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Another gang rape occurred this week in India. Five young boys were arrested for allegedly gang raping a 10-year-old girl in the northeastern state of Assam on Sunday.
This news comes just days after four men were sentenced to death after being convicted of the December gang rape and murder of a 23-year-old woman.
When news of that rape broke, tens of thousands of people took to the streets in protest, igniting a debate and leading to new laws.
But is the treatment of women in India actually improving?
Vrinda Grover is a New Delhi-based lawyer who has argued on the side of rape victims and appeared before a committee earlier this year to give recommendations for reforms.
Certainly we’ve had important amendments. We have also got some changes in procedure — certainly not enough.
While Grover applauds the conviction, she told Here & Now that she believes the death penalty is “counter productive” and “distracts both society and the state from creating systemic changes.”
Grover says women’s rights advocates face major institutional obstacles to put women on equal footing with men.
Grover cites economic inequality, continued gender bias and the legacy of the caste system, as some of the reasons for pervasive violence against women in India.
She cites male officials and lawyers who blame the victim in cases of rape. For example, the lawyer defending two of the four men in the Delhi rape case said he would have “burned his own daughter alive” if she had been having premarital sex and staying out with her boyfriend.
“We have to battle against misogyny of the crudest kind,” Grover said.
To change the culture, Grover says the first step is recognizing the biased attitudes against women.
“Let us recognize there is an institutional bias against women,” Grover said. “And then start putting in corrective measures, because agencies and institutions, if left alone to act, will act against the rights of women.”
Grover cites incremental changes in the law that are encouraging.
“Certainly we’ve had important amendments. We have also got some changes in procedure — certainly not enough,” Grover said. “We don’t see investigations of a professional nature. No special public prosecutors are being appointed for all rape trials. And therefore we still need to develop that kind of jurisprudence and understanding of the crime of rape.”