UN calls on India to 'act urgently' to protect women
Local newspapers said more than 18,000 police had been deployed, nearly a quarter of Delhi police force’s total strength.
India has been plunged into an extraordinary bout of self-analysis following the woman’s death. The media has given blanket coverage of the attack, which took place on a moving bus on the streets of south Delhi on December 16th.
All of today’s front pages and news bulletins were devoted to the incident and its aftermath. High profile new year parties in the capital and elsewhere have been cancelled. Major Bollywood stars have lined up to express their shame and anger.
One of the biggest, Shahrukh Khan, posted on Twitter: “Rape embodies sexuality as our culture and society has defined it. I am so sorry that I am a part of this society and culture.”
Bollywood itself has been under fire. One columnist spoke of how plots of often classic films “sanctify pestering and stalking of women”.
The new interest in sexual crimes has led to a series of reports that would have struggled to make it on air or into newspapers in the normal frenzied India news cycle, where often sensationalist TV channels compete ruthlessly.
One major newspaper ran a list of sexual crimes against women that have taken place in the course of the ongoing battle between security forces and Maoist guerillas in the centre of the country.
Headlined “Women suffer big in India’s state vs rebels war”, it held both sides responsible.
Over the last 24 hours other reported incidents have included a number of cases of women attempting to take their own lives after being gang-raped, the attempted murder of a rape victim in Rajasthan and an infant dying after a rape in Gujerat.
In West Bengal a woman was reportedly raped by three hospital workers after seeking treatment for her baby. A woman was also allegedly assaulted on a bus in Delhi. One man was arrested.
India’s courts have a backlog of hundreds of thousands of cases, which would take decades to clear if all were heard. Facilities for forensic analysis are few and poorly-equipped.
Healthcare in many of the rural areas where assaults are endemic is often rudimentary.
The UN has offered to help India “strengthen critical services for rape victims” with technical expertise and other support as required,” Ban said.
The problem is, however, enormously complex. For example, women in rural India are rendered more vulnerable because a lack of sanitation facilities forces them to defecate in woods or fields after dark.
Mr DasGupta said the affair had laid bare the gulf between India’s political elite and younger voters. “There’s a big demographic factor that we are beginning to see. How parties react to it will determine their political future,” he said.