Tens of thousands of rapes are reported in India every year, but some stand out for being deeply disturbing. Earlier this week, shock waves reverberated across the nation over the merciless rape of an 86-year-old in Delhi. Just a few days before, an ambulance driver allegedly raped a Covid patient while ferrying her to hospital… before that a 13-year-old was found raped and murdered in a sugarcane field…
In oneparticularly shocking case, police in Delhi arrested a man in his 30s for therape and assault of an 86-year-old grandmother.
"Thewoman was waiting outside her home on Monday evening for the milkman when shewas approached by her attacker," Swati Maliwal, head of the DelhiCommission for Women said.
"Hetold her that her regular milk delivery man wasn't coming and offered to takeher to the place where she could get milk."
Theoctogenarian trustingly accompanied him, said Maliwal, adding that he took herto a nearby farm and raped her.
Localvillagers who were passing by heard her cries and rescued her. They handed overthe attacker to the police.
Maliwal,who visited the survivor at her home on Tuesday, described her meeting as"heart-breaking". "Her hands are totally wrinkled. You get ashock when you hear what she went through."
Maliwalhas demanded the death penalty for the attacker, whom she described as"not human".
Rapesand sexual violence have been in the spotlight in India since December 2012when a 23-year-old was gang-raped on a moving bus in Delhi.
Butdespite the increased scrutiny of sexual crimes, their numbers continue torise.
Accordingto the National Crime Records Bureau, police recorded 33,977 cases of rape inIndia in 2018 - that works out to a rape every 15 minutes. But campaigners saythe actual numbers are much higher as many cases are not even reported.
Andnot all make news - only the most brutal or shocking get reported in the press.
And noage group is safe – whether a month-old or women in their 60s.
Afterthe global outcry over the brutality of the December 2012 Delhi bus rape, Indiaintroduced tough new rape laws, including the death penalty in especiallyhorrific cases, and promised to set up fast-track courts to try rape cases.
But,campaigners say, things have not changed much on the ground.
Oneactivist says she has written over 100 letters to PM Narendra Modi seekingjustice for rape victims, but hasn't received a single response.
"Whydoesn't he talk about it?" she asks.
Whilein opposition, in several electionrallies. But since the growing cases ofsexual violence, many involving influential people made news - Modi has mostlykept silent, that "India'sdaughters will get justice" after rape allegations involving members ofhis own party became headline news.
Thereis "no magic wand, no one thing" that can make this problem of genderviolence disappear overnight. A lot needs to change - police and judicialreform, greater sensitisation of police and lawyers, and better forensic tools.But above all, we need gender awareness, we need to work to change themindsets, to prevent such crimes from happening in the first place. And that isa tough ask.
Bhayanasays there are hoardings in public places about all sorts of issues, aboutvarious achievements of government, about Covid-19, or cautioning peopleagainst drug use. "But have you ever seen a hoarding in any city aboutrape or gender violence?" she asks.
"Weoften see hoardings with Modi's pet slogan, "Beti bachao, beti padhao[Educate daughters, save daughters]. I say why don't we change it to Betapadhao, beti bachao [Educate your sons, save daughters]?"