang rape on a bus in New Delhi, igniting months of protests and global scrutiny. Prayer gatherings and vigils marked the anniversary of her death on Sunday, though little has changed for women in the year since the attack.

Here’s where rape culture in India stands after one year of mass protests:

The government launched a crackdown on rape. In response to the horrific rape, the government passed a slew of tough new sexual assault laws, including a mandatory minimum of 20 years for gang rape. Stalking, voyeurism, and sexual harassment was criminalized, and six new fast-track courts were created solely for rape prosecutions. Despite these measures targeting rapists, the government faced criticism from the United Nations for ignoring other recommendations to address root causes of violence and misogyny.

Officials’ attitudes toward victims have a long way to go. Despite the crackdown by political figures and police, remarks by top officials reveal a knee-jerk tendency to shame victims and discount their experiences. The head of India’s top investigative agency recently sparked outrage when he claimed, “If you can’t prevent rape, you enjoy it.” Similarly, the Home Minister of Madhya Pradur tried to blame a Swiss tourist for her rape because she did not inform police of her travel plans. Local police have also shown a persistent apathy for rape victims; in one recent case, police at first tried to bully a teenage victim into withdrawing her complaint and pressured her to make peace with her rapists before she eventually killed herself. Police have also targeted rape protesters, allegedly detaining some for more than eight hours and even slapping a 17-year-old girl protesting the rape of a five-year-old.

Tourism has suffered. Female tourists started avoiding India after last year’s slew of high profile assaults, some against foreign women. The number of women visiting India plunged by a third in the first few months of 2013, while 72 percent of tour operators reported cancellations, particularly for tours to New Delhi. Hotel occupancy rates also declined.

Despite harsh penalties, rape is still common. New Delhi’s rape cases doubled in 2013, even after police began to crack down on accused rapists. The astronomical rise may be an encouraging sign that more women are reporting their assaults; however, it also suggests that rapists are not dissuaded by the country’s new tough penalties. Headlines lit up this week with the case of a young woman who was raped on Christmas Eve by two separate groups of men in unrelated attacks within hours. Proving the rape culture status quo is still alive and well, police officers initially refused to pursue her complaint, and one lawmaker speculated that she may have been a prostitute.