The gang rape case from 2012 offers many lessons for India! It is not only about women’s rights but also about police violence, the right to protest and deepening economic inequality.

Three years and six days ago an awful crime happened in New Delhi: the 23-year-old student was a victim of a gang rape and died a few days later from her injuries. What has changed in India today? The case of the girl, which the media named Nirbhaya, (meaning: brave-hearted, fearless girl) shocked the whole world. Since then India has been known as the country of rapists and murderers. One can still find numbers that every 20 minutes an Indian woman gets raped. The situation is still rough for many women living on the subcontinent, but after Nirbhaya’s death a public debate about violence towards women started in India. This does not change the male dominated society from one day to another but at least it is a start to a long process of change India will have to go through. But apart from the debate about women’s rights in India Nirbhaya’s case should stimulate further public debates!

Stop the police violence!

Last Saturday, the parents of the rape victim protested together with activists against the release of one of the perpetrators. The juvenile was one of the six men raping and torturing Nirbhaya in 2012. He was only 17 at the time and released on Sunday, 20.12.2015. He was released because the maximum sentence for juveniles in India is three years.

While Nirbhaya’s parents demonstrated in New Delhi against his release, they were detained themselves by the Indian police. Some sources say that the protesters were detained because they blocked a street with heavy traffic, which the Delhi police considered as dangerous. However, the Indian police denies that Nirbhaya’s parents were arrested. The reaction of politicians and also the media reporting somewhat confirm the version told by Nirbhaya’y parents. Anyhow, there is no justifiable explanation why a peaceful protest needs to be interrupted.

On Sunday, 20.12.2015, the police went even further. Nirbhaya’s parents decided to protest again against the release of the criminal juvenile. They wanted to organize the demonstration in front of the famous India Gate, since this was the venue where the massive public protests started in 2012 after Nirbhaya’s death. However, the police forced them to change the protest venue and go to the usual protest place in New Delhi. Once the group ignored the order and went back to India Gate, the police started to interrupt the protest and drove the participants, including Nirbhaya’s parents, out of the city. Later on one could find pictures of a bloody arm from Nirbhaya’s mother on social media. There is no excuse for the violence of the police and to interrupt a peaceful demonstration in such a harsh manner for the second time on one weekend. Nirbhaya’s case should not only inspire India to fight for women’s rights but also to discuss police violence and the right to protest peacefully. Both should be possible in the biggest democracy of the world!

Crimes committed by Indian economic migrants within India

Furthermore, one should look into the history of the juvenile, who was convicted of murder and rape and sentenced for three years in a reform facility. There is no excuse or even an explanation for such violence and brutality but one should look into his childhood, which is very common for many criminals living in Indian cities. He was an economic migrant from one of the poorest states of India, Uttar Pradesh. He moved alone to New Delhi when he was eleven years old in order to earn money for his family. At one point he stopped talking to his family and stopped sending money back home. His story is typical for many children from poor economic states, who are sent to Indian cities to work for their families. Way too often these children commit crimes while growing up.

If you talk to people in New Delhi many will argue that economical migrants from Uttar Pradesh or other poor states are dangerous and one should watch out for them. Of course, the childhood of the juvenile who participated in Nirbhaya’s gang rape, is no excuse for this criminal act. Nevertheless, India can learn from this case that the economic differences, which have been rising for the past years, cause tensions within the society. More and more economic migrants from poor states come to the prospering Indian cities where many don’t settle down and don’t integrate themselves. However, to make it clear, the lost childhood and the poverty of the juvenile are NO excuses, but his past represents the significant problem of economic inequality within the Indian society. 

Not in Nirbhaya’s name!

Nirbhaya stands for many women in India, her sad story encourages many people to fight for change. On the third commemoration day for Nirbhaya’s death, her mother told the world her real name: Jyoti Singh. She wants everyone to know the real name of her daughter, and not only a synonym. She said people who commit crimes should hang their heads in shame rather than the victims’ families! Jyoti Singh deserves, that India does not only debate women rights in her name but also police violence, the right to protest and the problems with economic disparity. Nirbhaya’s case stands for many urgent problems within the Indian society. And in order to pay tribute to this young talented lady, who was in the end also a victim of social problems, India needs to see its weaknesses within the society. Confessing that social problems exist, is the beginning for change.