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Will the world now wake up to the atrocity of rape?


 ‘The India rape case’ is exposing the extent of violence against women worldwide.

On 7 January around 1,000 people demonstrated outside India House in London against the horrific rape and murder of a young woman in Delhi.

This is part of a growing wave of demonstrations against violence towards women sweeping not just the Indian sub-continent, but the whole world.

“We felt a great sense of outrage.  We wanted to express our solidarity with Indian women,” Rahila Gupta, of Southall Black Sisters, who organised the demonstration, said to WVoN.

“Sexual abuse is happening all over the world.  The difference in India is the frequency, the intensity, the rate, the range, the culture that there is in India.

“And also people get away with stuff in India.  There isn’t really any prosecution for police and others who are treated with impunity.

“At least in the West the police are accountable to some extent, but even here the clear-up rate for rape is only 6 per cent,” she added.

Many of the women on the demonstration believed that the sheer ferocity of the Delhi attack had proved a tipping point.

“It came to a point when women in India thought enough was enough.  There was so much tolerance but that incident is where it came to a boiling point,” said Jos Juvah, who is originally from India but has lived in the UK for many years.

But Gupta provides an economic explanation for the apparently sudden upsurge of protest.

“There is very rapid economic growth going on in India and it is providing opportunities for young women to get educated and have jobs.

“Young women need to be out and have the freedom of the city. They need to have the safety of the city.

“Here is an example of a woman who did all the ‘right’ things – I use that term ironically. She was accompanied by a man, there was no suggestion that her clothes were to blame, her behaviour was not to blame, nothing, and yet she suffered the most horrific rape.

“A newly awoken Delhi, particularly Delhi, as there is a lot of multinational activity on the outskirts of Delhi, and there’s a sense of, ‘how do we ensure that our daughters are going to be safe when they go out to work’.”

“We know that a lot of rape goes on against domestic workers for example. I hope this case will open the door to debate about other women who suffer domestic violence,” she said.

And it certainly seems to be doing that, for now at least.

A report by the Small Arms Survey finds that Kenya’s capital Nairobi is in ‘profound’ crisis, with grotesque levels of violence against women spiraling out of control, as poverty increases in its fetid slums, which house more than a million people.

And according to figures recently issued by Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe, ninety per cent of South African women have experienced emotional and physical abuse; seventy-one per cent have experienced sexual abuse; as many as five out of seven children are abused.

In Peru, where an estimated 35,000 pregnancies a year come about as a result of rape, women are forced either to have an illegal abortion and face a possible three-month jail term, or give birth to a rapist’s child.

A coalition called Dejala Decidir, Let Her Decide, aims to collect the 60,000 signatures they need to petition Congress to consider a Bill decriminalising abortion in the case of rape.

This may not be easy, as signatories have to provide their government ID. Some may feel intimidated by this and many women, particularly in rural areas, most affected by these issues, do not have IDs.

Even if they get the signatures, a debate is not guaranteed the Catholic Church still exerts great influence in Peru.

But despite this, George Liendo, director of rights group PROMSEX, said the time is ripe for a national dialogue.

“It’s not always easy to build a coalition in Peru, but there is real energy for this campaign. People across the country want to put this on the political agenda.”

In October 2012, the Uruguayan Congress voted to decriminalise abortion in the first twelve weeks of pregnancy.

And as Clare Abbot, who traveled down from Northampton to attend the demonstration on 7 January said: “Hopefully this demonstration will raise awareness of women’s issues and hopefully have some impact.

“Hopefully this will maintain momentum. That’s got to be a positive thing.”

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