The Issue of Sexual Gender Violence in South Asia

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These forms of authority and patriarchy that take place help to strengthen parts of the Indian community and provide growth to discriminatory practices. Basically, this is the reason why men are in power positions where sexual violence is committed, as discrimination and abuse of girls and women. The rights come through the unequal and hierarchical staircases that lead to social and economic access, which means that beside the casts on the top suffers from unfair rights. By this it gives access to the men from the upper casts to be violent to those who are well below them, especially Dalit women. This results in, that mostly women from the low end of the social framework of cast and class are the victims of being affected by gender discrimination and a wide range of abuse. The problem for these people includes not only repression in gender discrimination, but also in relation to caste, religion and their untouchability which they are also discriminated for. This also gives them limited access to fundamental rights of facilities, both in social, economic and cultural, but also the political. Issues like these activate movements in India, as mentioned earlier; the gender target is being made to the focus of the reason and the central of thus issues of oppression but also sexual violence. Women from the high cast are unusually exposed to these kinds of sexual assaults, as they are strong due to their educational abilities and are maybe more independent.

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The issue of sexual gender violence in South Asia has been a battle over time. Feminist and activist from different communities have tried over the centuries to fight this problem of violence and male power, also to break the silence of it all, and not to mention the difference that is being made among the people. An incident that hit hard among the Indian people and took all the attention so no subject at that moment where outside the category, was the Delhi gang rape, which was one the biggest incidents that has taken place in the history. It also started one of the biggest protests that has been seen of caste, class and gender and raised right-based question.

Back in 2012, on December 16th, 2012, a 23-year old young woman, medicine student, was raped by 5 men in South Delhi, while she was returning home. Jyoti Singh Pandey went with her male friend to watch the movie “life of Pie”. When the movie was finish late night, she and her male friend boarded on a unmarked bus, where they got told it was available/in use. The next thing what happened was Jyoti and her friend noticed that the bus didn’t took it’s originally route and got suspicious. When her friend hereafter confronted and protested them about it, they got aggressive and was hereafter beaten, gagged really bad till he lost consciousness. The next two hours was a nightmare for the girl. While the bus zigzagged across the city, the five men took turns and raped her, brutally beaten her black and blue by tormenting her and violated her with an iron rod. Afterwards when they were done, Jyoti and her friend were thrown out of the bus, and tried to kill them by driving them over, but fortunately her friend was conscious enough to pull them a side the road. They were lucky to be found on time around 11 p.m. by a man who noticed them while passing. From there on it all went really fast. The police came, and immediately they were taken to Safdarjung hospital. It only took some hours before this horrific incident was pulsated through the Indian media. It was prohibited to identify the victims according to the law, even though Jyoti didn’t got recognized, until her father some weeks after came forward. It didn’t take long before Protestors marched and feminist publications, in order to deal with the problematic of sexual violence against women. As a symbolic memory of Jyoti the media and publications gave her the names such as ‘Fearless’ and ‘Awakening’ in the remembrance of her and to honor her courage. Across the country and within Delhi groundswell of people demonstrated and protested, both men and women, calling for justice and to deal with the issue of sexual gender violence.

Not every incident like this becomes the cause of massive public protest, but this reaction from the people also shows their anger for the indifference of the system. Because this could have been any girl other in jyoti's place with the horrific injuries, but at the same time this public outbreak raised a compassion and connection from both middle and upper class. Delhi rape case 2012 helped to focus on the sexual assault in India, but also demonstrated the inequality that was between caste and class. And not least, it raised the battle for women's safety. As a result, other women demanded justice, on both legal and social change. Past sexual assault incidents, such as Surekha Bhotmange and her daughter who were stripped, paraded, raped and killed in Khairlanji. It raised the question: “Would we have been as angry if the rape had taken place in a small town near Delhi and the victim had been Dalit? Remember Khairlanji? Why did her subsequent murder not touch our consciences in quite the same way” A question like this and many others came to spotlight to put substance for thought, that why were other women's lives not seen as worthy of being raised or protested for. The women's engagement helped to push the discussions about rights towards a discourse on legal action, to break this difference.

The way females are figured in some societies is very crucial, when it comes to the point of sexual gender violence and to understand how the representations of them may result in worse things. Woman's figure reflects a symbolic role, that helps to maintain this ideology and social completeness, and to make it look natural to maintain the division of gender, and for that reason it can be understand that the woman’s condition is similar to the caste system. They are seeing as someone who should concern about the cultural consequences, and perhaps that’s way she’s also the one who’s so easy to blame for the sexual violence that happens, as being out late night with a boy. Obviously it’s easier for the victim to lose the cultural autonomy, and the purity which makes them easy targets. That’s why women from the high end of hierarchy both in cast and class, are more immune for these kinds of sexual assaults, as they have more freedom and security around them, but also because their horizons from the culture side are more widespread. Compared to the lower middle class/cast and further down, it is easier to point finger and take action if the person are seeing wrong in her action and etc. One of the reasons why some men also perform such behavior against their own women, is a reproducing in a violent form that is expressed, which has been dominated and used against them from other high casts within society. The rape law has been invisible to many citizens over the years in the population, and most for those who are not seen to have any right within the system due to their background. It causes these women from the different lower casts and classes to not be taken seriously in their cases or, in spite of this; they are suspiciously seen for making these claims. It shows a combination of judgments against the victims. Seen from the outside perspective, it is obviously difficult to prove rape despite injures and evidence of force, because of inequality. This shows us that sexual gender violence is easy to be done but hard to get proven, and even more difficult to get the guilty ones judged. It’s even harder for the victims to defend themselves in this situation because of the socio-culture and system.

Lynn Welchaman & Sara Hosseain argue that religion carries on some recessed contested gender relationships, that allows gender violence to go so far. Their theory is based on two different views, "honor crimes" and "passion crimes" that affect the individual's perspective according to these assaults. They both help to problematize each other to an absolute degree and share the same attitude with focus on gender relations. Welchaman & Hosseain explains that in "honor crimes", the principles and values of religious communities are linked, so that religion is a base and the main cause of these actions. There is stronger control over the woman's sexuality of men, and to a certain degree of women, as women are statistically in the greatest physical danger and very fearful of their sexuality and also socially limited. The punishment against the individual creates automatically parallel to the culture, whereby the culture is used as an excuse for this. Contrary to “Passion Crimes”, women still have a persistent duty to maintain their codes of conduct, but do not have to be so socially framed. Here, it is primarily individual acts of violence rather than a collective punishment, where the unit isn’t involved. Lynn Welchaman & Sara Hossein believe that these two positions and their approach in the community is the reason why violence takes place in the present. As long the religion is in center and these groups support each other in such a way, it creates an inability to turn the critical eye inward to recognize the illegal act.

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