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Sakinaka rape case once again puts a spotlight on India’s shocking culture of violence against women

by Ashima

The tragic incident bears similarity to the horrific 2012 Nirbhaya case.

By Ashima Sethi

Content warning: rape, violence against women, sexual assault

A few days ago, India was rocked by the news that a 32-year old woman who was raped and brutally assaulted in the Sakinaka neighbourhood of Andheri East, Mumbai, had succumbed to her injuries and died. The post-mortem on the victim revealed that she suffered from severe blood loss a result of the assailant inserting a pole into her genitals, all the way up into her abdomen. It was also revealed that she was viciously attacked with a knife.

Mumbai Police have reported that they received a call about a man brutalising a woman on Khairani Road in the early hours of Friday. When they responded and rushed to the spot, the found the woman lying in a pool of blood, after which she was rushed to Rajawadi Hospital. Police believe that the majority of the attack took place inside a parked vehicle as they found bloodstains inside a tempo vehicle parked nearby.

The police have since analysed all CCTV footage of the surrounding areas and have managed to zero in on a suspect that was found to be leaving the vehicle at the time they believe the woman was attacked. 45-year old Mohan Chouhan is now in custody and has confessed to the crime. Mumbai Police Commissioner Hemant Nagrale spoke to the press on Monday where he explained that it was not a random attack as the victim and the perpetrator knew each other, but they had not found evidence to suggest it was premeditated.

During an investigation and interrogation with the suspect, the police had discovered that there was some kind of monetary dispute between the two individuals that they believe led to the violence. Before her passing, the victim and the accused were both homeless and living on the same stretch of road. Prior to living on the streets, Chouhan lived in Jaunpur, Uttar Pradesh before securing work as a tempo driver, while the woman was residing with her mother after her husband left her. However, after an argument, she left her three daughters in the care of her mother and moved to living on the streets.

The police have said that the victim’s family will receive at least 4.25 lakh (approx. THB 190,000) as compensation and her children will be moved into the state’s care. Once the chargesheet has been filed in court, the children will also become eligible to have the state care for their education, provide them with a house, and at least one will be given a government job when they are of legal age.

Chandramukhi Devi, a representative from the National Commission for Women was quoted as saying this about the case: “This crime is a result of an absence of fear in the minds of criminals with respect to the police machinery. After speaking to the hospital doctors, we gathered that the Sakinaka case is as gory as Delhi’s Nirbhaya gangrape case. The background of the woman is of no consequence. Every woman should feel safe.”

News headlines around the world have drawn similarities between this case the shocking, brutal attack on a young woman aboard a bus Delhi in 2012 that has been dubbed as the ‘Nirbhaya case,’ with many asking when is this vicious cycle of violence against women in India ever going to end?

Recent figures from the National Crime Records Bureau demonstrate that the number of rapes of women have gone up by almost 15%, while other crimes against women have risen between 3% and 5%. Every hour, upwards of 39 crimes against women are being reported with the majority taking place in the capital city of Delhi, known as the ‘rape capital’ of the nation. In another shocking statistic, it is reported that an Indian woman is 17 times more likely to face sexual abuse from her husband than from a stranger.

In a survey by the Thomson Reuters Foundation, it was found that globally India was seen as one of the most dangerous countries in the world for women. This stemmed from the high number of acts of sexual and non-sexual violence, discrimination, dated traditions in place, human trafficking, and other factors. In their poll, India had topped the list for crimes against women, higher than countries like Afghanistan and Syria.

But how do we stop this?

Every time a woman in India is attacked, raped, or killed, the frenzy that follows ultimately leads to what? Memorials, vigils, nationwide protests, and a big buzz that dies out in a few days before the victim becomes just another number in a sea of statistics. But what we should be asking is what kind of legislative change, policy change, or sensitisation is taking place?

That’s the question we need to ask, and keep on asking.

It is clear that India’s epidemic of violence against women is rooted in the fact that women are deemed unimportant in Indian society. Their contributions to society don’t matter, their roles in a family don’t matter, and they are not given the agency to make decisions. It is time we pay attention to the fact that beyond the surface, violence against women gives way to an ugly world of internalised misogyny and a lack of gender inclusivity.

In a traditional Indian family, gender roles are perpetuated without a second thought. Many Indian women have to ask for permission from their fathers, husbands, and so forth. Many cannot exercise autonomy when it comes to their personal health or their bodies, especially women who do not have access to things like education and money. If violence against women was to be looked at as a pyramid, then we’d have to start tackling the problem from the foundation up, and that means a change of mindset and dismantling the sexism that has become deeply engrained in the nation’s socio-cultural fabric.

On Tuesday, the Mumbai Police announced they had formed the ‘Nirbhaya Squad‘ to promote the safety of women in Mumbai. The squad is a cell of female police officers set up at every police station, including one of a PSI or ASI rank, who are responsible with helping women with domestic issues and so forth. However, will women feel comfortable enough to even ask for the help they deserve remains to be seen.

Featured image from The Financial Express

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