Remembering Damini: Gang rape sparks riots in India

Written by: 
Sydney Odell~Multimedia Journalist

A 23-year-old Indian woman traveling home late at night on Dec. 16 in New Delhi was brutally gang-raped, beaten on a bus and pronounced dead two weeks later due to severe injuries.

The news of the women’s death has sparked an outrage around the nation as both women and men came together to grieve and to analyze the work that still need to be done in this developing country of India to protect women from future acts of violence. CNN reports that “authorities have not released the name of the woman, but Indian protesters are calling her Damini, which means ‘lightning’ in Hindi.”

According to Associated Press, the issue at the heart of this gendered violence revolves around the inability for women to acquire support in their accusations of assault forcing them to keep quiet for fear of being blamed for the crime by having inspired the act by “dressing provocatively.”

Carina Aldrich, a freshman in political science from Georgia, said she saw this particular injustice as one small example of a larger systemic issue when it comes to attitudes about women as displayed through “rape culture.” “There is a larger problem summarized by the fact that we teach how not to get raped, but not don’t rape,” she shared. “We place so much emphasis on the victim and want to be able to say that the rapist had some sort of provocation because we don’t want to believe that someone we maybe knew or trusted, or just people in general, have the ability to rationally rape someone.”

Aldrich said hearing about the realities of rape despite modern-day progress at gender equality scares her as a woman and makes it hard to keep faith. “The fact that there are people out there who somehow have the conscience to be able to commit such a crime is scary to admit,” she said. Clover Cheng, a senior in international cultural studies from Hong Kong, said this crime was “not just about hurting a woman’s body but her dignity.” She hopes the Indian government will “take this rape as a lesson to create effective and efficient laws to protect women and children against this future kind of injustice.”

Rani Anandan, a senior in international cultural studies from American Samoa, said she was also shocked when she initially heard the news of the gang rape in India. “Being a woman obviously I take the women’s side in this and say that women deserve to have a voice when it comes to defending themselves against harder, real-life issues like rape,” she said. “But also as a human being, I see this as a larger human rights violation. Everyone should be able to have that power of voice without fear of retaliation or indifference.” She continued, “I was really glad to see all the people come out in support of this woman all a round the globe,” looking for any type of silver lining in the situation. “I feel that when a message is voiced from a collective group of people, it’s a lot stronger than the individual and it has more power to actually make a difference.”

Protesters gathered around courthouses in India as the accused men awaited trial and sentencing. The cry for a more prominent women’s rights movement in India is being echoed in many parts of the world. After the death of the young victim, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Sigh came out and publicly announced “it would be a true homage to her memory if we are able to channel ... these emotions and energies into a constructive course of action.”