The horrific gang rape and murder of a young woman in India last December sparked outrage and protests across the country.
And now another case of sexual violence has caused a media storm.
Last week a woman was gang raped while her companion was forced to watch.
This time it was a Swiss tourist who was camping with her husband in the central state of Madhya Pradesh.
Urvashi Butalia is a feminist writer and publisher.
She speaks to anchor Marco Werman about efforts to protect women from sexual violence.
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Marco Werman: I’m Marco Werman and this is The World, a coproduction of the BBC World Service, PRI and WGBH Boston. Steubenville, Ohio, you may have heard, found itself in world headlines this weekend — two young men convicted of raping at 16-year-old girl last year. Whether Ohio or any other place in the world, sex crimes have been front and center in a global discussion that we at The World have been tracking. It’s a discussion that was triggered after that horrific gang rape and murder of a young woman in India last December. And once again, in India this weekend, another gang rape of a woman, while her companion was forced to watch. This time it was a Swiss tourist who was camping with her husband in a village near the central state of Madhya Pradesh. Police paraded five suspects in front of TV cameras saying the men had confessed had confessed to the brutal acts. Urvashi Butalia is a feminist writer and publisher. She’s in Delhi. Urvashi, it’s shocking to hear this news again. What were the circumstances? Can you tell us?
Urvashi Butalia: From what I understand from the newspaper reports, the two were on a cycling tour and they had landed at Mumbai and were cycling their way across India. And they setup camp somewhere near a highway in Madhya Pradesh. And it was there during the night that the woman was gang raped by these several men.
Werman: And what’s been the public reaction? Any difference in the coverage?
Butalia: There has been quite a lot of anger and quite a lot of outrage. And people have been writing about it. Also a terrible sense of shame that this simply does not seem to stop, but there has also been some concern about why the two tourists were actually traveling in a place which would be deemed generally quite unsafe. Parts of Madhya Pradesh are extremely deserted and even to drive through them at night is not advisable.
Werman: All right, well how did the December rape and murder of that young woman change the public reaction to this episode this weekend of this woman?
Butalia: I think the change is that there is a widespread concern and there is widespread anger at government inaction and at the fact that the state has not been taking the whole issue of violence against woman seriously enough. So at every such incident and this isn’t the only one since Dec. 16, there have been others, there’s been quite a lot of anger and quite a lot of pressure on the state, especially from feminist groups.
Werman: Is there any such law on the table right now that’s being discussed? I mean what has the government done to enact measures to protect women?
Butalia: Well, they did actually, the first thing the did was to setup this committee which recommended a whole lot of really, really excellent changes. The Justice Verma Committee, which worked really fast and within 30 days came up with a document that is a really amazing document pro-women, looking at a whole range of things. The state did not take account of many of the changes recommended by the Justice Verma Committee, but they did take account of some. And actually the law is in parliament right now and it is due to be passed tomorrow. I think some provisions of it will be watered down. There already is news that the other political parties have put pressure on the state to water it down; for example, earlier they had taken into account stalking and voyeurism as kind of crimes against women. And the BJP, the rightwing Hindu party has pressure saying you mustn’t do that because it will encourage people to trump up all cases against young men, which is a lot of rubbish. We are hoping that the law will also take into account marital rape, but we don’t know. If it would do that that would be a major step forward.
Werman: It sounds like your somewhat encouraged with caution. Am I wrong?
Butalia: With caution…you know, the thing is that given the kind of outrage, and anger and desire for change, given the fact that there is such a fantastic document in front of them to draw on, I think they would be foolish to lose the momentum and lose the moment.
Werman: Writer and publisher, Urvashi Butalia, speaking with us from Delhi, thank you very much for your time.
Butalia: Thank you, Marco.
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