Over the past two months, the intensifying sexual violence in India has brought national attention to the country’s deeply-ingrained rape culture — an environment in which authority figures often blame victims for endangering themselves, many women don’t feel safe enough to leave their homes, and female tourists have stopped visiting. The ongoing outcry spurred some policymakers to action, inspiring India to strengthen its penalty for rape. But women’s health advocates, including the United Nations’ expert on issues of domestic violence, are disappointed that the country still isn’t doing enough.
Rashida Manjoo, the UN’s Special Rapporteur on violence against women, recently visited India to investigate the gender abuses occurring in the country. But at the end of her trip, she told reporters that India didn’t effectively capitalize on the “golden moment” that presented itself in recent months, and hasn’t taken the right steps to effectively address the root causes that reinforce rape culture:
India missed a golden opportunity to tackle violence against women, by enacting a law that toughens punishments against sex offenders but fails to address the root causes and consequences of gender abuse, a U.N. expert said Wednesday.
The Criminal Law (Amendment) Act 2013, or “anti-rape law” was enacted last month, after the fatal December gang rape of a student sparked protests over the treatment of women in the largely patriarchal country. […]
“While this legislative reform is to be commended, it is regrettable that the amendments do not fully reflect the recommendations [originally put forth by a committee],” Manjoo said.
“This development foreclosed the opportunity to establish a holistic and remedial framework which is underpinned by transformative norms and standards, including those relating to sexual and bodily integrity rights. Furthermore the approach adopted fails to address the structural and root causes of and consequences of violence against women.”
This is not the first time that the United Nations has expressed concern over India’s ongoing sexual violence. Earlier this year, a report from a UN-affiliated human rights group exposed the high rates of sexual crimes in the country, as well as the persistent issues with law enforcement that discourage women from reporting rapes. It’s estimated that two women are raped every 60 seconds in the country.
Over the past several weeks, intense protests have erupted in India after reports of several child rapes. After a 5-year-old girl was raped toward the end of April, India’s prime minister admitted that his country has “vast improvements to make” when it comes to “the safety, security and status of women in our society.” Just one week later, a 4-year-old was raped and died from the injuries she suffered during the sexual assault.