Women around the world are expressing shock and anger in the way authorities have handled two recent and very high profile rape cases, one in the U.S. and one in India, with both raising serious questions about how authorities handle sex-related crimes against women.
The U.S. case occurred on the evening of August 11 in Steubenville, Ohio where members of a local high school football team repeatedly raped an extremely drunk 16 year-old girl at a party. The alleged rapists, Trent Mays, 16, and Ma’lik Richmond, 16, were charged in the case which witnesses say involved the two carrying around the victim from party to party and using her as a kind of personal “rape toy”. Even more sadistic is the fact that some witnesses actually filmed or photographed the abuse and posted accounts of it on Twitter and YouTube. In one video, the perpetrators are seen carrying the victim’s limp body by the wrists and ankles on the night of the incident.
However, in spite of all this, local officials claim they don’t have much evidence in the case, a position that sparked fury in the close-knit Ohio community. When Jefferson County Sheriff Fred Abdalla announced this weekend that no further suspects would be charged in the case, residents accused him of covering up the crime in order to protect the beloved high school football team. More than a thousand people rallied in protest when Abadalla made his announcement, booing loudly as he spoke.
” I’m not going to stand here and try to convince you that I’m not the bad guy,” he said over the jeers. “You’ve already made your minds up.”
A second and even more horrendous case involves the murder of Jyoti Singh Pandey, a 23-year-old Indian physiotherapy student who died in a Singapore hospital 13 days after being brutally gang raped as she and a male friend made their way home from a movie theater in New Delhi. The assault, which took place in a bus and lasted for over two hours, was particularly vicious, leaving Pandey with severe internal injuries.
The Indian public was outraged by the crime and the less-than-satisfactory police response which allegedly left the blooded Pandey and companion laying on the sidewalk for an extended period of time after the attack.
Pandey’s companion, Awindra Pratap Pandey (no relation), told Indian Zee News Channel that passers-by ignored them for 30 minutes after they were thrown out of the bus and police then wasted more time arguing over who had jurisdiction.
“A passer-by found us (after the attack), but he did not even give my friend his jacket,” he said, adding that it took 90 minutes for them to make it to a hospital. “They could have taken us to hospital, given us clothes in that crucial 1 1/2 hours. For a dying person, every minute is important,” he told the channel.
Awindra suffered a broken leg, but Pandey’s injuries were far more extensive. Apparently, her attackers assaulted her with a twisted iron rod that tore out much of her intestines and caused so many internal injuries doctors were unable to save her. She died on December 29.
The brutal case has caused an uproar in India, with mass demonstrations for women’s rights and calls for tougher rape laws and stricter sentencing.
According to the New York Times, India’s current law dates from 1860 and has only been amended twice since then. Human rights activists saw the country’s current definition of rape is “steeped in outmoded traditions” and called for broad updating.
The incident was condemned by the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women, who called upon the Government of India and the Government of Delhi “to do everything in their power to take up radical reforms, ensure justice and reach out with robust public services to make women’s lives more safe and secure.”
When it comes to rape, there is still a prevailing sentiment that women who are raped somehow brought the crime on themselves. In fact, a self-described “spiritual guru” named Asaram Bapu is under fire for saying Pandy was just as guilty of the crime as the perpetrators.
“The victim is as guilty as her rapists,” he said. “She should have called the culprits brothers and begged before them to stop. This could have saved her dignity and life. Can one hand clap? I don’t think so.”
In spite of the many advances made around the world in garnering women’s rights, there is still a long way to go in convincing people that violence against women is not just a women’s issue, but one of the most pressing human rights issues of our time.
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