Friday, April 18, 2014
FAIRFIELD-SUISUN, CALIFORNIA
99 CENTS

Indian women hope brutal rape will spark change

NEW DELHI — Preeti Singh worries each time her 20-year-old daughter has a late night at the hospital where she’s a medical student. If her daughter has to stay late, Singh tells her to wait for daylight to come home.

“I was brought up with the fear that once it’s dark you should be at home,” says Singh, a 43-year-old kindergarten teacher in Bangalore, India’s technology hub. “I can’t shake that fear.”

Across India, women tell similar stories. Now there is hope for change.

For decades, women have had little choice but to walk away when groped in a crowded bus or train, or to simply cringe as someone tosses an obscene comment their way. Even if they haven’t experienced explicit sexual abuse themselves, they live with the fear that it could happen to them or a loved one.

The gang rape and beating of a 23-year-old university student on a moving bus in India’s capital has taken sexual violence — a subject long hidden in the shadows of Indian society — and thrust it into the light.

Following the Dec. 16 attack in New Delhi, which resulted in the woman’s death, hundreds of thousands of Indians — both men and women — poured onto the streets of cities across the country, holding candlelight vigils and rallies demanding that authorities take tougher action to create a safe environment for women.

“At least now people are talking,” says Rashmi Gogia, a 35-year-old receptionist in a New Delhi law office.

Associated Press journalists interviewed women across India, from the northern cities of Lucknow and Allahabad, to Bangalore in the south, and from the eastern cities of Patna and Gauhati to Ahmadabad in the west.

The outrage sparked by the heinous attack has given women at least a measure of hope that the country of 1.2 billion people will see meaningful improvement in how women are treated, though most realize any change is likely to come slowly.

“These protests have at least given women the confidence to talk about sexual violence,” says Singh, the kindergarten teacher in Bangalore. “For too long, women have been made to feel guilty for these things.”

The Associated Press

The Associated Press

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